Buddha of the Renunciation—Look Down!: Wisdom on the Pavement #15

Photo ©2008 Liz Hager

Date: 09/23/08

Time: 8:35 am

Location: Oak SW corner of Broderick

“Indispensable Wisdom on the Pavement”: At first I thought I recognized this serene being as the Buddha. Weren’t his elongated ears and “third eye” the give away?  But the baldness stumped me—I had only seen Buddha portrayed with a top-knot of hair. 

Buddhists consider a properly-rendered Buddha image not to be a representation, but the actual spiritual emanation of the teacher. Much like Byzantine icons (13th Century Shock & Awe), a Buddha image carries supernatural powers.  Each attribute of his image symbolizes something specific in the Buddhist doctrine. 

The typically elongated ears denote Prince Siddhartha’s noble origin; they are also are a reminder of all that the prince renounced to become an ascetic and a symbol of the power to hear things other people could not. The extra eye references the Buddha’s all-seeing nature.  The top-knot is a symbol of renunciation. In this lies the clue to this Buddha. 

After seeing the apocalyptic Four Signs, Prince Siddhartha decided to renounce his worldly life. He fled the palace on horseback in the dead of night. At the edge of the Anoma (Illustrious) River, he cut off the top-knot of his long hair and tossed it to the heavens, crying ” “If I am to become a Buddha, let it stay in the sky; but if not, let it fall to the ground.” And that’s why Buddhist monks undergo a symbolic head shaving during ordination.

So, though he’s a bit non-traditional for Buddha depictions, I think he squeezes by the iconography as The Buddha of the Renunciation.

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