Buddhist Practice and Visual Culture
The Visual Rhetoric of Borobudur
Routledge – 2011 – 228 pages
Providing an overall interpretation of the Buddhist monument Borobudur in Indonesia, this book looks at Mahayana Buddhist religious ideas and practices that could have informed Borobudur, including both the narrative reliefs and the Buddha images.
The author explores a version of the classical Mahayana that foregrounds the importance of the visual in relation to Buddhist philosophy, meditation, devotion, and ritual. The book goes on to show that the architects of Borobudur designed a visual world in which the Buddha appeared in a variety of forms and could be interpreted in three ways: by realizing the true nature of his teaching, through visionary experience, and by encountering his numinous presence in images.
Furthermore, the book analyses a particularly comprehensive and programmatic expression of Mahayana Buddhist visual culture so as to enrich the theoretical discussion of the monument. It argues that the relief panels of Borobudur do not passively illustrate, but rather creatively "picture" selected passages from texts. Presenting new material, the book contributes immensely to a new and better understanding of the significance of the Borobudur for the field of Buddhist and Religious Studies.
"Gifford has covered so much ground in this book… this is a terrific book that had to be written." - Nick Ford, Mahidol University, Thailand; ASEASUK News No. 52, Autumn 2012
Introduction 1. Borobudur: Monumental Mandala and Bodhisattva Path 2. Carving Out Time: The Narrative Relief Panels 3. Piecing Together Space: The Panorama of the Purified Field 4. Pervading Space: Bodhisattva Activity in the Cosmic Panorama 5. To Emptiness and Back: The Transformative Work of the Terraces
Julie Gifford is Assistant Professor in the Department of Comparative Religions at Miami University of Ohio.