Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Deity: Avalokiteshvara, Standing (Padmapani?)

Padmapani (Standing) | Avalokiteshvara Main Page

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Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Padmapani Definitions (below)
- Lokeshvara (Seated)
- Thinking Posture
- Khasarpani
- Bodhisattva Figures (Unidentified)
- Masterworks
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Principal Standing Bodhisattva Forms:
Lokeshvara |
Manjushri | Vajrapani | Maitreya | Unidentified Forms

Padmapani, as a name for Lokeshvara, is very much a Sanskrit term coming out of the Sutra and Mahayana tradition of Buddhism. The Tibetan language translation of the name Padmapani is not easily found in the Tibetan literature. The name is also not commonly, if ever, found in Vajrayana Buddhism where the forms of Lokeshvara are understood as meditational deities with clear descriptions and meanings taught in the various Tantra texts. The most common Sanskrit names for the deity in Vajrayana Buddhism are Lokeshvara, Avalokita, Avalokiteshvara, Lokanata and Mahakarunika. After that there are scores of names for specific forms of Lokeshvara - peaceful, wrathful and in-between.

It is interesting to note that in the study of Art History the term Padmapani is almost exclusively used with reference to sculpture and not painting.

The general description of Padmapani is of a peaceful male deity, seated or standing, wearing a crown, jewels and heavenly garments, holding a flower, or stem of a flower in the left hand that blossoms at the level of the shoulder. This type of appearance can also be called bodhisattva appearance. Peaceful deity appearance and bodhisattva appearance are the same. Any figure that fits this description could also be called a 'lotus holder' without drawing a connection to Lokeshvara.

In the study of the Art History of Asia it is common practice to identify any figure described in this way as a Padmapani even if it is not. There are many examples of the Eight Great Bodhisattvas appearing in this same way when they are created as a set of sculpture. If the artist and the patron are very particular then the Lokeshvara form will also have a deerskin over the left shoulder and Amitabha Buddha on the crown of the head. Manjushri will have a sword or book. Vajrapani will have a vajra scepter in hand or placed atop a flower blossom. Maitreya will have a water flask, stupa or wheel. The remaining four of the Eight Bodhisattvas will appear in a generic way as simply a peaceful deity holding a flower blossom in the left hand. The Sixteen Great Bodhisattvas are treated in a similar way with the most well known of the figures having a recognizable attribute with the remainder in a generic form. This also holds for paintings where the bodhisattvas are commonly depicted such as when accompanying Amitabha Buddha in the pureland of Sukhavati.

Jeff Watt [updated 8-2013, 5-2017]