Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Avalokiteshvara (Bodhisattva & Buddhist Deity) - Chaturbhuja (4 hands)

སྤྱན་རས་གཟིགས། 观音菩萨
(item no. 411)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Uncertain
Size 80.01x50.80cm (31.50x20in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Raised Gold, Fine Gold Line on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1997.31.8
Notes about the Central Figure

Alternate Names: Lokeshvara Avalokita Lokanata Lokanatha Mahakarunika

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Peaceful

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Chaturbhuja Avalokiteshvara (Tibetan: chen re zi, chag shi pa. English: the Four Handed All Seeing Lord): the bodhisattva of compassion and patron deity of Tibet.

"Luminous white, shining forth rays of five colours, smiling and gazing with compassionate eyes. With four hands, the first pair is folded [at the heart]. The lower two hold a crystal mala and white lotus. Adorned with silks and jewel ornaments. Wearing a krishnasara deerskin as an upper garment - Amitabha as a crown. Seated with the two feet in vajra posture. Having a stainless moon as a backrest; essence of all sources of refuge combined." (Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye, 1813-1899).

Gazing forward with a peaceful appearance, the hair is piled on the top of the head with long black tresses falling across the shoulders. The forehead is marked with a dot; the neck beautified with three lines. Adorned with a crown - a jewel at the crest, the ears are adorned with large loops. Around the neck is a choker, a short necklace and long necklace. The main two hands are folded together at the heart holding a precious wishing gem. The second right hand holds aloft a crystal mala interspersed with beads of red coral. The left hand holds a crystal lotus flower. The four hands represent love, compassion, joy and equanimity. Bracelets and anklets adorn the arms and feet. A silk scarf is wrapped about the shoulders and a deerskin rests across the left shoulder. The lower body is attired in a silk skirt and the legs folded in vajra posture, atop a moon disc and multi-coloured lotus seat, surrounded by a large orange nimbus and red areola. Green foliage and three pink lotus blossoms rise behind. Arranged in front are precious jewels, red coral, gold ornaments, elephant tusks, a vase, lamp, scented water in a conch shell, torma, cymbals and a single pink blossom on a red plate.

"Unstained by faults, a body white in colour with the perfect Buddha as a crown, seeing beings with the eye of compassion; to Avalokiteshvara, I bow." (Sakya liturgical verse).

The central figure is completely surrounded by 185 forms of Padmapani (the Lotus Holder) Avalokiteshvara. Each with one face and two hands, white in colour (gold filled). The right hand extended across the knee is in the mudra (gesture) of supreme generosity. The left hand placed at the heart holds the stem of a lotus flower blossoming over the shoulder. Seated with the legs in a relaxed posture on lotus seats, they are surrounded by variously coloured circles of light.

Avalokiteshvara as a bodhisattva originally arose from the Sutrayana tradition of Buddhism, and later as a tutelary deity of the Tantric Vajrayana tradition. Found in all 4 tantra classifications in a singular presentation, very complex mandalas, with a consort and as a protector - wrathful in appearance, he is not only a popular deity in Tantra but the most popular figure amongst the Buddhists of Tibet.

Jeff Watt 9-99

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