Judy Furnish with her neighbor's Buddha collection
Raising your hand in history class either means you know the answer to the teacher’s question, or you have a question of your own. If you raise your hand high and frantically wave it back and forth, it means you really, really know the answer and want to impress all your classmates. Posture and gestures convey a lot about a person.
Have you ever seen a statue of Buddha reclining? Standing up? Have you seen a sculpture of Buddha with both hands resting in his lap or one hand raised? I just found out that each of those positions, gestures and postures have a significant meaning.
Evidently, statues of the Buddha were not around until hundreds of years after Gautama Buddha’s death in India--several centuries before Christ was born. How he is portrayed in each sculpture or carving reflects one or more of his teachings--Protection, Meditation, Enlightenment, Gift Giving, to list a few. “Encountering the Buddha: Art and Practice Across Asia,” is the title of a current exhibition at the Smithsonian’s Freer/Sackler Museum. The exhibit, which runs until January 2022, includes more than 200 pieces of art inspired by the teachings of Buddha. Some of these are more than 1000 years old.
The Smithsonian Museum has been referred to as America’s treasure house. The wonderful part of that treasure is that it includes artifacts and masterpieces from all over the world. For those of us who live in the area, it is close, and it is free. And if you have a question while visiting, you do not need to raise your hand, there are usually people nearby to give you the answer.
Be sure to check before you go, as there are still some restrictions due to COVID.