Subject: Mount Sumeru (Painting & Sculpture)

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Mount Sumeru: as explained in the Buddhist Abhidharma literature is at the center of a Buddhist world system, also known as One Small Universe. Many of these small universes make a medium universe and many medium universes make a great universe. The Abhidharmakosha is a text of the 4th-5th century composed by the scholar Vasubandhu. Detailed explanations of Buddhist cosmology serve as the basic components for the paintings with subjects such as the Wheel of Life, Mount Meru Offering (mandala) and the game of Rebirth (created by Sakya Pandita for his ailing mother).

Mount Sumeru stands in the middle of a small universe. The mountain has four distinct sides each composed of a single precious substance commonly said to be ruby, crystal, blue sapphire, etc. Surrounding the mountain are numerous rings of islands. Also in the four directions are four large continents each accompanied by two large islands. The southern continent, Jambudvipa, the land of the jambu fruit, in the shape of the Indian sub-continent, is considered to be the Earth.

In the text Sheja Rabsal (page 13) of Chogyal Pagpa, he lists the four sides of Mount Sumeru as composed of silver in the east, lapis lazuli in the south, ruby in the west and gold in the north. A Kagyupa source lists crystal for the east and emerald for the north.

"...on an earth, completely pure, of great power with a ground of gold, ...surrounded by an outer wall of iron mountains, in the middle is ...the king of mountains Sumeru. East Purvavideha; south Jambudvipa; west Aparagodaniya; north Uttarakuru; Deha and Videha; Chamara and Apachamara; Sata and Uttaramantrina; Kurava and Kaurava; treasure mountains, wishing trees, wishing cows, uncultivated crops, precious wheels, precious jewels, precious queens, precious ministers, precious elephants, precious excellent horses, precious generals, great treasure vases; goddesses of beauty, garlands, song, dance, incense, flowers, lamps and perfume; sun, moon, precious umbrellas, banners - victorious in all directions..." (Extracted from the long text known as the Thirty-seven Heap Mandala Offering Prayer written by Chogyal Pagpa, 1235-1280).

Jeff Watt 5-2001

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