In 438 B.C. the 80-year-old Indian sage Sakyamuni fell ill and reclined on a wooden couch in a grove of sala trees near the town of Kushinara, in the foothills of the Himalayas. After gently encouraging his disciples one final time, he died, whereupon the trees above spontaneously burst into bloom and showered his body with fragrant flowers. According to Sakyamuni's own teachings, his death was not to be mourned because he was, in fact, escaping from the terrible cycle of birth and death that condemns unenlightened beings to endless suffering.This 14-century painting illustrates an embellished version of Sakyamuni's final moments on earth. In addition to his disciples, represented by monks with shaved heads, a host of mourners bids the sage farewell. High above the sad scene floats Queen Maya, Buddha's mother. Divine bodhisattvas, guardians, lay followers, and a menagerie of animals and insects writhe in paroxysms of grief. The artist even included two pious slugs and a centipede.This important addition to the Institute's collection of Japanese Buddhist paintings, a generous gift of Mary Griggs Burke, was presented to the Institute to commemorate the opening of the exhibition "Jewel Rivers: Japanese Art from The Burke Collection," which closes January 1, 1995.