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Siddhārtha Gautama (died c. 483/400 BCE),[1] popularly known as Shakyamuni or simply the Buddha,[2] was a philosopher and spiritual leader on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. Those few who knew of his true nature called him a Precursor,[2] and he spent decades of his life teaching in India a path to liberation from suffering which involved attaining nirvana, an enlightened state which ceases the cycle of rebirth.[1]

Biography

In remote antiquity, Shakyamuni educated the masses of people living in the Indian states on the Buddhadharma. His guidance earned him innumerable disciples and the profound admiration of everyday people. Eventually, he chose to "relinquish his flesh" and passed away to the overwhelming grief of his followers. His body was cremated, but his disciples recovered among his ashes pearl-like stones of a rainbow of colours which were referred to as śarīra. Consecrated as sacred relics, the śarīra were actually reservoirs of Shakyamuni's genetic memories, thereby offering invaluable insights on the world of eons past—what the Japanese scholar Abe no Nakamaro later called "the truth of the world".[2]

Legacy

After his death, the Buddhadharma continued to be taught throughout India by the disciples he left behind. His teachings became Buddhism, and over the centuries, this religion spread throughout Asia along the Silk Road. By the latter Han dynasty, it had reached China via the Western Regions.[2] There, its influence became paramount during the Tang dynasty,[2] from which it was further disseminated into Japan.[3]

The śarīra that had been drawn from Shakyamuni's remains became the first of many of these memory receptacles collected by the Buddhist monks. Their spiritual masters protected them fiercely, enshrining them in their temples, and passing them on from generation to generation.[2]

The proliferation of Buddhism also inspired the creation of numerous art based on the life of the Buddha alongside statues of the many successors that came after him. These sculptures sometimes reached colossal heights, with one example being the Mengshan Giant Buddha built under the Northern Qi in Taiyuan.[4] The province of Gansu in the People's Republic of China today is also home to labyrinthine caves filled with thousands of Buddhist statues and murals, among the most famous being the Maijishan Grottoes.[5]

One of the murals in Dunhuang, Gansu appears to depict the legend of the Buddha resisting the temptation of Mara to sway him from his meditative quest for Enlightenment.[6] Replete with images of demons assaulting the Buddha, it is also purportedly the earliest known illustration of firearms and explosives: one demon wields a fire lance and another a flaming ball.[7] In 2012, this very section of the mural was included within one of the Glyph puzzles the Assassin Clay Kaczmarek had hidden in the Animus for his successor Desmond Miles to solve. Prompting Desmond to locate Pieces of Eden among various works of art, Clay indicated that the flaming ball in the demon's hand was actually a depiction of an Apple of Eden, not a bomb.[8] In this way, he suggested that an Apple of Eden was involved in the Buddha's life or at the very least one had surfaced in the Song dynasty when the painting was drawn.[6][8] Apart from this, Clay also hid a binary code reading "Sumerian, Me 23" within the painting.[8]

Appearances

References

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