The Sarnath Buddha, belonging to the fifth century , is the supreme masterpiece of the Sarnath school. The imperturbable poise of this sculptured figure, its almost ethereal delicacy and spirituality, the youthful pliancy of the body, the balance and harmony of its contours, including its radiant halo, the sublime serenity, lift it to the highest level of subtlety. Its effect of sublime monumentality is achieved through rigorous stylistic simplification: a conjunction between the equilateral triangle of the body's seated stability and the circles of the head and its supportive halo. The proportions of the masses, particularly the ascending direction of the hands against the poised inhalation of the chest and the broad shoulders, give the body the effect of lightness, of buoyancy, of an inheld movement upward and uplifting. Buddha's head resembles the full moon and is indeed one of the most perfectly spherical in all Buddhist iconography -like a bubble -yet deeply inward oriented. The eyes gaze downward, not directly at, but into the viewer; yet the arching eyelids, rhymed by eyebrows that lift intelligently and diagonally upward, are so accented by the light falling on their curvature that they seem to flash and flicker into a climax of irresistibly ascending energy .The very fine high-grade surface seems to have a soft bloom -a specially distinctive Sarnath quality, carried, here, to the highest degree of refinement. Viewed frontally, the orb of the head recedes towards the halo with unearthly receptivity; viewed slightly to the side, the head presses forward and the smile becomes mobile, outreaching.
'And the fingers, touching each other, form the circle of the chain of causes, thus giving what is known as a mudra, a hand signal representing an idea, this particular sign being that of pratitya-samutpada, 'coming into existence by being conditioned by a preceding cause' .The reference is to the Buddha's idea that the concatenation of all conditioned phenomena is rooted in science and a consequent will to live, which give rise to birth and death, which in turn are the support of the ever- revolving wheel of causes with their effects, conditioning and dissolving each other, world without end. Convert science into enlightenment and the whole figment of conditioned experience dissolves".
---------- Heinrich Zimmer, The Art of Indian Asia, New York, 1955, pp. 142-3.
The Buddha's drapery is conceived as a diaphanous cloth : which caresses the body's contours. Disciplined by yoga, the Enlightened One is seated in the 'lotus posture' of padmasana. A lotus-like circlet of drapery fans outwards from below this model body, combining plenteous convexity and indrawing recession to suggest, deep within, a rich interiority of being, like a pot brimming with water. Indeed, it would seem that the master who sculpted this image could well have begun life, like many an Indian artificer of images, as a potter. The major forms of the whole piece seem to have been fashioned with the memory of the barely audible potter's wheel whirring at the back of the sculptor's mind as he smoothed over the undulations of limbs, the paradisal sun-disc of the halo, and the beautifully expanded chest.