A fragment of a portable Buddhist altar, consisting of a lotus bud supported by two dvarapala (guardian figures); this motif is commonly found front and center in Chinese Buddhist altars of the 6th through 8th centuries.
The Buddha, seated in meditation, attended on his left by Indra, the king of the Brahmanical gods, and another figure damaged beyond recognition. Typically, the Brahmanical deity Brahma would have stood at Buddha's right side; together, Indra and Brahma worshipping the Buddha represent the capitulation of earlier faiths to Buddhism. This fragment would have originally decorated the wall of a stupa or shrine in a monastic compound.
A portable painting, with gouache pigments on sized cotton, bordered by three strips of Chinese brocade. The painting is designed to be rolled up when not in use.
This painting is a diagrammatic representation of the transmission of teachings within the Gelugpa School of Tibetan Buddhism. Tsongkhapa (1357 - 1419), the founder of the school, wearing the Gelugpa yellow hat and flanked by two lotus blossoms, is seated at the heart of a vast array of figures. Below him, forming the mountain on which he sits, are row upon row of the meditational deities revered by the school, including Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and deified lamas (teachers), as well as the fierce ‘dharmapala’ deities (protectors of the faith). At the side, seated in large numbers on billowing clouds, are teachers in the Gelugpa lineage. The ascetic figures at the top center, above Tsongkhapa, represent famous Indian mahasiddas, yogis who have mastered tantric teachings.
There are many variants of such lineage diagrams among the schools of Tibetan Buddhism. They type is known by many names, including “Assembly Tree,” “Merit Field,” “Refuge Field,” or “Field of Accumulation”; in Tibetan, the generic term is “tsog shing.”
A suberply cast hollow bronze figure of Tara, a Buddhist goddess, shown leated in the lalitasana pose ("royal ease," with one knee bent and the other relaxed), her right hand extended to her right knee in vara mudra (the gesture of charity), and her left hand in vitarka mudra (the gesture of teaching, with the thumb and third finger brought together). She wears a dhoti and jewelry, including an elaborate tiara and enormous lotus-petal design ear plugs. Her face has a broad, open forehead, with wide, slightly arching brows; her eyes are downcast with "s"-shaped upper lids; her nose is straight and long, and her mouth, in a curved Cupid's bow shape, is small but full. Her torso leans slightly to her left, which is balanced by the right tilt of her head. She sits on a double lotus dais with beaded upper and lower rims. The image and the base were case in one piece in the lost-wax method. There are traces of red paint for her mouth and blue paint for her hair.
Tara is a relatively late addition to the Buddhist pantheon, being part of a larger Buddhist response in northeastern India to thriving Hindu cults, especially the emerging popularity of goddesses. A female bodhisattva, she is considered the consort or female aspect of Avalokitesara, the bodhisattva of compassion.
Tara is widely revered by followers of Tibetan Buddhism in the Himalayas and Mongolia; to laymen, she is a deity who can be approached without the intercession of a monk, and who will offer respite from suffering, while to the tantric adept, she is the focus for advanced yogic practices. She is depicted as a youthful, sensual woman.
A small stone sculpture in bas-relief, depicting a tantric goddess. The back of the image is carved in a stylized petal shape, while the figure is crudely carved in relief on the front.
Tentatively identified as a dakini, a "sky walker": a popular type of goddess in Tibetan Buddhism. Dakinis are shown naked, and as in this image, usually wear a garland of skulls, and carry a skull cup, a flaying knife, and a staff strung with human skulls. The symbolism for such images is complex, but broadly speaking, dakinis represesnt the spontaneous energy of the mind stripped of delusion and defilements.
Dakinis are a popular subject in Himalayan art, and the figure on this small stone corresponds to the standard iconography in all respects but one: normally a dakini is shown taking an aggressive stride, with both feet on the ground, but here, the sculptor has taken advantage of the stone "background" to show her left leg held high, in a monumental stride.
Shakyamuni Buddha, sheltered by the Naga king Mucalinda: a scene from the life of historical Buddha. When the Buddha-to-be sat down under a Bo tree in Bodh Gaya to meditate for a period of 49 days, a great storm arose, but his concentration was unbroken. To keep him safe from the flood and the driving rain, the Naga (serpent) king Mucalinda coiled his body to life him above the waters, and spread his cobra hood to provide shelter. Images of Buddha sheltered by Mucalinda are common in peninsular Southeast Asia, where snakes were tradiionally revered as fertility symbols.
The Buddha in bhumisparsa mudra (the gesture of touching the earth with his right hand, palm inward), signaling his victory over Mara. In Southeast Asian contexts, this hand gesture is often referred to as Maravijaya mudra, or "victory over Mara." The Buddha’s elongated earlobes refer to his early life as a prince, when he wore heavy earrings. Texts that describe how a Buddha’s face should look often use comparisons to natural forms such as eyes like lotus petals, eyebrows like an archer’s bow, and a chin like a mango stone. The artist who created this sculpture clearly followed similar instructions.
The Buddha in bhumisparsa mudra (the gesture of touching the earth with his right hand, palm inward), signaling his victory over Mara. In Southeast Asian contexts, this hand gesture is often referred to as Maravijaya mudra, or "victory over Mara."