Sep 292011
 

Question by Vicarious Thrill: What is the symbolic value to the exposed breast of Green Tara, the Buddha of enlightened activity?
What is the symbolic value to the exposed breast of Green Tara, the Buddha of enlightened activity?

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Answer by OralBobs
Transcendental titillation

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  One Response to “Q&A: What is the symbolic value to the exposed breast of Green Tara, the Buddha of enlightened activity?”

  1. I’ve never heard of any specific symbolic value of the “exposed breast”. Actually, I think you would better see it the other way round: a body in its natural state is naked, and so many pictures of buddhas and other enlightened beings are naked. If it is naked, it’s just a body, but if it has clothes, then you should ask what the clothes symbolize. There are virtually no clothes and no other details in this kind of pictures that don’t have symbolic meanings – clothing can be the robes of a monk or a king, the hat of a scholar, different kinds of symbolic ornaments, and so on. In this she she doesn’t have clothes covering her breast, so they are just simply – breasts.

    You could also bear in mind that this kind of buddhas, deities, and so forth, usually don’t look very “male” or “female”. Often the circular breasts are the only detail that actually tells a male from a female figure. The sex or gender of the buddhas and deities is not very important (a buddha is perfect, which means it has perfected all male AND female qualities, so it isn’t male OR female, but rather both male and female, or neither male nor female). On the other hand, depicting them in male or female form is a way of stressing certain kinds of qualities (among all the qualities present in the same figure). Usually female figures are associated with wisdom and male figures with method/compassion. In this case, though, Green Tara is depicted in female form in spite of her being associated with “male” (buddhistically speaking) qualities, enlightened activity/compassion. In that way she resembles the Chinese/Japanese version of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, who in India and Tibet is depicted in male form (Avalokiteshvara/Chenrezig), but in China and Japan in female form (Guanyin/Kannon).

    Finally, you could say that, since the “exposed breast” is what makes you see it is a female form, it also helps you identify which figure you see in the picture, among the hundreds of different buddhas, bodhisattvas, deities and other figures you can find in this kind of paintings.

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