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Bodhisattva Maitreya

Bodhisattva Maitreya
Bodhisattva Maitreya
Pakistan (Gandhara)
Ca. 2nd-3rd century
Schist
(84.66)
Gift of Mr. Eric Neff

Maitreya is the bodhisattva who will be the next mortal Buddha to appear on earth. His name in Sanskrit means “friendly and benevolent.” In Mahayana Buddhism, a bodhisattva is an enlightened being who has done everything necessary to attain nirvana but instead of progressing to that state has held back in order to help other human beings who are still on the path to that goal. Maitreya is shown with half closed eyes, a sign of his spiritual detachment. He is splendidly bejeweled and in his left hand holds a flask, his defining attribute. His right hand, now lost, originally made the gesture of reassurance and protection (abhaya mudra). He has the mark of enlightenment (urna) on his forehead. The cranial bump on the top of his head (ushnisha), the sign of superior intellect, has been rendered as a hair knot - a stylistic convention that resulted from Greco-Roman artistic influence.

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