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Notes on the Geography of China: Baodingshan: Photo 21

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The next tableau celebrates the cult founder, Liu Benzun. He is represented by the largest image, and he is flanked by the Ten Austerities he performed on himself.  These austerities made him famous, even though orthodox Buddhism rejects such practices. (Included among Liu's recorded achievements were comparatively minor self-mutilations such as cutting off an ear but also eye-gouging, burning the genitals, and removing his own heart.)  Below Liu are his followers. Above him is a panoply of Buddhas, including the primal Vairocana, his emanations Ratnasambhava, Amitabha, Akshobya, and Amoghasiddhi, and their emanations, the bodhisattvas Manjushri, Avolokitesvara, Samantabhadra, and Mahasthamaprapta. 

Self-mutilation was common enough that in 908, a year after Liu's death, monks were prohibited by royal order from gouging out their own eyes. 

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