Images of the Divine Child

[aras-image:7Lh.025,,11,,,Figure 7 First Bath and First Steps of Shakyamuni [detail of a hanging scroll].]

The water symbolism continues in the rite of baptism for it is a second birth. It signifies a union of the elements in the experience of the divine child. If sired by the air of spirit, born from earth, and carrying the fire of redemption, the water as the maternal element of the unconscious contains the child. The bathing of the infant Christ (an early baptism) has been a favorite theme of Christian painters. A Buddhist example of the same theme is in a silk banner from Kansu province in China, dated in the 8th-9th century. It shows the infant Gautama standing. In front of him are the six lotus blossoms of purity which sprang from his first steps and below we see him in his first bath. The scene is guarded above by dragons as the power of Heaven (Figure 7),...