UPDATE> "The Lama Wearing Trousers" Revisited: The Origin of a Remarkable Statue

Achim Bayer's picture

Dear Colleagues, 

As many of you may remember, in 2012, the image of a statue appeared in global news sources, representing a strange mixture of a Lama in partly Western clothing and the deity Vaiśravaṇa. Made out of metorite iron and featuring a svastika on its armour, the figure appealed to imaginations of Tibet, outer space, Nazism and assumed ancientness. It thereby fulfilled various criteria for triggering modern hopes and fears, elements outlined in Umberto Eco's "Foucault's Pendulum."

Although any expert on Tibetan art can immediately see that the statue is not authentic, it received wide media attention for a couple of days without any expert speaking up. I therefore decided to send an open letter to the Geologists and Plantologists who had published the original research article "The Buddha from Space," an analysis of the meteorite iron along with assumptions that the statue was from Tibet, 1000 years old, originating from the Bon religion and brought to Germany by Tibet expeditions in the pre-war years of the Third Reich. 

After my original open letter was published on the Spiegel magazine's website, the authors' response was dismissive, with the main author claiming that he had asked more than ten experts about the statue and that I was the only one who considered it unauthentic. I therefore decided to publish a research article, and in the preparation of this, received much support through h-Buddhism and other lists, for which I would like to express my gratitude again. Especially, John Huntingtion made me aware of one of his postings on another list, in which he had mentioned mostly the same unauthentic features that I had pointed out in my open letter on Spiegel Online.

In my hasty article of 2012, I could not enter an inquiry about the actual origins of the statue. I therefore focused on the myth of Tibet and its companion, the myth of Tibetology, that is, phantasies about the academics dealing with Tibetan subjects professionally. Of course, as an academic publication, the article was not meant to "prove" that the statue is not authentic, for that would be as futile as proving that climate change is a fact, that vaccinations are effective, or that "cittamātra" means that what seems to be matter is, on a higher level, only mind. Proving such things would be siddha-sādhana, proving what has already been proved, and this should not be the subject of academic discourse. My main question was why such obviously outdated Tibet kitsch could go around the world of modern media without being questioned, based on a publication that can probably be described as postmodern metallurgy.  

It is especially noteworthy that Dr. Alexander Berzin, the only Tibetologist mentioned in the original Planetologist paper "The Buddha from Space," has responded to my request and clarified that he, like all experts, saw immediately that the statue was not authentic, that he had never told the Planetologist authors otherwise, and that he gave me permission to make this public.

 

After my article was made available under https://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg.de/pdf/5-personen/bayer/bayer-2012-trousers.pdf , several news sources revised their previous reporting on the statue (for example, https://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/oct/24/nazi-buddha-statue-space-fake ), while others refused to take notice even after being cautioned ( http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2014/05/14/4004138.htm ).  

 

It is my great pleasure to see that Isrun Engelhardt has now, after years of meticulous research, identified the origins of the statue.

Her outstanding article has been published in the Revue d’Études Tibétaines and can be accessed online at  

http://himalaya.socanth.cam.ac.uk/collections/journals/ret/pdf/ret_42_02.pdf

The bibliographical details are  Isrun Engelhardt, “The Strange Case of the “Buddha from Space””, Revue d’Études Tibétaines, no. 42, Octobre 2017, pp. 39-67 (note that the footer contains the misspellings "Irsun Englehardt" and "Etudes").

 

Thanks again to all h-Buddhism members who have provided valuable help and encouragement in this matter!

With my best greetings from Kanazawa,

 

Achim Bayer

Associate Professor

Kanazawa Seiryo University

Department of International Culture

Kosaka-machi Minami 559

920 0811 Kanazawa

Japan

 

https://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg.de/en/personen/bayer.htm