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Meteorite deity
September 27, 2012 3:57 AM   Subscribe

Buddhist statue acquired by Nazis is space rock "An 11th-century carving from Mongolia of the Buddhist god Vaiśravana was fashioned from a meteorite fragment, a chemical analysis shows. Its extraterrestrial origins make it unique in both religious art and meteorite science."
posted by dhruva (58 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Indiana Jones 5: Who's Laughing Now
posted by Old'n'Busted at 3:59 AM on September 27, 2012 [33 favorites]


Buddhist god?

One of these words means something other than what you think.
posted by Goofyy at 4:02 AM on September 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Space rock? Perhaps from Spiritualized?
posted by chillmost at 4:02 AM on September 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I can't read the words "Space Buddha" without wanting to add a 90's cartoon opening theme-style guitar riff.

Spaaace Buddhaaaaa *weeeeeeooowwww*
posted by fight or flight at 4:14 AM on September 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Buddhist god?

One of these words means something other than what you think.


Well, even Wikipedia calls Vaiśravana a "deity".

Even if Buddhism theoretically doesn't recognise any "gods" as such, it clearly has syncretically incorporated deities of the religion it has come in contact with, much like a lot of the pagan pantheon was incorporated as angels and saints in nominally monotheistic Christianity. Indeed, the Buddhist insistence that Vaiśravana is a "Heavenly King", rather than (Nirvana forbids!) a "god" reminds me a lot of the rather torturous Catholic distinction between the veneration of saints (including the Virgin Mary) and adoration of the Only True God.
posted by Skeptic at 4:14 AM on September 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


It is in the nature of meteoric rock to be unsatisfactory.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:19 AM on September 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


That noise you just heard was Giorgio Tsoukalos and the rest of the Ancient Aliens crew having a simultaneous orgasm that rivals the Tunguska Event in intensity.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:20 AM on September 27, 2012 [16 favorites]


Awesome ancient sculpture, briefly stolen by shitheels, actually a space rock!
posted by Packed Lunch at 4:24 AM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Buddhist cosmology is a little more complicated than "There are no gods". Buddhists believe in a variety of supernatural beings (devas) but believe that they are also trapped in the cycle of death and rebirth, which they can escape through the Buddha's teachings as well. In fact, being reincarnated as a deva can actually be a trap, because the power strengthens the illusions that Buddhism is meant to eliminate.

Specifically, Buddhists don't have a creation myth, so they don't have a creator deity.

On the other hand, it clearly has syncretically incorporated deities of the religion it has come in contact with, much like a lot of the pagan pantheon was incorporated as angels and saints in nominally monotheistic Christianity. (I can't really put it better than that.)
posted by Elementary Penguin at 4:31 AM on September 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


To comment on the link, though, that statue is awesome. But what else would you carve out of a rock that fell out of the sky?
posted by Elementary Penguin at 4:35 AM on September 27, 2012


A bong, dude.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:41 AM on September 27, 2012 [26 favorites]


Indiana Jones 5: Who's Laughing Now

Well, this thing is gonna be a hell of a MacGuffin for somebody.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:46 AM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Giorgio Tsoukalos and the rest of the Ancient Aliens crew having a simultaneous orgasm

Too late
posted by DU at 4:48 AM on September 27, 2012


Pierce was right!
posted by sleepingcbw at 5:02 AM on September 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


It seems there was a preliminary announcement [PDF] of this finding at the 72nd Annual Meteoritical Society Meeting in 2009. Interestingly, it is noted there that ‘Since March 2009, the sculpture is owned by an anonymous Austrian.’ If anyone has access to the new paper, what else does it say about the statue’s provenance?
posted by misteraitch at 5:07 AM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Buddhists believe in a variety of supernatural beings (devas) but believe that they are also trapped in the cycle of death and rebirth, which they can escape through the Buddha's teachings as well.

The usual line (but this, of course, varies tremendously from tradition to tradition) is that only people living in the Human World can find enlightenment -- the gods are distracted by pleasure, the Asuras by wrath, etc. We are just lucky, I suppose.

And, really, how can one find fault with an article that uses "space god" and "Nazis" as hooks?
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:11 AM on September 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Well, to be pedantic (this is mefi after all), different traditions of Buddhism have different attitudes toward deities. Early Buddhism and Theravada traditions are the most humanist, denying the divinity of Buddha, and not recognizing any other supernatural deities. Mahayana allows that there are partially and fully enlightneed beings hanging around, but they are not gods in the sense of being creators or qualitatively different than humans--they are just spiritually evolved humans. Tibetan / Vajrayana traditions are the most supernatural with an elaborate cosmology and many demons, deities, etc.

But yeah, space Buddha. awesome.
posted by reverend cuttle at 5:13 AM on September 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


This space rock song "Buddhist Statue Acquired by Nazis," do you have a link where I can download it?
posted by localroger at 5:15 AM on September 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Don't be silly, localroger, no space rock songs can be made into files small enough to be downloaded within a human lifetime.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:17 AM on September 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Damnit, somebody already beat me to the Indiana Jones joke! ::sigh::
posted by wolfdreams01 at 5:23 AM on September 27, 2012


Clearly, the acquisition of the space rock Buddha was part of Project Ragnarok.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:23 AM on September 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Seriously, this headline reads equal part "awesome" and "next summer's blockbuster".
posted by tommasz at 5:26 AM on September 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


OK, was anybody else bothered by this part?

That creates something of a problem, says Genge. How did ancient people come to venerate meteorites, or meteorite craters, without witnessing the moment of impact?

"One of the most puzzling examples is Gosses Bluff in Australia," he says. "This crater is 142 million years old, and yet the Aborigines hold that it formed by the fall of the baby of one of the celestial women from the sky. A strange coincidence perhaps."


Why does this guy automatically assume this is "a strange coincidence"? Is it that hard to conceive of the possibility that the aboriginal Australians might have had their own ways of gathering knowledge about the natural world -- ways that, while different from Western methods of science, might produce equally valid results -- plus a robust oral tradition that allows them to encode this knowledge and accurately pass it down through the generations?
posted by spacewaitress at 5:57 AM on September 27, 2012 [11 favorites]


I'm calling it. ARG for Cloverfield sequel.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:05 AM on September 27, 2012


Is it that hard to conceive of the possibility that the aboriginal Australians might have had their own ways of gathering knowledge about the natural world

No kidding. Like Europeans were the first human beings who could look at a big impact crater and figure out that it might have been produced by something heavy/big crashing into the ground from the sky. Aborigines I guess had never seen other things hit the ground and leave a mark on impact.

As for the "gods in Buddhism!?!" thing, in addition to what others have said, in the Tibetan Book of the Dead (which is meant to be read to people as they lay dying or after they are recently deceased to give them a final chance to attain enlightenment in this life/death cycle), you find out that all the demons and gods you believe(d) in are really just projections of various aspects of your own mind. So even in the Mahayana tradition, there's often an underlying idea that there are no real gods, though the idea of gods may provide a useful fiction for alleviating human suffering, which in the end, is the most important thing ("skillful means").
posted by saulgoodman at 6:26 AM on September 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


One thing that never seems to get enough attention IMO when the subject of the Nazis expropriation of the Swastika symbol is the fact that their version of the symbol is deliberately reversed in direction. The older symbol in Buddhism (and Hindu belief systems) represented the inevitable turning of the wheel of Samsara (i.e., the processes of natural cause and effect playing out, in a very abstract sense); the Nazi version (at least, this is my understanding) was deliberately intended to represent the idea of opposition to the normal order of natural cause and effect that the original symbol represented, with all sorts of pseudo-Nietzschean ideas in the background about the triumph of the individual Will to Power over even the forces of nature and the laws of cause and effect. It was basically a kind of "fuck you" to the idea that man's destiny is determined by impersonal forces like karma, is my understanding, from what I've read about the screwed-up cult that formed around Hitler and those closest to him. The Nazi swastika was meant to represent a deliberate rejection of and ongoing opposition to the natural order of things.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:38 AM on September 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


(So they were kind of like anti-Buddhists.)
posted by saulgoodman at 6:39 AM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Saul, you've convinced me that there needs to be an epic-length Buddhists vs. Nazis movie, preferably featuring Shaolin monks punching holes through Panzers.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:48 AM on September 27, 2012 [23 favorites]


(...with their minds!)
posted by saulgoodman at 6:52 AM on September 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


If anyone has access to the new paper, what else does it say about the statue’s provenance?

Recent provenance:

"To our knowledge, the
statue was brought to Germany by a Tibet expedition in
the years 1938–1939 guided by Ernst Scha¨ fer (zoologist
and ethnologist) by order of the German National
Socialist government (e.g., Mierau 2003). The aim of this
expedition was to find the roots of the Aryan religion
and the Aryan origin (e.g., Hale 2003; Engelhardt 2007)." [1495]

Based on the art historical analysis (which notes it might not be an aspect of Buddha):

"The ancient tradition of meteoritic
artwork in Tibet (Berzin, personal communication) and
the entire Buddhist area is in good agreement with these
age estimations. The provenance of the meteorite used
for the statue strongly points to the Tanna-Tuva region
in the border area of eastern Siberia and Mongolia..." [1498]

But they also ask for help from archaeologists and other specialists with more insight to try to pin it down further, and the Conclusions section notes that its provenance is unclear (1499). If anyone would like the article, please let me know.
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:54 AM on September 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Saul, you've convinced me that there needs to be an epic-length Buddhists vs. Nazis movie

First there are Nazis
Then there are no Nazis
Then there are still no Nazis, because, you know, Space Buddha.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:55 AM on September 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


M: Indy, where are you going?
I: I'm going after that truck.
M: Be careful.
I: Don't worry, I always take the Middle Path.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:04 AM on September 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


Is it that hard to conceive of the possibility that the aboriginal Australians might have had their own ways of gathering knowledge about the natural world -- ways that, while different from Western methods of science, might produce equally valid results

Yes, that is difficult to conceive.
posted by lazaruslong at 7:10 AM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


ways that, while different from Western methods of science, might produce equally valid results

Yes, that is difficult to conceive.


Yeah, actually that part of the comment was a little problematic for me, too. But I figured I'd let it slide. It seems to me the methods that produced the knowledge (observation and deduction, in this case) are just plain "science" regardless of cultural context, while the methods of transmission (myth-making, oral story-telling traditions) are what differ. If you ask me, the assumption that scientific thinking is purely a Western tradition is what's really suspect. But this is starting to get deraily....

posted by saulgoodman at 7:25 AM on September 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Why isn't this a Philip K Dick novel?
posted by wittgenstein at 7:30 AM on September 27, 2012


Nazi Buddhist Space Rock? I gotta hear this!
posted by Liquidwolf at 7:55 AM on September 27, 2012


This would be an appropriate token for space Nazis, I think.
posted by sonascope at 7:56 AM on September 27, 2012


an epic-length Buddhists vs. Nazis movie, preferably featuring Shaolin monks punching holes through Panzers.

Himmler's Crusade: The True Story of the 1938 Nazi Expedition to Tibet.

And then there's the story about the Society of Green Men, Tibetans in Germany who'd been training the Nazis in magic. And how when the Russians entered Berlin at the end of the war, they found a thousand corpses of Tibetans without identification but in Nazi uniforms who'd committed suicide.
posted by Zed at 8:03 AM on September 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


How did the figurine of this ancient god come to be embedded in an extraterrestrial piece of stone? This is blowing my mind.
posted by Anything at 8:20 AM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


A little more from The Straight Dope about the idea that the Nazi Swastika deliberately represented the reversal of the Wheel of Life/Samsara. Apparently there's more scholarly debate/controversy around this idea than I realized, but it's still one of the competing scholarly views on the historical origins/meaning of the symbol.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:23 AM on September 27, 2012


Well, I sure picked the right website to read after reading a bunch of Hellboy last night.
posted by sourcequench at 8:29 AM on September 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: Syncretically incorporating deities of the religions it has come in contact with
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:37 AM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nazis expropriation of the Swastika symbol is the fact that their version of the symbol is deliberately reversed in direction

Actually, Hindu and Buddhist temples of antiquity used the symbol in both directions. The "reversal" theory probably arose after WWII, as an attempt by some Buddhist temples (in Canada, iirc) to draw a firm line between their symbol and the now-ruined Nazi one. But this just doesn't hold up since all over the world there are 1000-2000 year old temples with the symbol in both directions, and they're not going to alter the carvings...
posted by reverend cuttle at 8:39 AM on September 27, 2012


swastika vs. svastika
posted by reverend cuttle at 8:40 AM on September 27, 2012


Also tetraskelion.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:00 AM on September 27, 2012


But this just doesn't hold up since all over the world there are 1000-2000 year old temples with the symbol in both directions, and they're not going to alter the carvings...

Sure, but in some of those various historical traditions, the reversal of the sign did suggest a reversal of meaning and/or was viewed as a sign of black magic--I'm not arguing the story's as simple as I originally put it, but the reversed sign has represented bad luck/opposition to the natural order in some traditions, so it isn't completely implausible the Nazis meant to trade on some of those associations (though it seems there's no definitive evidence of it). According to this, the idea the Nazi's version represented a deliberate reversal of the original sign began as Allied propaganda during WWII, but I'm not sure that's uncontroversial either. Either way, there's much more good info (including about the associations of the reversed sign with Black Magic in certain Hindu traditions) here. Basically, like everything else, it's complicated.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:04 AM on September 27, 2012


Re Nazi and Tibet
posted by sensi63 at 9:13 AM on September 27, 2012


From the article: "There are reports of Egyptian necklaces including meteoritic metal," he says. "But there is no evidence that the Egyptians were aware of their extraterrestrial provenance."

They should know that making jewelry from space rocks is dangerous.
posted by dhens at 9:32 AM on September 27, 2012


That's a gorgeous statue of Bishamonten.

Another interesting thing about him is that not only is he worshiped in Japan as one of the Seven Lucky Gods (along with Hindu, Shinto and Taoist deities), but Uesugi Kenshin, a pretty famous Sengoku Era warlord, actually believed himself to be his earthly incarnation. If you're a fan of Japanese period dramas, he was played by none other than Japanese pop star Gackt in the 2007 television version of Fuurin Kazan. It's got some pretty badass scenes in it, like where Gackt sits in the middle of a field calmly drinking sake while his enemies shoot arrows at him.

Plenty more information, including a lot of great images, here.

On Baishiramantaya sowaka!
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:14 AM on September 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


GenjiandProust: "It is in the nature of meteoric rock to be unsatisfactory."

There is no rock nature. Only buddha nature. And even the buddha nature doesn't exist in itself. There is thus no satisfactory or unsatisfactory in itself, only what they are in relation to each other which is also in relation to everything else.
posted by symbioid at 11:22 AM on September 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Just as long as there's no Sven-Vathstika, I think I'll be ok.
posted by symbioid at 11:23 AM on September 27, 2012


They've got top men working on this. Top men.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:05 PM on September 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


There is no rock nature.

It is not that there is no rock nature, but that we fundamentally misunderstand the nature of rock. In the same sense, it is not that there are no Nazis, but we fundamentally misunderstand the nature of Nazis.

Despite these truths, it is still meritorious to throw rocks at Nazis.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:13 PM on September 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


an epic-length Buddhists vs. Nazis movie, preferably featuring Shaolin monks punching holes through Panzers.

Well, there was Bulletproof Monk.
posted by homunculus at 5:49 PM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Space Buddha is empty.
posted by Gilbert at 8:39 PM on September 27, 2012




This article [PDF warning, 1.8 MB] suggests that the space buddha is actually a 20th century imitation.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 12:52 PM on October 14, 2012




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