Sage of Long Life | Long Life Deities
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Subjects & Topics:
- Sage of Long Life Definition (below)
- Long Life Deities
- Purification Outline
- Medicine & Tantric Healing Outline
- Confusions: Yutog Yontan Gonpo, Tangtong Gyalpo, Elders/Arhats
Six Iconographic Elements:
1. Rock of long life
2. Water of long life
3. Tree of long life
4. Man with long life
5. Birds of long life
6. Antelope of long life
The Sage of Long Life in Himalayan art is an iconic image of an elderly man, sage-like in bearing. He represents long life, health, harmony and wisdom. It is very common to find the Sage painted as a mural at the entrance way to temples or as a secular image found in the homes of the laity or carved onto furniture for use in temples or homes. Paintings of the Sage of Long Life are commonly mistaken for an arhat and mistakenly believed to be part of a larger set depicting the Sixteen Great Arhats. The Sage of Long Life is almost always created as an individual composition.
Painting HAR #1077 and block print HAR #87587 are based on the same model and follow the same composition.
The iconic representation requires six iconographic elements to be included together to create the image of the Sage of Long Life.
"From an early time in China there was an isolated and pleasant place known as the Pure Forest of Great Bliss (rnam dag bde chen gyi tshal) with a rocky mountain in the shape of a white conch turning to the right. In front is a continuosly flowing stream having the eight qualites [of water].
Residing there in the pureland is a sage with immortal life, a white mustache and beard, white face with a reddish hue. In the right hand he holds a longevity vase tied with a white scarf and the left, in a gesture of generosity, holding a peach having ripened for over a thousand years. By the blessing of the sage, from the back of the mountain, a river with eight qualities continuously flows.
At the side is a longevity tree (juniper) with a solid trunk, leaves and foliage spread widely, abundant with beautiful flowers - providing shade and cool air. Whoever feels the breeze and shade will obtain long-life.
Lovely birds and two white cranes gather because of the sage's gesture of generosity and gift of the Dharma. A male and female deer live nearby receiving the blessing of not aging and dying, happily enjoying the water and food." (Translation by Karma Gellek, 5-2012)
The Six & the Six Perfections:
The man represents knowledge (shes rab)
The water represents diligence (brtson 'grus )
The rocky mountain concentration (bsam gtan)
The tree represents discipline (tshul khrims)
The birds represent generosity (sbyin pa)
The deer represents patience (bzod pa)
The Six & Corresponding Colours:
Sage - skin colour
Deer - brownish in colour
Tree - green colour
Mountain - white
Water - light blue
Birds - white
Mountain - a sacred place blessed by the Buddhas & Bodhisattva
Water - the nectar of immortality
Tree - free from misery, the lengthening of life
Sage - attainment of immortality
Birds - peace
Deer - enjoying the possession of long-life
Jeff Watt 5-2012 [updated 5-2017]