Buddhist Aesthetics?

Richard Gombrich


The Buddha often spoke of the dangers of sensual pleasure, and this attitude has had considerable influence on all Buddhist traditions. The few allusions to the beauties of nature in the Pali canon mainly appreciate how they induce tranquility. In the works of man, utility and costliness were appreciated, but apparently what we consider beauty was not prized for its own sake. However, offerings to the Buddha, e.g. to his image, should be as fine as possible. The value of any Buddhist offering, as indeed of any Buddhist act, is judged by its motive, and the finer the offering, the better, in as much as it shows that every effort has been made. This is not really an aesthetic, but rather an attitude to art, namely, that like any beautiful object it should serve to convey a Buddhist message.

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