A bas-relief carving made of bone and in the shape of a lotus petal, depicting a wrathful guardian of the Tibetan Buddhist faith. At the base of the "petal" are the tops of mountains, with the waves of the sea visible between them; in the rounded part of the "petal," a border of flames encircles a dynamic image of the bodhisattva Vajrapani in his wrathful form. The background behind Vajrapani is incised with closely spaced wavy lines, again suggesting flames.
An incised image of Vajrapâni, the "Thunderbolt-bearer," an important bodhisattva in the Tibetan Buddhist faith, depicted in his wrathful form. He has a third eye, and his hair is depicted sweeping up and back as though on fire. He wears an elephant skin on his back (the elephant's head is just visible behond his right knee) and a tiger skin around his loins. He carries a vajra ("thunderbolt"—a pronged scepter) in his right hand. He stands in a dramatic pose (known as the "alida" stance, or "powerful kick"), often seen in wrathful deites, trampling underneath two figures that represent variously enemies of the faith or ignorance and greed.
A bas-relief carving made of bone and in the shape of a lotus petal, depicting Pehar, a guardian of the Tibetan Buddhist faith, in wrathful form. At the base of the "petal" are the tops of mountains, with the waves of the sea visible between them; in the rounded part of the "petal," a border of flames encircles a dynamic image of Pehar, his garments flowing in the wind as he rides on a snow lion. The background behind Pehar is incised with closely spaced wavy lines, again suggesting flames.
An incised image of Pehar Gyalpo, a guardian of the Tibetan Buddhist faith; depicted as a male wearing a helmet and riding on a snow lion.
Pehar is one of a class of fierce deities known as dharmapala, or ‘defenders of the faith.’ His cult dates back to the late eighth century, when Guru Padma Sambhava, an Indian master of meditaion and tantric practices, ‘installed’ Pehar as the protector of Samye, the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet. He is also the deity channeled by the Nechung medium, who acts as the State Oracle of Tibet, and the chief dharmapala of Drepung Loseling Monastery.
Pehar is traditionally shown, as here, with a fierce expression, wearing a helmet, and astride a snow lion (an imaginary creature—which may in turn trample a corpse, although not in this example).
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 miniature sculpture of a the Tibetan yogin Milarepa as a rotund figure, seated in lalitasana (the posture of royal ease, with one knee drawn up and the other relaxed) on an antelope skin (the head of the antelope can be discerned just under the figure's left foot, as an incised design). The right hand is raised, cusping the right ear as though to better hear, while the left elbow rests on the left knee, and the right hand holds a nettle-shell bowl. Wrapped around his torso, from his right shoulder to his left knee, is a sash (sometimes referred to as a meditation belt), which allows him to keep his body upright during long hours of meditation. The base, cast in a single piece with the figure, is decorated with beading and a single band of lotus petals.
The beloved Tibetan yoga master Milarepa (a historical person, 1040–1123) is identified here by his characteristic gesture of cupping his right hand to his ear, "as though listening to the voice of inspiration." Famous for his antisocial and unorthodox behavior, Milarepa attained the ultimate Buddhist goal of a spiritual awakening in a single lifetime, without becoming a monk. He is the subject of untold numbers of paintings and sculptures, across many centuries, as he is revered by lay followers of Tibetan Buddhism.
A portable painting in mineral pigments and gold on a primed cotton ground; the painting is designed to be rolled up when not in use. The painting was folded at some time in its history, resulting in a loss of pigment along two vertical lines.
At the center of this complex composition is a large, white-skinned figure with six arms, each bearing a weapon, and three heads (one white, one blue, and one red, each with three eyes), wearing a helmet: this is Pehar Gyalpo, originally a non-Buddhist spirit invited to Tibet in the eighth century by Guru Padmasambhava to serve as protector of Tibet's first Buddhist monastery, Samye. Pehar is shown astride a snow lion (a white lion with a green mane; the symbol of the Tibetan state). At his fee are three similar wrathful protector deites, mounted (from right to left) on a lion, a horse, and an elephant; two more, both mounted on horses, are in the upper corners. Each of the mounted figures is enveloped in flames, of varying colors. At the very top center of the painting is a portrait of a monk, possibly a representation of Padmasambhava. The entire scene is set in a blue-and-green mountainous landscape.
An elaborately decorated conch shell trumpet, with extensions and a side chamber made from silver, inlaid with other precious metals and semi-precious stones of turquoise, lapiz lazuli, and mountain coral.
A trumpet for ritual use in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, made of a conch shell adorned with precious metals and semi-precious stones.
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 portable painting (thangka) in gouache and gold pigment on sized cotton, framed with concentric borders of red and yellow figures silk, with an outer border of white satin with embroidered floral designs. The painting is designed to be rolled up when not in use.
A representation of one of the Dhyana Buddhas of Tibetan Buddhism, possibly Amitayus, surrounded by images of other deities and major gurus (teachers).
A hollow cast bronze sculpture of the Buddha, including a lotus base. The bronze has a dark, shiny patina over most of its surface.
The Buddha sits with his legs crossed in the padmasana pose; his right hand reaches down, palm inwards, to touch the earth, in an elegant gesture with just the tip of his third finger making contact, while his right hand rests in his lap. His torso is tall and erect. His dhoti (a skirt-like garment) is tied high on his torso, while his outer robe covers his left shoulder completely and just brushes against his right shoulder. His face is shaped like a tall and narrow "U," with wide, gently arching brows, downcast eyes under swelling lids, a long and high nose, and full, cupid's-bow lips. The urna, an auspicious mark on his forehead, is indicated here by a small bump with an incised outline. His hair is arranged in rows of snail-shell curls, which are repeated in a larger size on his ushnisha, culminating in a lotus bud.
The upward-pointing lotus petals on the dais are in high relief, with curling tips.
The Buddha in bhumisparsa mudra (the gesture of touching the earth with his right hand, palm inward), signaling his victory over Mara.
A very finely hollow cast bronze portrait sculpture of a seated figure, with the lotus dais and pointed monk's cap cast in one piece with the figure.
The monk is shown seated in the padmasana (lotus) pose, with each foot resting sole-upward on the opposite knee. In his right hand, he holds a vajra (a double-pronged scepter) and simultaneously makes the vitarka gesture for teaching. His left hand, resting on his lap, holds a bell. His costume consists of a dhoti, which is knotted high on his torso; a short-sleeved shirt, crossed over his chest and decorated with incised scroll patterns, with a fret design at the border; and an overrobe that wraps around his left shoulder and is draped over his right shoulder. His face has a broad forehead, incised eyebrows in a high arch; downcast eyes, with leaf-shaped upper eyelids; a broad, flat nose; a sweet smile and full lips; and a narrow chin. His tall, pointed monk's cap, which completely hides his hair, has flaps that spread to reach his upper arms.
A portrait sculpture of an unidentified Tibetan lama (teacher), who is shown holding the vajra and bell, the two principal ritual implements of Vajrayana Buddhism. He wears the tall cap of a pandit, a scholar.
A miniature, cast bronze sculpture of Kubera, the god of wealth, seated sideways on a lion. Kubera sits in the lalitasana pose (the pose of royal ease, with one leg drawn up and the other relaxed); his right hand is outstretched to rest on the knee, while his left arm is akimbo and his hand rests on his hip. The base has a simple, single lotus petal design.
Kubera, the god of wealth, is widely worshipped in South and East Asia, in both Buddhist and Hindu contexts. He is shown here seated sideways on a lion.
A bronze image of a dancing figure, cast in the cire perdue (lost wax) technique in one piece with its lotus-petal base.
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. In this example the goddess holds a vajra ("thunderbolt," a ritual scepter) in her upraised right hand, rather than the more usual chopper. She sways in a dance pose, bending her right knee and balancing precariously on her right foot—which crushes a tiny figure underneath. She is nakekd apart from jewelry and a long garland of skulls. The symbolism for such images is complex, but broadly speaking, dakinis represesnt the spontaneous energy of the mind stripped of delusion and defilements.
A miniature stupa, cast of bronze in several parts, consisting of a bell-shaped base; an inverted cone-shaped tower, capped by an "umbrella" with pendant, fringe-like decoration, inlaid with semi-percious stone, surmounted by a lotus bud. Atop the whole structure is a half-moon and sun disk motif, supported by intertwined ribbons and culminating in another lotus bud.
A miniature stupa, or reliquary for containing funerary ashes or other items intimately associated with a famous monk teacher in Buddhism. This form of this stupa is characteristic of a type used by the Kadampa School, surmounted with a sun and moon.
Standing gilt bronze Shakyamuni Buddha with glass inlay. One hand is raised in the form of the "fear not" mudra. Stands on a pedestal in ornamented dress and crown.
Shakyamuni Buddha in intricate costume standing on a lotus pedestal. Such elaborate decoration has come to characterize Thai Buddhist imagery of the 19th and 20th centuries. Hands form the reassuring "fear not" mudra.
A tiny tear-drop-shaped metal (copper?) pendant, edged with beading, serving as support for a minature seated image of a Dhyani Buddha, made of inlaid semi-precious stones and copper wire. This may have originally been part of a necklace or tiara, or part of a brooch for a high-ranking monk's ritual costume.
A crowned and jeweled figure of a Dhyana Buddha (a primordial Buddha, venerated in Vajrayana Buddhism), shown seated with legs pendant.
10 cm x 8.2 cm x 4.6 cm (3 15/16 in. x 3 1/4 in. x 1 13/16 in.)
A miniature figure of a tantric goddess, very finely cast by the cire perdue (lost wax) method. The goddess is shown seated in lalitasana pose ("royal ease," one knee bent and the other relaxes) on a lotus dais, which is separately cast. She has 8 arms which are in variants of vitarka mudra (the gesture of teaching). She has three heads, with the two lateral heads seen here as partial profiles; each wears the five-petal tiara of Tibetan Buddhist ritual. Her skirt is unusual, looking to be made of leaves, instead of the usual dhoti. Her hair is painted blue and her lips red.