Sometimes referred to in Thai art as the Buddha on Vanaspati, this rare early sculpture probably depicts the Amitabha Buddha accompanied by two companions as he descends from heaven to welcome a dying person. While most Mahayana Buddhist images show Amitabha standing on a lotus while floating down on a cloud, in this unusual depiction he is on a giant bird, possibly the Garuda.
Looking down with compassion, the Buddha’s hands signal welcome at the time of death. Amitabha Tathagata is often depicted with two bodhisattva saviours, Avalokiteshvara and Mahasthamarprapta. Avalokiteshvara on the Buddha’s right, holds a lotus which he offers to the soul as a seat to ascend to heaven. The tendon protruding from the back indicates how this sculpture was attached to a larger architectural relief.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label