Bryan C. Keene May 1, 13 min read. Several world religions share these conceptions of paradise, but the paths for locating it—whether in a physical environment, a metaphysical realm like heaven, or a state of transcendence—have varied greatly. He carries the plant to earth along with his wife Satyabhama, who ride together atop an eagle-like mythical being called Garuda. At right, the many-eyed god Indra and his consort witness the event.
In recent years, a growing interest in painted manuscripts from Southeast Asia has resulted in publications that help to shed light on this thoroughly enjoyable art form. Because of the incredible number and quality of the pieces at the British Library, one of the finest collections of Thai and Burmese manuscripts in the world, this book has particular importance. The authors give researchers and casual readers access to this vast collection. They also provide insight into local developments of Buddhist practice and the way that Burmese and Thai Buddhist beliefs, histories, and cultural development are physically manifest in the individual manuscripts. Because the manuscripts are illustrated, adorned, and preserved as unique religious objects, the authors treat them throughout the book as works of art, and rightfully so.
The book presents nearly two hundred high-quality reproductions from this deep and varied collection and describes Buddhist teachings, values, and practices in the region. This book is a significant landmark in Southeast Asian Buddhist manuscript studies. Its reproductions make it an essential reference source for scholars and, with its plain-spoken text, a rich and engaging overview for the general public. Among institutions around the world holding Southeast Asian manuscripts, the British Library has been a leader in facilitating access to these delicate items through various means. Buddhism Illuminated fits into this ethos of promoting accessibility and sharing curatorial knowledge with a wide audience including scholars, students, and members of the public; scholarly jargon is avoided.
Aldo Scardinelli. The British Library has the largest collection of Southeast Asian manuscripts in the world. This book is a selection of illuminated manuscripts mainly from Thailand and Burma.