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18.15 Uhr

Why Do Buddhist Caves Feature Meditation Themes?

Prof. Dr. Eugene Wang, Harvard University (USA), Department of History of Art and Architecture sowie Heinz Götze Visiting Professor at Heidelberg University, Institute of East Asian Art History

A Buddhist cave decorated with scenes of meditation at once makes perfect sense and no sense at all. It makes sense in view of the centrality of meditation in Buddhist imagination and practice. It makes no sense, as nowhere in Buddhist discourse do we ever find the instruction that meditation involves looking at wall paintings about meditation. Current scholarship is also polarized into camps of either affirmers and deniers. Affirmers regard meditation as the central function of decorated caves. Deniers see them as sites of mortuary function. Meditation and memorial thus become mutually exclusive. I see them as mutually dependent. Meditation is not the function of decorated Buddhist caves, but its narrative frame; memorial is essential to such caves, only that it often takes the narrative form of meditation.


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