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Buddhism and aesthetic creativity



Guruge, Ananda W. P.










Buddhism, just as other world Religions, has inspired a legacy of the finest and the most beautiful creations in architecture, painting, sculpture, statuary, and prose and poetic literature. In tracing the origin and the development of this magnificent legacy, this paper seeks answers to the following questions:

How is it that the earliest reliably datable monuments and works of art including written records, hitherto discovered in the Indian Subcontinent, happen to be of Buddhist origin?

How is it also that a vast literary movement in which poetry and story-telling figure prominently start with the Buddha setting new standards and directions?

What role did the Buddha and his teachings play in this enigmatic revival of aesthetic creativity in the Indian Subcontinent and its extension to the rest of Asia and its continuance to present times?

It is done in three Parts. In the first Part, the canonical texts in Pali are analyzed for evidence on how the Buddha personally inspired and took the initiative to promote aesthetic creativity. It has been possible to unravel that the Buddha did consciously resort to the highest standards of poetic expression in literature and also encouraged significant innovations in art and architecture. The second Part examines how Buddhism as it developed in stature as a religious system and spread within and outside the Indian Subcontinent promoted aesthetic creativity in practically every domain of art. Especially noted is how Mahayana Buddhism had a popular appeal and played a very significant role in this process. The third Part is a brief but extensive survey of the marvels and masterpieces of the vast Buddhist cultural heritage. To the paper are appended a literary appreciation of three popular poetic texts and a substantive index of similes and metaphors, attributed to the Buddha, in the four Nikayas of the Pali Canon. The conclusion reached is that in every field of art, architecture, literature and performing arts, the impact of Buddhism has been historically impressive and currently extensive.

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