Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Figure: Bodhisattva Art Definition

Bodhisattva Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Bodhisattva Art Definition Description (below)
- Peaceful Appearance Main Page
- Iconic & Non-iconic Iconography Main Page
- Eleven Figurative Forms
- Confusions: Peaceful Tantric Deities, Hindu Gods, Bon Deities
- Others...

Video: Bodhisattva: Three Definitions

Art Definition:
Within Himalayan style art the term 'bodhisattva' refers to a figure having a peaceful appearance with clothing and jewelry suitable for peaceful deities.

"All bodhisattvas are peaceful, but not all peaceful deities are bodhisattvas."

With Himalayan style art the four terms (1) peaceful appearance, (2) bodhisattva appearance, (3) deva/devi appearance and (5) sambhogakaya appearance are all synonymous. A bodhisattva can be male or female, with one face and two hands, peaceful in appearance. They are generally non-historical human, non-wrathful, and non-buddha-like figures.

A bodhisattva has a peaceful god-like appearance (deva/devi) based on the descriptions of the deities of classical Indian literature and the classic Hindu pantheon. As described in the literature of the Buddhist Sutras and Tantras, male and female figures are portrayed as beautiful, wearing silks and jewels, playful and relaxed in posture and depicted in the bloom of youth, sixteen years of age. Gender is often difficult to distinguish. Examples of these subjects are Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara and Maitreya for the males and sometimes Tara for the female figures. Deities such as peaceful Sarasvati can also be referred to as having bodhisattva appearance. Peaceful Appearance is included as one of the Eleven Figurative Appearances in Himalayan and Tibetan art. Bodhisattva can also be described as a sub-category of Peaceful Appearance.

There are eight standard jewel ornaments that adorn the body of a bodhisattva: crown, earrings, choker necklace, armlets, middle length necklace, long necklace, bracelets and anklets. Along with the ornaments are five silken garments: blue silk scarf, five-coloured crown pendants, white upper garment, lower skirt, and sleeves or a long scarf for dancing. There are several different systems for describing the attire and jewelry of the figures with some changes between male and female.

Jeff Watt 12-2019 [8-2020]

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