Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Avalokiteshvara (Bodhisattva & Buddhist Deity) - Shristhikantha

སྤྱན་རས་གཟིགས། 观音菩萨
(item no. 469)
Origin Location China
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Gelug
Size 60.96x42.55cm (24x16.75in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1996.18.2
Notes about the Central Figure

Alternate Names: Lokeshvara Avalokita Lokanata Lokanatha Mahakarunika

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Peaceful

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Shristhikantha, Rakta Lokeshvara (Tibetan: jig ten wang chug, mar po. English: the Red Lord of the World): a meditational form of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion.

In a standing posture with one face and two hands, dark red and beautiful in appearance, his hair is piled on the top of the head with long black tresses falling across the shoulders. The right arm extended downward at the side performs the mudra (gesture) of generosity with the palm open and facing outward. The left is held to the hip, with the fingers grasping the stem of a white lotus flower blossoming over the shoulder. The head decorated with a crown of gold and jewels is adorned with a small form of the buddha Amitabha. Gold earrings, necklaces, bracelets, anklets and the like adorn the body. A long green scarf is wrapped about the upper body and a grey deerskin hangs across the left shoulder. The lower body is attired in a multi-coloured silk skirt. Standing atop a moon disc and white lotus seat he is surrounded by a blue-orange nimbus and a green-pink areola.

Arising from gold tethers and wisps of white cloud, surrounding the central figure are 16 worldly gods and deities, Shiva, Brahma, Surya, Varuna, Ananta, Chandra, Vishnu, Agni and the like. Each holds their own objects or mudras, in various colours and with various numbers of hands.

Along the top are the Buddhas of the Five Families. In the center is Vairochana with the hands in the teaching mudra. At the left are Akshobhya with the right hand in the mudra of earth witness and Amoghasiddhi with the right hand held to the heart in the mudra of blessing. At the right side are Amitabha with the two hands in the gesture of meditation and Ratnasambhava with the right hand performing the gesture of supreme generosity. Each is in the traditional form of a buddha, seated in vajra posture atop a moon disc and lotus seat.

At the top left and right corners are two Garuda birds. Below those are two lamas wearing monastic robes and yellow pandita hats. At the left is Manjushri Namasangiti, gold in colour, with one face and four hands holding a sword, arrow, book and bow. At the right side is White Manjushri with one face and two hands performing the mudra of supreme generosity and holding the stem of a lotus blossom with the right. The left also holds the stem of a lotus flower to the heart, supporting the Prajnaparamita book on the blossom. At the lower right and left are two arhats, holding a khakkhara staff and black begging bowl, wearing orange and red monastic robes, in standing postures.

At the bottom center is Shadbhuja Mahakala, the wrathful form of Avalokiteshvara. Black, with one face and six hands, he is surrounded by orange flames. At the left side is white Ganesha (Ganapati), Lord of the Hosts, with an elephant face and six hands, standing in a dancing posture atop a rat, sun disc and lotus flower. At the right side is the wrathful form of the bodhisattva of power, Vajrapani, blue, with two hands, holding a vajra upraised in the right and the left held to the heart performing a wrathful gesture. Slightly above Vajrapani is a kneeling red Hayagriva, wrathful, with one face and two hands. A green horse head adorns the top of his own head.

Avalokiteshvara as a bodhisattva originally arose from the Sutrayana tradition of Buddhism, and later as a tutelary deity of the Tantric Vajrayana tradition. He is found in all 4 tantra classifications in a singular presentation, very complex mandalas, with a consort and as a protector - wrathful in appearance.

Jeff Watt 9-99

84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha: The Basket’s Display (Kāraṇḍa­vyūha, ’’phags pa za ma tog bkod pa zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo)

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