Title:Parinirvana of Sakyamuni, the Historical BuddhaArtist:Artist UnknownDate:Nambokucho_ periodCreation Place:Asia, JapanCredit Line:Gift of Mary Griggs BurkeAccession Number:94.85
This painting shows the death of the Indian sage Sakyamuni, who died in 438 b.c. at the age of 80. After falling ill, Sakyamuni lay on a wooden couch in a grove of trees in the foothills of the Himalayas. Before dying, he advised his disciples, the monks with shaven heads, for the last time. Sakyamuni taught that his passing was not to be mourned, since it represented an escape from the endless cycle of birth and death that all living things must endure. Not fully understanding this, a host of mourners--divinities, humans, and animals, including two pious slugs and a centipede--weeps and writhes in grief. Even Sakyamuni's mother, Queen Maya, descends from the heavens with her attendants to bid her son farewell. Buddhist temples display large paintings like this in February, the month associated with Sakyamuni's nirvana, or release from mortal suffering.