Entries Tagged as arhats

Arhat (sthavira) Main Page - Updated

April 12, 2017 ·

The Arhat (sthavira) Main Page has been updated with additional links, content and formatting.

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Arhats: Sets, Composition, Medium & Subjects - Added

April 12, 2017 ·

A page for the Arhats: Sets, Composition, Medium & Subjects has been added and linked to the Arhats Main Page.

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The Elders Travelling to China - Masterworks

March 03, 2016 ·

A gallery page for masterwork paintings of the Elders Travelling to China has been added and linked to the appropriate pages.

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Arhat Paintings in Yongle Style - Added

December 02, 2015 ·

A gallery page for Yongle Style Arhat Paintings has been added.

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Standing Arhats - Updated

September 03, 2015 ·

The Standing Arhats Page has been updated with additional images.

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Standing Arhats (AMNH) - Added

July 04, 2015 ·

A sculpture set of Standing Elders/Sthavira have been added. It is not clear whether this set is of the sixteen Elders or of the much greater set of Five Hundred Elders (Lohan) - popular in the Chinese Buddhist system. Shakyamuni Buddha, Shariputra, Maudgalyayana and the Four Guardian Kings are missing from this set.

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Seated Arhats (AMNH) - Added

July 04, 2015 ·

A sculpture set of Seated Elders/Sthavira have been added. There are several figures missing from this set of twenty-five sculpture. The missing pieces are Shakyamuni Buddha, Shariputra, Maudgalyayana, and the Four Guardian Kings.

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Arhats & Arhat Appearance - Updated

October 20, 2012 ·

Arhat (Tibetan: ne tan): a Sanskrit term for Buddhist saints, more correctly in Tibetan meaning elder or 'sthavira' in Sanskrit. The arhats  represent the earliest followers of the Buddha, always found depicted in a group of sixteen, they are painted on cloth, wall murals, and fashioned of metal, stone, clay, or wood.

An early iconographic source for the individual descriptions of the arhats is the verse text Praise to the Sixteen Arhats attributed to the Kashmiri teacher Shakyashri Bhadra of the 12th/13th century.

The earliest known paintings in Tibet are found as wall murals in Dratang Monastery in Central Tibet. However, the Dratang arhat paintings do not appear to depict the group of sixteen which gain popularity in Tibetan art some time later.

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Four Guardian Kings - Updated

October 13, 2011 ·

The Direction Guardians, or Four Guardian Kings, or the Four Heavenly Kings, reside on the innermost ring of islands (the lower slopes) around the four sided mythical Mount Sumeru, the center of the idealized Buddhist and Hindu world. Vaishravana (North), Dhritarashtra (East), Virudhaka (South), Virupaksha (West).

There are many names commonly used in English for this group of four figures, Four Direction Kings, Four Guardians of the Directions, Four Kings, Four Kings of the Directions. In Tibetan they are generally referred to as the Four Great Kings (gyal chen shi). Despite all of the different names they are still the same group of four figures commonly represented in Himalayan and Tibetan art.


Four Guardian Kings:
1.Vaishravana, North
2. Virudhaka, South
3. Dhritarashtra, East
4. Virupaksha, West

These four figures represent the first Indian gods incorporated into the Buddhist narrative. The Four Guardian Kings came before Shakyamuni Buddha just after the Buddha achieved enlightenment under the bodhi tree. The four offered, each individually, a black bowl made of sapphire or lapis lazuli to the Buddha. The Buddha accepted the offer and the four bowls miraculously became one bowl. This is the black bowl that is typically seen in the lap of Shakyamuni in painting and sculpture.

The Four Guardian Kings are typically found with the group of Shakyamuni & Sixteen Arhats in painting and sculpture. They are commonly found as mural paintings at the entrance way of a Buddhist temple. Although primarily associated with the idea of Hinayana Buddhism, the Four Kings are found in Vajrayana Buddhism as secondary figures, attendant deities and minor figures in the outer rings of mandalas. They are especially common in the mandalas of the lower Tantras of Yoga, Charya and Kriya where they are generally located at the four doors to the celestial; palace in the middle of the circular mandala.

Mandala Examples:
- Medicine Buddha Mandala
- Pancha Raksha Fifty-six Deity Mandala
- Vajrapani & the Four Guardian Kings Mandala
- Tara, Seventeen Deity Mandala

Of the Four Guardian Kings, only Vaishravana is singled out and employed as an individual meditational deity in Vajrayana Buddhism. Aside from his place and depiction in the group of four he is most commonly depicted as Vaishravana Riding a Lion. He has a number of other forms and is primarily employed as a wealth deity.

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Hvashang, Patron to the Arhats - Updated

October 13, 2011 ·

Hvashang, the Chinese patron to the Sixteen Great Arhats, although appearing under the iconographic category of 'Arhats' Hvashang is not an arhat himself. He belongs to the Tibetan and Chinese narrative of the Sixteen Great Arhats.

Hvashang (along with Dharmata), in Himalayan and Tibetan and art, is ONLY depicted in compositions along with Shakyamuni Buddha and the Sixteen Arhats. These depictions can be in a single painting containing all of the figures or created in sets of paintings up to twenty-three in number. Both Hvashang and Dharmata are narrative figures belonging to the iconographic story of Shakyamuni and the Sixteen Great Arhats. They are never employed as meditational deities. (See Hinayana Buddhism represented in Tibetan Art).

Hvashang is a human figure, often dark in complexion with the right hand holding a crystal 'mala,' a garland of beads for counting prayers. In the left hand he can hold a bowl of precious substances as an offering to the arhats, or a persimmon fruit. Adorned with opulent robes he is seated in a casual fashion. The key iconographic features are his portly size and the bead mala, which can be in either hand, along with a bald head and leisurely posture, surrounded by numerous small children sporting and playing.

Hvashang, meaning a 'Chinese monk,' is considered an historic figure who was sent by the Tang Emperor of China to invite the Buddha Shakyamuni to come and visit China and the Imperial Court. Since the Buddha had already passed away the invitation was relayed to the Sixteen Great Arhats. From approximately the 16th century onwards most paintings of the Buddha Shakyamuni and the Sixteen Arhats depicted in Himalayan Style Art have included the patron Hvashang. In mos paintings earlier than the 16th century Hvashang is conspicuously absent.

Curiously, in Himalayan and Tibetan art Hvashang is always depicted as a layman wearing jewelry and fancy silk robes. Although he is referred to in some historical accounts as a monk he is more commonly described as the patron, or the patriarch to the Sixteen Arhats, because he presented the invitation and was the representative of the Emperor of China. However neither of the two early Tibetan liturgies of the ritual practice of Shakyamuni Buddha and the Sixteen Arhats, made popular by both the Lord Atisha and the Kashmiri Pandit Shakyashribhadra, include the patron Hvashang.

In Chinese Buddhism depictions of a figure similar to Hvashang are believed to be the Buddha Maitreya and are commonly found as an individual painting, mural or sculpture throughout China.

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