Consider for a moment the differences between Christian and Buddhist iconography. The Buddha has spent centuries in cross-legged serenity, eyes closed, attention fixed inward, ready at any moment to slip into the contemplative oblivion of nirvana. All life is suffering, begins the Buddha’s catechism, and the goal of all right action is to escape its grip. For uncounted millions of devotees, the virtually oblivious Buddha has symbolized the goal of their most fervent quest – the transcendence of the finite and transitory world of woe (called “samsara”) through a titanic movement of inward detachment.

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