A fascinating collection of items has gone on display in Leeds as part of a new exhibition exploring the ancient history of the Buddhist faith.
Monks from Headingley Thai Temple visited Leeds City Museum’s Voices of Asia gallery today (Friday) where the items are being shown as part an ongoing project looking at the city’s different faith communities.
Taking pride of place in the gallery is a new Tibetan thangka painting of Buddha Shakyamuni from Nepal, which helps recreate a Tibetan Buddhist devotional shrine.
Also on display are prayer beads, a hand-held prayer wheel, a bell and Vajra symbol as well as offering bowls and incense sticks.
An early 20th century statue of Buddha Shakyamuni from Myanmar, which represents the Buddha’s body, two examples of sacred texts represent the Buddha’s speech and a Nepali style painted stupa, which symbolises the Buddha’s mind, are also part of the exhibition.
Antonia Lovelace, Leeds Museums and Galleries curator of world cultures, said: “Since the gallery began in 2014 we have been working with the different faith communities in Leeds to showcase one world faith at a time including Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism and now Buddhism.
“The Buddhist faith has a truly remarkable history with traditions stretching back more than 2,500 years and which are still practiced today. By exploring some of the religion’s fascinating stories and practices, we can gain a much better understanding of the incredible cultures around the world in which they play a fundamental part of everyday life.”
Accompanying the display is a specially commissioned film on Buddhism in Leeds made in partnership with the Jamyang Buddhist Centre Leeds, and the new Wat Buddharam Thai temple in Headingley.
Councillor Brian Selby, Leeds City Council’s lead member for museums and galleries, said: “Each of the different faiths that the museum has explored has its own unique history and heritage, some stretching back over thousands of years of human history.
“Through learning more about the belief systems of others in displays like this one, we can celebrate our differences while also discovering more about the many things which unite us.”
The Buddha, meaning awakened one, was born in the 5th century BCE as a wealthy prince, Prince Siddharta, in northern India.
In his twenties he left his wealth and family behind and began a search for the right way to live.
He achieved enlightenment or awakening whilst meditating under the Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya and when he died, he attained nirvana or non-being.
Buddhism has gradually spread throughout Asia, and then the whole world and different Buddhist organisations are now found in Leeds.