Publication Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Art


Art--Burma; Mahayan Buddhism; Theravada Buddhism--Burma; Art; Buddhist--Burma


The myrobalan and almsbowl are attributes of Buddha images which traditionally represent the Mahayanist diety, Bhaisajyaguru, the Buddha of Healing. Images with the myrobalan and almsbowl appear in Burma, however, at a point in history when Theravada Buddhism was predominant. It is the proposal of this thesis that these images with myrobalan and almsbowl which appear in Burma are not evidence of continuing Mahayanist practice but are instead indications of a limited but significant process of syncretization in which Burmese Theravada Buddhism borrowed and adapted Mahayanist elements. The images from Burma are themselves the most important source for studying this phenomenon because the majority of Western scholarship has focused on Bhiasajyaguru within the Chinese tradition. A stylistic and iconographic analysis of images from Burma which hold the myrobalan fruit and almsbowl will establish that there is a general pattern of syncretization in which Mahayanist imagery was borrowed, adapted and absorbed into Theravadin practice. Several stages of this process will be identified through a stylistic analysis of images which hold the myrobalan and almsbowl. Further evidence for this general process of syncretization is indicated by the adoption and adaption in Burma of Mahayanist imagery other than that associated with the historical Buddha. The myrobalan and almsbowl were easily assimilated because they were relevent symbols within Burmese Buddhist culture and Burmese Buddhism. In addition the dual nature of Bhaisajyaguru who not only represented the Buddha of Healing but also Buddha Sakyamuni would have facilitated the adoption of the myrobalan and almsbowl into a Theravadin context.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [112]-122).


122 pages




Northern Illinois University

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