Anatta, ParinibbAna and the aniconic

mrabe at mrabe at
Thu Feb 20 13:32:40 UTC 1997

In a wonderfully accessible and colorly illustrated publication of the Thai
Government, [A.B. Griswold, _What is a Buddha Image?_ [Thai Culture, New
Series, no. 19, 1990, p. 9], the Buddha is said to have refused to define
parinabbAna, while adding that "anyone who achieves it _will be no more
seen by men or gods._"

Unable to find such a passage after an admittedly-cursory perusal of the
Dhammapada only, I am hoping someone on this list cite an appropriate
canonical reference.

Additionally, given the still lingering _aniconic controversy_ among those
of us wishing to interpret the earliest Buddhist narrative reliefs at
Bharhut, Sanchi, and Amaravati, etc., in which the Buddha himself does not
appear in panels ostensibly depicting biographical events, I would much
appreciate receiving any other textual citations that may seem relevant.

For the record, I am acquainted with revisionist denials that there ever
was such a convention: notably in the writings of Susan Huntington,  "Early
Buddhist Art and the Theory of Aniconism," _Art Journal_ vol. 49:4 (Winter,
1990): 401-408; and her "Aniconism and the Multivalence of Emblems," _Ars
Orientalis_  v. 22 (1992): 111-156.  Obviously, this is a call for
ammunition in anticipation of the next friendly skirmish in this
long-standing debate.


Michael Rabe
Assoc. Prof., Art History
Saint Xavier University
3700 W. 103rd St.
Chicago, IL 60655
(773) 298-3088
Fax (773) 779-9061

& The School of the Art Institute of Chicago

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