Shakyamuni Buddha was born about 2549 years ago in what is now Nepal . He was known as Siddhartha Gautama, a prince and son of King Suddhodana and Queen Mayadevi. At the age of 29, he renounced the luxury of his royal heritage to take up the life of a religious wanderer. He submitted himself to rigorous and extreme ascetic practices, putting forth a superhuman struggle for six strenuous years. At the age of 35, after gaining profound insight into the true nature of reality (Dharma), he attained complete enlightenment. For the remainder of his life, living as the perfect embodiment of all the virtues he preached, the Buddha ('Awakened One') traveled widely teaching the Dharma. He offered his teachings to men, women, and children from all walks of life so they could also end suffering and attain awakening.
The Buddha Shakyamuni , at the moment of enlightenment, invoked the earth as witness, as indicated by the fingers of his right hand, which spread downward in Bhumisparshana Mudra, the "gesture of touching the earth." As the Buddhist Sutras relate, the sun and moon stood still, and all the creatures of the world came to offer obeisance to the Supreme One who had broken through the boundaries of egocentric existence. All Buddhist art celebrates this supreme moment and leads the viewer toward the Buddha's stylized footprints served as supports for contemplating what was ultimately beyond words or form. As the possibility he presented. "Don't look at me," he said, "but to the enlightened state." The first anthropomorphic representations of the Buddha are said to have been drawn on canvas from rays of golden light emanating from his body. Later Buddhist art pictured the Buddha in numerous manifestations, but always as an archetype of human potential, never as a historically identifiable person. All forms of the Buddha, however, are commonly shown seated on a lotus throne, a symbol of the open space, so too does the mind rise through the discord of its own experience to blossom in the boundlessness of unconditional awareness.
Buddhism is not a static doctrine, but a creative expression of the interdependent nature of all things. It is a means by which we can discover in the heart of experience, not ourselves, but a luminous and unfolding mystery. Buddhism envisions the universe as a net of jewels, each facet of reality reflecting every other facet. Our calling is not to escape this web of interdependent origination, but to awaken to our indwelling Buddha nature, to see the world for what it is, and to become Buddhas in our own right - beings of infinite awareness and compassion. "Be a light unto yourself," Buddha Shakyamuni declared at the end of his life. Become a Buddha, an awakened being, he urged, but never a blind follower of tradition. The image of the Buddha, transcending time and place, centers us in our innermost being. All the images in Celestial Gallery lead, ultimately, to the same dynamic serenity in which the light touch of a hand can tame the entire universe