Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Deity: Avalokiteshvara, Four Hands (Masterworks)

Chaturbhuja Main Page (Four Hands) | Masterworks Male Iconography, 男性尊神

- Painting
- Sculpture

Regional & Chronological Chaturbhuja Examples:
- Indian Sculpture
- Tibetan Painting
- Tibetan Sculpture
- Tibetan Shalu Mural
- Mongolian Sculpture
- Bhutanese Painting
- Others...

For an iconographic description and an art analysis of Chaturbhuja see HAR #73807.

Avalokiteshvara is commonly referred to as the patron deity of Tibet. He is practiced by all traditions of Tibetan and Himalayan Buddhism. There are numerous New (Sarma) lineages and forms of practice which span all four Tantric Classifications. In the Nyingma Tradition there are uncounted numbers of Kama (oral) and Terma (treasure) traditions of Avalokiteshvara.

Among all of the several dozen different iconographic forms of Avalokiteshvara the four armed form of the deity, Chaturbhuja, is the most commonly depicted. Chatur + bhuja are the two Sanskrit words that mean 'four + arms.' The Four-armed Avalokiteshvara is also sometimes referred to as Shadakshari which are the two Sanskrit words shad + akshari - meaning six syllables. This refers to the most common and well known mantra of Avalokteshvara - Om mani padme hum. The two middle words of the mantra 'mani padme' are what is unique to the deity Avalokiteshvara and means 'jeweled lotus' referring as an epithet to Avalokiteshvara.

"To the Lord unstained by faults, white in colour, the head adorned with the perfect buddha, gazing on beings with eyes of compassion; to Avalokiteshvara I bow." (Attributed to the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo, 557-649).

"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 (prayer beads) and jeweled 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 Bddhas, 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, happily seated." (Ngorchen Konchog Lhundrub 1497-1557).

Jeff Watt [updated 8-2017]

(The images below are only a selection of examples from the links above).