Himalayan Art Resources

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

སྤྱན་རས་གཟིགས། 观音菩萨
(item no. 86924)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Gelug
Size 101.60x161.29cm (40x63.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection The Brooklyn Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc. #BMA 1991.238, Gift of Mr. And Mrs. Richard M. Danziger
Notes about the Central Figure

Alternate Names: Lokeshvara Avalokita Lokanata Lokanatha Mahakarunika

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Peaceful

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Avalokiteshvara Chaturbhuja at the center with Lama Tsongkapa at the left and the Buddha Amitayus on the right.

This composition is a wonderful example for explaining the use of number systems in Himalayan art and iconography. There are four sets of three, one set of four, one set of five and two single figures.
- (center) The Three Lords of the World: Manjushri, Lokeshvara and Vajrapani.
- (left) The Three, Father and Sons: Tsongkapa, Gyaltsab and Khedrub.
- (right) The Three Long Life Deities: Amitayus, White Tara and Ushnishavijaya.
- (top) The Three Buddhas of the Three Times: Dipamkara, Shakyamuni and Maitreya.
- (bottom) The Four Guardian Kings of the Directions.
- (top) The Five Symbolic Buddhas.
- (top) Medicine Buddha.
- (top) Vajrasattva.

Avalokiteshvara, Chaturbhuja (Tibetan: chen re zi, chag shi pa. English: the All Seeing Lord with 4 Hands).

"As the nature of all buddhas, Avalokiteshvara, in colour like stainless conch and crystal, very resplendent, smiling, peaceful and radiant. With four hands the first are folded at the heart, the lower hold a crystal mala and jewelled lotus, two beautiful feet seated in vajra posture, adorned with many attractive silks and jewels, beautified with dark blue hair in tufts [some] loose. On the crown of the head, the wisdom of all buddhas, is the Lord, source of all refuge gathered as one, in essence the Guru in the aspect of Amitabha, in the manner of the Lord of the Family, seated happily." (Ngorchen Konchog Lhundrup 1497-1557).

At the lower left is orange Manjushri holding a sword upraised in the right hand. At the right is wrathful blue Vajrapani surrounded by orange flames. These three figures are called the Lords of the Three Families (Tibetan: rig sum gon po).

Amitayus, Buddha (Tibetan: tse pag me. English: the Enlightened One of Immesurable Life) Lord of Limitless Life and Pristine Awareness, the Sambogakaya aspect (Enjoyment Body) of Buddha Amitabha.

Amitayus Tibetan: Tse pag me

"Bhagavan Lord of Limitless Life and Primordial Wisdom with a body red in colour, one face, two hands and with two long eyes glancing with compassion on beings, gazing on the entirety of migrators; and a smiling face, wearing the complete sambhogakaya vestments. Above the two hands held in meditation is a long-life vase filled with the nectar of immortality; with the hair in tufts, adorned with silks and jewels, seated in vajra posture, the body blazing with the shining light of the [32] marks and [80] examples." (Sakya Trizin Kunga Tashi, 1656-1711).

Below Amitayus are the two principal deities of long-life. At the lower left is White Tara with the right hand extended in the gesture of generosity. At the right is Ushnishavijaya with three faces and eight hands. These three figures are called the Three Deities of Long-life (Tibetan: tse lha nam sum).

Lord Tsongkapa (1357-1419): founder of the Gelugpa School together with his two principal students.

Tsongkapa Biographical Details

"From the heart of the Lord of the hundred gods of Tushita, on the peak of a cloud, bright white like a mound of fresh yogurt, Lord of Dharma, Omniscient Lobzang Drakpa, together with sons; please come here." (Gelugpa liturgical verse).

At the lower left is Gyaltsab Dharma Rinchen (1364-1432) and at the right Kedrub Geleg Pal Zangpo (1385-1438), both wearing monastic robes and yellow hats.

At the top are nine buddhas displaying various hand gestures, along with the deity of purification Vajrasattva. At the bottom are the four Guardian Kings of the Directions.

Jeff Watt 3-2002

Related Items
Thematic Sets
Buddhist Deity: Avalokiteshvara Main Page
Teacher: Tsongkhapa Main Page
Collection of Brooklyn Museum of Art
Collection of Brooklyn Museum of Art (Deities)
Buddhist Deity: Avalokiteshvara, Chaturbhuja - Four Hands - Main Page
Painting Type: Landscape Format (Deities & Figures)