Buddha Shakyamuni, 16th century
Tibet
Pigments on cloth
46 ¾ x 36 ¾ in.

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The term Buddha, meaning “awakened” or “enlightened,” was first used to refer to Shakyamuni, also known as the historical Buddha, who lived over 2,500 years ago in northern India and whose teachings were the foundation of Buddhism. Sometimes Shakyamuni goes by the name Siddhartha Gautama. Both appellations refer to the same person. Shakyamuni, shown here in red monks’ robes, became the Buddha by achieving enlightenment (a complete understanding of the true nature of reality), freeing him from the endless cycle of suffering that is birth, death, and rebirth. Over time, “buddha” came to refer to not only one person, but to all manifestations of enlightenment.

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