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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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Thai Buddha, pointed topknot, elongated earlobes, earth-touching posture; 7 inches tall; $760. Photo courtesy of Eldred's
He calls himself a simple Buddhist monk, the same monk who won the 1989 Nobel Prize for Peace.

When the Dalai Lama, Buddhist leader of Tibet, accepted the prize, he did it in the name of oppressed people everywhere.

Knowing full well that over one million of his people have been tortured and killed, and over six thousand of his monasteries and temples have been destroyed, The Dalai Lama insisted that Tibet’s struggle with China remain nonviolent and free of hatred.

“This tragedy gives me new life,” he said. “If I had remained in Tibet without this problem, my whole way of thinking might be different.”

The Dalai Lama is his own brand of peace. There is a noticeable lack of despair in the man, a mental calmness that allows him to handle conflict with peaceful negotiation. Truth, courage and determination are his arsenal.

According to Tibetan beliefs, he is the reincarnation of his predecessor, the 13th Dalai Lama. Dalai Lamas are said to be the manifestations of the Buddha of Compassion.

The word Buddha means, “enlightened one.” Known for his gentleness and generosity, Buddha worked to spread his teachings throughout the world. Today, some 2,500 years later, Buddhism is one of the world’s major religions.

Tales of Buddha have been sung, written about, painted and sculpted. Whether it’s a giant Buddha housed outside a 12th century Burmese temple, or a 14th century Tibetan Buddha resting on an altar, the Buddha has been celebrated throughout time.

Buddha’s teachings were often communicated silently through the telling hands of Buddha sculptures. A Thai-style posture shows Buddha with hands extended in a pose called “stopping the relatives from fighting.”

It seems that Buddha learned his relatives were quarreling over water rights between properties. He supposedly manifested in bodily form and encouraged them to compromise.

Then there is the tall-standing Buddha that represents overcoming fear and anxiety. This statue relates to a story about a jealous relative who used an angry elephant to trample Buddha. The Buddha lifted his hand and the elephant immediately stopped.
Whether knowledge of Buddhist teachings came over the Himalayas to Central Asia or by sea to Southeast Asia, certain traits of the Buddha-image are common. These include the heightened shape of the top of the head, the snail-curled hair, long earlobes, webbed fingers, and the simple monk’s clothing.

Buddha statues can be standing in a formal position or sitting in meditation. They can be Chinese, Japanese, Cambodian or Nepalese. Whatever the form, Buddha is still Buddha.

Age, rarity and history draw collectors to these antiquities. They will continue to increase in value because many are one-of-a-kind creations.

If the Buddha statue is bronze, does it have the original finish (patina)? If the finish is original, the crevices, corners and hidden places will have the same finish as the outside surface. This is important because a piece will be worth less refinished.

In the end, love for these effigies can lead to the one thing Buddha warned against, attachment. Understanding we are merely caretakers, enjoying these objects “just” for a little while, will keep us from being trapped in the cycle of craving.

On Aug. 23 and 24, Eldred’s, East Dennis, Mass., featured a selection of Buddhas in its Asian Art auction. Here are some current values.

Carved Wood Buddha
Gilt and carved wood Buddha seated on a lotus throne; 19th century; 8½ inches high; $495.

Porcelain Buddha
Porcelain Buddha; Famille-Verte; bisque face; he is holding a pearl and seated on lotus throne; 19th century; 7¾ inches high; $594.

Bronze Buddha
Sino-Tibetan Buddha seated on lotus throne in earth-touching posture; 18th century; 4¼ inches high; $661.

Thai Buddha with pointed topknot, elongated earlobes, seated in earth-touching posture; U-tong period; 7 inches tall; $760.

Burmese Buddha depicting S’akyamuni with elongated earlobes and finial headdress; Pagan, 18th century; 8¾ inches tall; $793.

Gilt-bronze; seated on lotus throne in earth-touching position; late 18th/early-19th century; 2 5/8 inches high; $793.

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