Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Deity: Avalokiteshvara (Vajra Posture Sculpture)

Avalokiteshvara Non-Iconic Forms

Iconographic Forms:
- Description (below)
- Sculpture
- Painting
- Postures in Iconography
- Confusions: White Tara, Maitreya
- Others...

Video: Avalokiteshvara in Vajra Posture

Study Topics:
- Tradition:
--- Non-iconic (Sutra Literature)
--- Solitary or with the Eight Great Bodhisattvas
--- Iconic (Tantra Literature)
--- Meditational Deities
- Iconography:
--- One Face, two arms
--- Multi faced, multi armed
- Examples (below)

Avalokiteshvara in Vajra Posture:
--- Avalokiteshvara Three & a Half Syllables (two arms)
--- Chaturbhuja (four arms)
--- Avalokiteshvara/Hayagriva (four arms)
--- Avalokiteshvara (Eight Fears) (eight arms)

There should be one of four possible attributes that can help identify a sculpture as the figure of Avalokiteshvara. The four are a small [1] Amitabha Buddha on the crown of the head, an [2] antelope skin across the left shoulder, a large front facing [3] flower blossom with the stem held in the left hand, or a [4] written inscription.

When Avalokiteshvara is included in the group of the Eight Great Bodhisattvas then typically all of the eight are either seated in a relaxed posture or standing with the legs together. The majority of sculptural examples of Avalokiteshvara seated in the vajra posture are in either a Swat Valley or Kashmir sculpture style and dated to the last half of the 1st millennium.

From among the sculptural examples below there are only two that can be considered of a later date of manufacture - from the Yongle Period HAR #10596 and from the Kangxi Period HAR #3256

Vajra Posture: seated with the left leg and foot, sole up, placed on the right thigh and the right leg and foot placed on the left thigh. In Indian Yoga systems this posture is called padmasana - 'lotus posture' - however in Buddhism this is known as vajrasana - or 'vajra posture.' Examples - All Buddha Forms (except for Maitreya in some cases), Amitayus, Vajradhara, Vajrasattva, Vajradharma, Chaturbhuja Lokeshvara, White Manjushri, Arapachana Manjushri, White Tara, Maitreya (bodhisattva form), Akshobhyavajra Guhyasamaja, Manjuvajra Guhyasamaja, Chintamani Lokeshvara, Eleven Faced Lokeshvara (Eight Fears), Chunda Tara, Ushnishavijaya, Prajnaparamita, Buddha Lochana, Arolik Lokeshvara, Blue-green Vajravidarana, Vishvamata, Grahamatraka.

Jeff Watt 8-20023