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Yoga: The Art of Transformation

Fasting Buddha
India; Jammu and Kashmir state

The Cleveland Museum of Art, Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund, 1986.70.

An intricately carved ivory depicts, in three successive scenes, the future Buddha’s early experimentation with fasting until his limbs withered. At center, with his gaunt body encased in a delicate spiderweb of veins, he meditates in lotus posture during his six-year subsistence on a daily grain of rice. Hunched over, on the left, he remains in a state of despair. Ultimately, as seen on the right, he accepts a food offering that restores his robust body and sets him on the final path toward enlightenment.