India, Bihar, Nalanda monastery, Pala period, late 11th century; ink and opaque watercolor on palm leaf; each approx. 2 7/8 x 22 3/8 in.; Asia Society, New York, Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Acquisitions Fund, 1987.1, photo: Susumu Wakisaka, Idemitsu Museum of Arts, Tokyo, Courtesy of Asia Society, New York.
These five palm leaves contain sections of the Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines, one of the oldest sutras in the Buddhist tradition. Sutras record the Buddha’s teachings. This one, written in the Sanskrit-derived lantsa script, is interspersed with images of various deities, including Avalokiteshvara in the center, with Green Tara below him. The outer illustrations depict various episodes in the life of the Buddha, ranging from birth to his final parinirvana. Although not direct illustrations of the text, these images serve to enhance the inner meaning of the sutra. BO