Tools for understanding religion in art

Buddhism

Among the founders of the world’s major religions, the Buddha was the only teacher who did not claim to be other than an ordinary human being.

videos + essays

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The stupa
The stupa

A mound of dirt or the body of the Buddha? These sacred sites give practitioners insight into the Four Noble Truths.

The historical Buddha
The historical Buddha

Despite a princely upbringing, Siddhartha insisted he was just a man—albeit one who attained perfection.

Buddhist Monasteries
Buddhist Monasteries

From simple assembly halls to expansive rock caves, buildings for Buddhist monks grew in complexity over time.

Beliefs made visible: Buddhist art in South Asia
Beliefs made visible: Buddhist art in South Asia

Buddhism thrived in India for over 1000 years. Discover important sites in the life of the Buddha.

Bodh Gaya: center of the Buddhist world
Bodh Gaya: center of the Buddhist world

Siddhartha achieved enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree. Now a major pilgrimage site, it is covered in offerings.

Four Buddhas at the American Museum of Natural History
Four Buddhas at the American Museum of Natural History

This video decodes the hand gestures, symbols, and styles of Buddhas from Thailand, Pakistan, Japan, and China.

Images of Enlightenment: Aniconic vs. Iconic Depictions of the Buddha in India
Images of Enlightenment: Aniconic vs. Iconic Depictions of the Buddha in India

An empty throne, footsteps, and a wheel—rather than represent the Buddha directly, sculptors relied on symbols.