The Indian Buddhist Iconography

by Benoytosh Bhattachacharyya | 1958 | ISBN-10: 8173053138 | ISBN-13: 9788173053139

This page contains an iconography image of Seven Mortal Buddhas with Maitreya and represents figure 45 of the book Indian Buddhist Iconography, based on extracts of the Sadhanamala English translation. These plates and illustrations represent either photographs of sculptures or line-drawing reproductions of paintings or other representations of Buddhist artwork.

Figure 45 - Seven Mortal Buddhas with Maitreya

Seven mortal Buddhas
Figure 45: Seven Mortal Buddhas with Maitreya

The Hīnayānists, even in their earlier stages, recognised four bygone Buddhas, each having a peculiar Bodhi tree. Mahāyānists also give several lists, though not systematically and thirty-two different names have been recovered. The last seven Tathāgatas are well known, and are designated by the Mahāyānists as Mānuṣi or Mortal Buddhas. These are, Vipaśyin, Śikhī, Viśvabhū, Krakucchanda, Kanakamuni, Kaśyapa and Śākyasiṃha. The historicity of these Buddhas is still uncertain excepting of course that of the last, but there are good grounds for thinking that Kanakamuni and Krakucchanda really were historical personages.

When represented, the last seven Mortal Buddhas appear all alike; they are of one colour and one form, usually sitting cross-legged, with the right hand disposed in the Bhūmiṣparśa Mudrā (earth-touching attitude), which is the Mudrā peculiar to Akṣobhya and as a matter of fact, it is not possible to identify a sculpture of the latter unless it is coloured or if no other identification mark is present. In paintings, the Mortal Buddhas have usually a yellow or golden complexion. The only possible chance of identifying them is when they appear in groups of seven.

Sometimes they are represented as standing, in which case they appear under a distinguishing Bodhi Tree and with a distinguishing Mudra. The Indian Museum image No. B. G. 83 (Fig. 45) is an image of this kind. It may be noted, however, that Maitreya, the future Buddha, has been added to this group.