Thursday, November 16, 2006

Diagram of perfection: Mandala of Vajradhatu, Tibet. 14C

Mandala of Vajradhatu One of the earliest mandalas to appear in Tibet during the Chidar (the Later Diffusion) A Nepalese artist Central Tibet, ca. late 14th century Distemper on cloth
102.2 x 77.5 cm (401/4 x 301/2 in.) The Kronos Collections More

Diagram of the Diamond Realm: This memory-instruction diagram of the Diamond Realm, is an image based on a text, probably Sarva Tathagata Tattva Samgraha Tantra (STTS), a text translated into Tibetan by Rinchen Sangpo (958-1055). It shows Vairochana in his four-faced, eight-armed form. He presides over this mandala of Vajradhatu (the Diamond Realm). Large numbers of figures, architectural elements, and ritual implements are meticulously arranged. This painting can be dated to the late fourteenth century when compared with firmly dated fifteenth-century mandalas, such as the three paintings in the Vajravali series, dated about 1429-56 in this catalogue (cat. no. 47. More

Similar to Vajravali series mandalas: Although this work compares closely with the Vajravali series mandalas, it differs from them chiefly in its more fluidly drawn scrollwork and more subtly graded palette. Here, foliate scrolls are wider; so too, the rich foliage connecting the upper throne backs of figures in the top and bottom registers is more fluidly presented, the forms fuller and less given to angular patterns. Despite these distinctions, the line, figural proportions, and many architectural elements in this work are so close to the style of the Vajravali series (executed by Newari artists, Most likely, Newari artists also painted this work, either for Ngor or another religious site in central Tibet, toward the end of the fourteenth century. More

Ten career steps for the bodhisattva: In traditional Indian theology, the distinction between a tenth-bhumi bodhisattva and a Buddha is slight. In the Prajnaparamita literature, including the Suramgamasamadhi Sutra and the Mahavastu, there are descriptions of the ten stages (bhumi) through which a bodhisattva progresses in his or her career, the last stage being the tenth bhumi.

Master the ten powers of the Tathagata:Tenth-bhumi bodhisattvas have already perfected the paramitas (virtues such as patience and charity) and have mastered the ten powers of the Tathagata. According to the literature, they are tied to the phenomenal world only by their great compassion for sentient beings. This mandala is meant to convey Vairochana's sambhogakaya (Body of Perfect Rapture), said to be characterized by radiance and emptiness (shunyata), a state directly perceptible only to advanced tenth-level bodhisattvas.See LaMotte 1960.

Twenty four diagrams: Lokesh Chandra, who has studied the twenty-four mandalas described in the STTS, notes that the Vajradhatu was one of the earliest mandalas to appear in Tibet during the Chidar (the Later Diffusion); some of its mandalas appeared in the main temple at Tabo (dated ca. 996-1042).

Instruction passed to Japan: The iconographically similar Diamond World mandalas, commonly seen in Esoteric Japanese Buddhism, also stem from the STTS, which was translated into Japanese by Amoghavajra (705-774).

Nine 'planet" deities: Nine encircled deities are arranged in three registers within the mandala's primary court (kutagara). In the center is Vairochana, one pair of hands at his chest held in a gesture of adoration (anjali mudra), another upward-turned pair held in his lap in meditative gesture (dhyana mudra).

Useful tools supplied: Other hands hold the bow and arrow, a rosary, and a wheel. Surrounding Vairochana and placed at the cardinal points of the compass are four symbols of the "families" (kula) associated with the four transcendent Buddhas (Tathagatas): the ritual thunderbolt (vajra, Akshobhya), the gem (ratna, Ratnasambhava), the lotus (padma, Amitabha), and the crossed vajra (vishvavajra, Amoghasiddhi).

East, south, west and north: The four Tathagatas are themselves at the centers of the four adjacent circles: Akshobhya in the east, Ratnasambhava in the south, Amitabha in the west, and Amoghasiddhi in the north. Each is surrounded by four attendants. In four circles marking the intermediate points of the compass are four goddesses associated with offerings made to the mandala's central deity: Vajramala (southwest; garland), Vajragita (northwest; song), Vajranrtya (northeast; dance), and Vajralasya (southeast; amorous dance). Four further offering goddesses appear at the corners of the second, larger court: Vajrapuspa (southwest; flower), Vajradipa (northwest; lamp), Vajragandha (northeast; perfume), and Vajradhupa (southeast; incense).

Two hundred and fifty bodhisattvas per quarter: Each quadrant contains two hundred and fifty bodhisattvas who are associated with the Tathagata presiding over each of the four cardinal directions.

Translator - teacher appears: Outside the sacred circle of the central mandala, at the four corners of the painting, are four further circles of deities. In the top register is a series of celestial and historical figures associated with the teachings of the Vajradhatu mandala. The first Tibetan in the series (the sixth figure from the left) may be Rinchen Sangpo, noted above as the Tibetan translator of the STTS. Without identifying inscriptions, the other historical figures cannot be named with certainty.

More useful objects: The bottom register includes a Tibetan monk seated before implements and objects of ritual worship, and sixteen protector deities.

Tucci, Spiti and Kunavar, 1988, p. xiii; on the dating of Tabo, see Pritzker 1989 and Klimburg-Salter 1994. The Kronos Collections More
New York 1997, pp. 29-30, 116-17. The Kronos Collections More For identification of this deity, see Chandra and Raghu Vira 1991, no. 1000, p. 372. The Kronos Collections More Their names are cited in Lokesh Chandra's introduction to Tucci, Spiti and Kunavar, 1988, p.xix. The Kronos Collections More


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