Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Is the Buddha's "photograph" a fake?

Maya, Amber Larson, Dhr. Seven, Ashley Wells, Wisdom Quarterly; WQ reader Nyanatusita;; Rex Harris (sheepdog_rex/
A touched up photograph of a painting so lifelike that some thought it was a photo of the ghostly energetic trace of the Buddha Shakyamuni, the "Sage of the Shakya Clan." Next they'll be saying the Shroud of Turin is fake or that the Cloak of Trier, Jesus' famous garment on the cross is the wrong size for a skinny African/Egyptian/Palestinian Jew who just got back from travels in Buddhist India and Tibet (WQ).

He does look a li'l Spanish (RB)
Stop the presses! This just in! The mysterious photograph of the Buddha, which we took as further evidence that he was Central Asian from west of Gandhara (i.e., Indo-Scythia) is apparently a fake, informs us WQ reader Nyanatusita today: 

The “curious image of the historical Buddha” that “subsequently appeared on the film [roll of a foreign tourist photographing around Bodh Gaya, India, presumably the place of the Buddha's "Great Enlightenment," Siddhartha Gautama's Maha Bodhi]” is [actually] a touched up photograph of the Buddha on the oil canvas painting called “Buddha's Temptations.”

The ascetic Siddhartha or the accomplished Buddha under the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, ancient India, being tempted by sexy sylvan devas and Mara's daughters (Rex Harris).
[It is] by the Spanish artist Eduardo Chicharro Aguera (1873-1949) finished in 1921 [and is now hanging] in the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid. [Evidence, need evidence? See The Buddha's Temptations, Madrid Museum by Rex Harris/sheepdog_rex/ and (News, 04-2014, Madrid). Yours, Nyanatusita."

It made us hopelessly skeptical.
Thank you, (venerable) friend! You have done us a great service by bringing out the truth. If one wanted to cling to the notion that this is a "Photograph" of the Buddha one could say that since the and hand and halo are exactly the same, maybe the art Aguera was using the photo as his model. But hope springs eternal, and we would rather not push it. Let us say that the "photo" story was a hoax using this artistic rendering as its basis until such time as other evidence surfaces.

We have no need of clinging to superstitions or any beliefs because the Buddha's message, the essential Dharma, becomes self-evident to the meditator who realizes the truth and thereby becomes independent of any teacher, authority, or external source. And that essence -- enlightenment and glimpsing/touching nirvana and seeing the paths and fruits, the magga-phalas -- is why being a Buddhist is worthwhile whatever else one does or does not do, believes or does not believe. All the Buddha said was, "the Dharma is inviting." "Come and see for yourself. The truth is open for one to investigate directly."

The "Buddha's Temptations"
[Eduardo Chicharro Aguera in Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando Art Museum Madrid]
There is something about this large painted canvas "Buddha's Temptations" by Eduardo Chicharro Aguera that does not appeal to me. Perhaps it is the colors. However, the idea and the mythology does interest me (and who does not enjoy women with large cats?) I share again what the museum card said: 

Eduardo Chicharro Aguera, Madrid, 1873-1949, "Buddha's Temptations" 1921, Oil on Canvas, 2.90 x 3.66 meters. Signed and dated E. Chicharro 1921.

[Eduardo Chicharro Aguera in Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando Art Museum Madrid]
Detail: gorgeous, feline distractions and nagas
While serving as director of the Spanish Fine Arts Academy in Rome, Chicharro achieved his most ambitious painting, after many preparatory drawings and sketches. [It was probably one of these early sketches that served as the basis of the photo hoax rather than someone working backward for this finished oil on canvas.]

He spent five years on the canvas itself. The name Buddha means Illuminated [from the root budh or budhi, awakened, enlightened]: this young prince has wandered for years seeking the light and now receives it under a ficus [Ficus religiosa, the Sacred Fig], the sacred tree of Buddhism. Motionless and absorbed [in jhana, dhyana, samadhi], he ignores the Apsaras [sylphs, angelic celestial space or woodland maidens], daughters of Evil [Mara, the Tempter and Obstructor], who try to seduce him:
[Eduardo Chicharro Aguera in Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando Art Museum Madrid]
O, great prince, go back to Scythia and rule!
Flattery and her sister Adulation, Lust with a panther body, Tenderness [Laziness, Regret], lying at his feet, Voluptuousness on a rich red drapery....
Lakshmi [like the famed Buddhist nun Ven. Uppalavanna], India's answer to Venus, appears riding an elephant. Another wicked Apsara, with a many-hued veil, takes on the figure of the beautiful young wife [29-year-old Princess Bimba, known to the world as Yasodhara, who later became the famous Buddhist nun and fierce disputant Ven. Bhaddhakaccana] this prince has left behind.
This work was awarded the Honors Medal at the 1922 Spanish National Exhibition, and the same year Chicharro was elected a member of the San Fernando Royal Academy. Purchased in 2001 with the Giutarte Bequest. More

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