~uddhist~rt and ~itua( - MCADD- and Articles/Nepal/2001 Buddhist Art and...Himalayan art-the Los Angeles County ... tees on route to spiritual transformat~on Ultimdte en- ... the speed and power of the journey. Art of the Vajrayana

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  • ~uddhist~rt and ~ i t u a (

  • ~uddhist~vt and ~ i t u a l fvom ~ y a i a n d ~ i b e t

    ~ck(andAvr Museum he University o f ~ o t ~ h ~aro(ivra at c h a p e l ~ i l l

  • Monk constructing a sand mandala. photo: A. Pince Bounds

  • T h s catalogue accompanies the exhibition Buddhut Art

    and Rttualfrom Nepal and Tibet, whch highhghts the way

    art funct~ons in a trad~tional Buddlust altar It conveys the

    integration of art and ritual that is fundamental to under-

    standing the meanlngs of these objects as part of livmg

    cultural tradit~ons. As a context-oriented approach to the

    presentation of art, it complements the chronological

    and stylistic dsplay of painung and sculpture in our Asian


    For this two-year exhibition, the Ackland Art Museum

    at the Un~versity of North Carohna at Chapel Hlll bor-

    rowed twenty pa~ntings, sculptures and other sacred

    objects from museums with significant collections of

    Himalayan art-the Los Angeles County

    Museum of Art, the Newark Museum and

    the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis Universi-

    ty. Ackland curators selected the works of

    art and Venerable Tenzin Gephel, from the

    Namgyal Monastery In Ithaca, New York,

    was invlted to place them in their appropri-

    ate setting. The altar funct~oned for dally

    worship during the construction of a Me&-

    cine Buddha sand mandala in the gallery

    from February 25-March 21,2001

    The works of art m this altar belong

    to the Vajrayana path of Buddhist teachmg,

    which 1s also known as Tantric Buddhism.

    Flourishing in Nepal and Tlbet, this ap-

    proach to the practice of Buddhism cat-

    hsh~ng harmony w~tlun and unlry among all living thngs

    Buddhut Art and R~tualfiorn Nrpal atd T~brt examlncs the

    context in which scroll paintings, called tangkas cpaubhas

    m Nepali), and sculptures were created and used by devo-

    tees on route to spiritual transformat~on Ultimdte en-

    lightenment, achieved through the cultivation ot wlsdom

    and compassion, IS a culmmating goal represented in art

    by the mergmg of male and female deities In order to

    suggest the wide drsseminatlon and vaned lnterpretatlon

    of Buddhist philosophy and art In Asla, ~llustrauons of

    works of art From the AcMand's permanent collection are

    included m t h ~ s catalogue

    alyzed the creation of mandalas and other

    unique works of art. Tantric Buddhism pro-

    vided dsciplines and rituals-interweaving

    meditation, visualization and art-for estab- L I

  • An and the ~volution $the ~uddha's ~eachirrgs

    During the course of its 2,500-year history, Buddhism

    evolved to meet the needs of peoples from diverse cul-

    tures in Asia, and beginning in the nineteenth century, in

    Europe and North America. While the basic philosophy

    has endured, its practices and methods of achieving the

    goal of enlightenment have been adapted and revitalized

    through the centuries.

    The Buddha (566-486 B.C.E.) traveled and preached

    for forty-five years and his followers orally transmitted his

    teachings. A few hundred years after the Buddha's death,

    a council was called to record h s sermons, which were

    later translated into the ancient classical languages of Pali

    and Sanskrit.

    A Buddhist aims to acknowledge the self, not as a per-

    manent, partless entity, but rather as an aggregation of

    constituents, evolving and adapting to new environments,

    and capable of becoming enlightened. The Buddha

    offered teachings and a role model for people to discover

    this truth (Dharma) for themselves. Recognizing the vary-

    ing needs and capabilities of individuals in their quest for

    understanding, the Buddha consequently laid the founda-

    tion for several paths or vehicles that offered enlighten-

    ment or nirvana. Nirvana means "blowing out" or extin-

    guishng the flames of passion and ignorance, a process

    that leads to liberation from suffering and perpetual

    rebirth. Although the methods of each path differ, their

    goal is ultimately the same.

    The works of art emerging from these different paths

    assume various forms and styles. They are, nonetheless,

    linked in spirit as all artworks are alive with the essence of

    enlightenment, represented by symbols or images of the

    Buddha, and later a multitude of related deities. Commis-

    sioning a work of art for home or monastery plays an

    important role in all paths of Buddhist practice. Through

    t h s process, the devotee garners merit that helps pave the

    way towards his or her enlightenment.

    Historically, the Buddhist path that first emerged dur-

    ing the fifth through second centuries B.C.E. was called

    Theravada. Founded in India, Theravada Buddhism

    spread to Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Bur-

    ma. It was largely practiced communally, confined to the

    monasteries and the surrounding lay communities that

    provided sustenance to the monks through donations of

    food. Within a rigorous, intellectual atmosphere, monks

    dedicate themselves to study, contemplation, practice and

    the preservation of the Dharma for future followers.

    Theravada means "teachings of the elders," indicating

    that the followers of this path consider theirs to be the

    original Buddhist tradition. In the Theravada Vehicle, the

    Buddha is the only spiritual figure represented in works of

    art. Free-standing figures of the Buddha and relief sculp-

    tures with scenes from his life are often portrayed in a

    classical style that developed in northern India during the

    Gupta Dynasty (fourth to sixth century C.E.), when both

    Brahmanical and Buddhist art flourished. The Gupta style

    of elegant, flowing volumes and beautiful proportions

    influenced later cultures and generations, including the

    Pala Dynasty (750-1200 C.E.) of eastern India, where

    Tantric art emerged as a fully evolved style.

  • Around the first century B.C.E. in India, Buddhism

    was revitalized through changing methods and beliefs

    that appealed to a growing population. In addition to the

    meditative and altruistic practices already established, the

    Mahayana Buddhist path incorporated the concept of

    deity worship in the form of Bodhlsattvas. Bodhisattvas

    are advanced pracritioners who have generated compas-

    sion for others. They possess bodhicitta, the altruistic

    intention to become enlightened for the sake of benefit-

    ing others. The compassionate Bodhisattva motivation is

    said to be vast. thus this path is sometimes called the

    Great Vehicle.

    With the introduction of these deities, works of art

    were no longer limited to portraying the Buddha. Now a

    burgeoning number of Bodhisattvas, added to the canon

    of Buddhist scriptures, assumed their own distinctive

    qualities and attributes in sculpture and painting. Bod-

    hisattvas, often associated with Cosmic or Primordial

    Buddhas corresponding to celestial territories. are usually

    elegantly attired in royal dress. Although they assumed

    different names after their assimilation into other coun-

    tries and cultures, their embodiment of compassion

    remained the same.

    Vajrayana Buddhism evolved from Mahayana Bud-

    dhism and an earlier mystic tantric tradition, becoming

    fully established by the seventh century C.E., first in India

    and later in Nepal, Tibet, China and Japan. Sharing simi-

    lar goals to Mahayana, Vajrayana encompasses a different

    body of practices and rituals to achieve a faster route to

    enlightenment. In the earlier paths of Buddhism, count-

    less eons and rebirths must pass before one can reach a

    perfected state of awareness. By contrast, adherents of

    the Vajrayancl tradition can potentially attain a state of

    complete, perfect enlightenment in one lifetime. The

    motivation for the quick path is purely altruistic-to help

    others and end suffering sooner.

    The word Vajrayana literally means "Thunderbolt

    Vehicle" as well as "Diamond Vehicle," symbolic of both

    the speed and power of the journey. Art of the Vajrayana

    path, often referred to as Tantric art, is elaborate in style

    with complex symbolism. Characterized by brilliant col-

    ors in both painting and sculpture, the art is used to

    liberate consciousness through rituals, meditation and

    visualization. The depiction of deities in both fierce

    and peaceful manifestations is a distinguishing feature of

    Tantric art.

    Head of Guanyn

    Northern Chinese, 12th-ljth imtury, gilded and painted cast iron,

    IJX x 8% in., Ackland Art Museum, Ackland Fund, 88.29, photo: Jerry Blow

    Buddhism entered south China in the second century C.E.

    through central Asian trade routes. Guanyn quickly became

    one of the most popular deities in this region. This head of

    Guanyn, the Chinese Buddhist equivalent of Avalokitesvara, lit-

    erally means "Regarder of the Cries (of the World). " Devotion to

    Guanyn emerged during the third through sixth centuries C.E.,

    a time of social and yolitical instability in China. With the Song

    Dynasty (960-1279 C.E.), Guanyn was transJormed and wor-

    shiped m a fmale Bodhisattva. Her identity continued to evolve

    when Guanyin, as the Bestowt-rof Sons, assumed paramount

    importancefbr women, in particular.

    In this sculpture, Guanyn i crown bears the image of

    Amitabha, the Primordial or Cosmic Buddha of' the West, who

    gained a popularfillowt ng in China. Guanyin is believed to fer- ry departed soub to Amitabha's Western Paradise wlzerr t h y

    are peaiefilly reborn. This head once belonged to a 1fe-sized

    standing or seated sculpture. Magn~firently plded in gold with a

    jewel, now missing, f'or the all-knowing thlrd y e , it was proba-

    bly exhibited in a sirmptltously decorated trmple sugestive of a

    perfected, pure-land untverse.

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  • Tantric Art in ~ t y a l a n d ~ i b e t

    Tantricism refers to a mystical tradition based on a belief

    in the powerful energies of the universe that permeate

    and unif) all things. Aspects of tantricism are believed to

    extend as far back as the Indus Valley civilization over five

    thousand years ago. Its methods and practices of achiev-

    ing enlightenment are based on yoga ("union"), medita-

    tion, complex rituals and symbolic works of art. Original-

    ly, hermits called Tantrlkas practiced it in India outside

    the organized faith traditions. Tantricism became system-

    atized around 300 C.E. and infiltrated both Vajrayana Bud-

    dhist teaching and Brahmanical traditions.'

    Sacred texts, called tantras, contain the means to gain

    enlightenment during one's lifetime. They instruct devo-

    tees in specific rituals, meditations and visualizations

    towards understanding particular aspects of deities.

    These tantras were kept secret, passed on from master to

    pupil through elaborate initiation ceremonies. Art is an

    essential component of tantricism. Tangku, mandalas

    and sculptures of deities accompany rituals to help

    achieve insight into the essence of unity. In Vajrayana

    Buddhism, one medtates on oneself as similar in aspect

    to the deity.

    Although tantricism spread to other regions in Asia,

    nowhere has its influence been more pervasive than in

    Nepal and Tibet, where it continues to energize and

    shape the spiritual and cultural landscape. As a result,

    Himalayan art and architecture have evolved in unique

    directions and in relative isolation. Art and spirituality are

    wedded to life, nourished by daily worship. In the cities of

    the Kathmandu Valley, men, women and children bring

    offerings to tantric deities-both Brahmanical and Bud-

    'Brahmanical traditions refer to a complex of rituals and philo.

    sophical ideas in South Asla that later became grouped under the colo- nial term "H~nduism."

    dhist--enshrined in public squares. In Tibet, monks and

    nuns dedicate themselves to spiritual practices, which

    include the creation of artworks intrinsic to rituals. Until

    the 1950S, thousands of monasteries, housing murals, life-

    sue sculptures and ritual objects, flourished in Tibet.

    Over the centuries, the interactions between Nepal

    and Tibet enabled both the arts and Buddhist teachngs to

    thrive. Nepal, bounded by forests in the south and the

    Himalayan Mountains to the north, served as a refuge for

    Buddhist devotees during times of social and political

    unrest. Indan Buddhists made their way there during the

    Muslim invasions of the eleventh and twelkh centuries.

    while Tibetans, at various points in their history, also

    found a haven for Buddhist practice in the Kathmandu

    Valley. Consequently, Buddhism was revitalized in Nepal

    after its appearance in the valley around the second cen-

    tury C.E.

    In Nepal, a place where both Brahrnanical tradtions

    and Buddhism coexist, many of the most important

    works of art were, and continue to be, created by New-

    ars, the indgenous peoples of the Kathmandu Valley.

    Under the Malla kings (1200-1768 C.E.). Newari craftsman

    created magnificent palaces, temples, sculptures and

    paubhas, inspired by the elegant, sensual styles of India's

    earlier Gupta and Pala dynasties.

    The reputation and skill of Newari artists resulted in

    commissions to execute mural and tangka paintings for

    Tibetan monasteries beginning in the thirteenth century.

    The Nepali style spread to Chna during the Yuan

    Dynasty (1260-1368 C.E.) with the Newari artist and

    monk, Anlko (or Anige). Living in Tibet, Aniko headed a

    delegation of eighty artists to the Mongol Imperial court

    of Khubilai Khan (1260-1294 C.E.), which converted to

    Vajrayana Buddhism and constructed temples and monas-

    teries with magnificent works of art. By the seventeenth

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  • Art and ors shy The ~iberan ~uddhis t tau

    Tibetan Buddhist altar at the Ackland Art Museum

    pltolo:]rrry Blow

    Although Buddha is not considered a god, he is revered as According to Vajrayana teaching, each person is a

    a perfected being and worshiped as the personification of potential Buddha. Once the mind is liberated from ego-

    enlightenment. One does not reach awareness by asking centric thoughts and actions are dedicated towards helping

    for the Buddha's help, but rather assimilating the ideals of others, the clear light that exists within shines forth as

    the master teacher into practice. It was the Buddha's own enlightenment. Art and worship combine as ritual to

    belief that individuals must reach understandng for them- achieve this state of being. selves.

  • Objects on the Altar

    Fourth Tier (left to right):

    Chorten Central Tlber, late 14th+arly r ~ t h century (seepage 18)

    Buddha Sakyamuni, Kham, Tiber, 19th collury Gilt copper, height: 17% in.

    CoUection of The Newark Museum. Gilt of Dr. A. L. Shelton, 1920


    Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita sutra, Tibet Wood, papm, leather, 2% x9Xoxjl / . in.

    Collection of The Newark Museurn, Purchase 1988 Thonlar L. Raynlolld Bequest

    Fund and Mrs. C. Suydam Cutting Bequest Fund


    Third Tier @ft to right):

    A Sakyapa Abbot, Sakyapa Monastery, Central Tibet 16th century

    Gilt bronze repousse with paint. 1 % ~ 4 % x I % in,

    Los Angeles County Musnim of Art. GiJ of Dr. and Mrs. I? Pal in Mary of

    Christian Humann

    M 81.183.2

    Dorje, Tibet, c. 1900 Copperalloy 1% in. length x r l ill. diumetm

    Lor Angeles County Museum of Art, Francis Eric Bloy Bequest. AC1994.116.6

    Bell, Tibet Brass m t h steel tongue, height: 7% in. (3% In diametm)

    Collection of The Newark Museum, G$ of Dr. A. L. Shelton, 1920


    Ngawang Losang Gyatso, the Great Fifth Dalai Lama Cenrral Regions, Tibet, fate 17th century (seepage IJ)

    Chakrasamvara and Vajravarahi Nepal, late 14th-arly ~ ~ t h c e n t u r y (seepagez9)

    Second Tier (lefi to right):

    Water vessel, Tibet Metal, fabric,pathmr. height: 11 In. (7 in. d i amur )

    Collec?lon of The Newark Murum, G# of Dr. WcsLy Halpmr and Mn. Carolyn

    Holpmt. IW


    Amulet box withfigure of Amitayw Derge, Northeast Tiber (see page q)

    The Goddess Tara Nepal, 12th century (see page 27)

    Pmden Lhamo (Shri Devi) Tibeto-Chinese, late 17th to early 181h cmrury (seepage31)

    Mahakala Cenrral Tibet. ~ p h ccnrury (scepage3z)

    Prayer wheel, Tibet, 19th cmrury Brass and wood, length: 1 1 In. (Jiamner:j% 111.) Collpctwn of The Newark Museum, Ci@ of Mrs. E. N. a J Mr. A. hl. Crane. 1911 (I I ,618)

    First Tier (left to right):

    Set of offering bowk, Tibet Brass, height: 2% in. (J% in. diameter)

    Collection of The Ntwark Museum, Gifl of Dr. A. L. Shelton. 1920


    Butter lamp, Tibet Brass, height:^% in. (4% In. diamem)

    Collection of The Ntwark Museum. Gifr of Mrs. E. N. and Mr. A. hl. Crane, 1911

    The Boddhisanva Avalokitesvara Nepal, ~ j t h century (see page zj)

  • Most Buddhist homes, monasteries and temples have

    an altar, in some form, dedicated for worship. The altar

    houses an image of the Buddha, and often other deities as

    well-in sculpture, painting, and more recently, photo-

    graphs and print reproductions. Works of art are consid-

    ered alive with the essence of the deity after their ritual


    The altar creates a sacred space and atmosphere con-

    ducive to meditation and transformation. Traditionally, an

    altar contains reference to the Buddha's perfected speech,

    body and mind, symbolized by a scripture (sutra), a statue

    of the Buddha Sakyamuni and a stupa (see page 18) respec-

    tively. The devotee aspires to the ideals emboded in these

    forms in order find inner wisdom and help other human

    beings to see their inner light.

    Other sculptures are placed in proximity to this central

    grouping, beginning with the lamas with long spiritual

    lineages, such as the Fifth Dalai Lama. Next in order are

    the ydams , guiding or archetype deities of an individual,

    family or monastery Figures that protect the Buddhist

    faith, called Dharmapalas, are arranged nearby.

    Ngawang Losang Gyatso, the Great F$h Dalai Lama

    Celrtrnl Regio~ls, Tibet, late 17tl1 cetttl~ry, gilt bronze, 7% x 7 x 5 % it!. Rose

    Art Museuit~. Hrandns Univrrsity, W(11thun1, Massuchusrtts. Gi j i of N. L.

    Horch to the Kivrrside Musewn Collrctiol~, 1971.267, yhoto:Jerry Blow

    Tibetan art is uniquefor the large number of representations of

    lamas (teachers) represented in both painting and sculpture.

    Some lamas are considered emanations of Bodhisattvas and thus

    an extended lineage can be traced through the centuries. The line

    of Dalai Lamas is linked to the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. The

    F ~ j h Dalai Lama (1617-1682 C.E.), who consolidated both politi-

    cal and spiritual power to lead a unified Tibetan nation, ushered

    in a golden age of Tibetan art. He commissioned the Potala in

    Lhasa, a magnificent architectural complex thatficnctioned as

    fort, temple, university, monastery and the residence of the Dalai

    Lamas (illustrated on back cover).

    This sculpture of the Dalai Lama is considered one of the

    finest depictions of this important historicalfigure. Artistically,

    it represents the height of Tibetan art, showing a n exquisite

    equilibrium between naturalism and abstraction. In a gesture of

    discernment, the Dalai Lama appears calm, poised and digni-

    fied. His idealized head is set o f by a voluminous mound of

    drapery, elegantly and abstractly incised with foliage and lo tw

    powers. This efect h e i g h t m the stature of thefigure, which is

    shown with a ceremonial dagger called a phurba-used in

    tantric rituals--at his waist. Infiont, along the base, is a double

    dorje, referring to the s w i j and powerfi*l path of the Vajrayana


  • Only a Buddha has extinguished all faults and gained

    all attainments. Therefore, one should mentally go for

    refige to a Buddha, praise him with speech, and respect

    him physically. One should enter the teachings of such

    a being.

    -His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, The Fourteenth

    Dalai Lama, Tantra in Tibet, p. 30

    Each morning, offerings that appeal to the senses-

    sound, smell, taste, touch and sight-are given to the

    deities who reside at the altar. Flowers, butter lamps or

    candles, incense and a small portion of every meal are

    usually placed here. Traditionally, seven bowls of water

    are also offered, representing the seven aspects of

    prayer-offering, confessing, prostrating, celebrating the

    positive qualities of all beings, asking the Buddhas to

    remain in this world, requesting their guidance for all peo-

    ple, and dedicating the merits obtained from the offering

    process. Butter lamps, providng light and symbolizing

    wisdom, are interspersed among the offering bowls. Dur-

    ing important ceremonies, hundreds of butter lamps are

    lit in a dramatic show of offerings in monasteries and

    around stupas.

    The act of offering consciously focuses the mind on

    the Buddha's teachings. I t is a means to purify thoughts

    and actions. During the process of offering food and

    water, the devotee visualizes the end of hunger and thirst.

    By sprinkling water on the objects with a twig or kusha

    grass, they are blessed by the deities. The mantra, Om Ah

    Hum, the seed syllables of the Buddha's body, speech and

    mind, is recited.

    In addition to fostering the practice of giving, which is

    necessary for ultimate enlightenment, the offering ritual

    earns merit, helping to ensure a good rebirth in the next

    life. If the merit obtained is, in turn, offered up to the

    elimination of human sufferings and world peace, the pos-

    itive action multiplies.

    At the end of the day, the offerings are mindfully recy-

    cled. Water from bowls is given to flowers and plants

    while food is fed to birds and other animals. People can eat

    the fruits and sweets, which may remain at the altar for

    longer periods of time.

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  • - -

    Ruuddlzanuth, Kathmandu

    Hautiilhanr~nrli 13 onc of' thc itlosf glorious stlrpas cvcr rolrslruif-

    ?ii. Here, N l ~ ~ i d h l s ~ yl lgnmsfiun~ around the world e.~r~-un~rlmbrr-

    late c-1ockw1.s~ !he prnmctcr of ~ h c bu~ l r l~ng , w111ch IS slrrrounilcd

    by ovcr a hundrc.~f prilyer whrrls. Pzopltl rentc rnurllrrls (syllables

    ~nfont.d to proLc~.I fht- m ~ n ~ i ) w h ~ l e sylnnlng thi,gcr~r.i, S E I I I I I ~


    i~l tacht~dfrom r11c bu.ir to 111t. crown of'tht. stupc~, dt'prn[I on the,

    f l ~ ~ t t t . r ~ n g winds ~ L I l i ~ l ~ r ~ s l r n~~.ssirgcs of ptrlie rnto t h t r~ttnos-

    ylirrc. l)cvo~ci,.i c.cln r~ l sc~ wtr ik (I round tht, .if 11yr1 (11 [I h1g11cr t*li.-

    I V I I I O ~ , WIIIL.II C . L ) I I ~ ~ I I I . ~ lo%\ l l l~~ \ l c ' , i~ l~ r c.r~rvc(l .itoni, 'lc~tic~>.

  • PI-dyer wheels function to set ,I mantr.1 s y m b o l i c , vibr-21- 5cmr-cncloscd struc~~lrc.5, pr.opc.lctl by the fi)rcc 01 rlic

    ing syllables \\,hose sounds energize the divine sprl-rt~---rn hurndn body. 111 rhe 1 l~rn,l l~~y,ln Mount,lrn.\, pr'lyel- wheels

    motion. Mdntras are embosscd on the rner'~l wheel ' ~nd powcr.cd by the Lv;lter of tol-rcnri.~l r~vcl-s .~ rc common. In

    dlso written on paper or s k ~ n ,lnd s c ~ l c d witlirn the cyl~n- c . ~ ~ - l y I3uddIirsn1, the wheel bcc.,rmc ,I symbol of the [ > I I ~ I I - -

    der,. Each turn of a prayer \\,heel IS comparable to recit~ng mo or- te'lching. .fhc term "'l'urlirng of thc Wheel" r-clcrs

    the mdnrl-J. Prayer wheels ~ s s u l n c many ti)~.nls ,111d to tlie first scr.niorl r)r~cc~chcil hy the 13~1d~ih~1 111 Sdr11.1rh.

    sizcs-fi.om small, rnetal or wooci, h'und-held wheel5 to Indl,~. ,lnd other te,lch111~5.

    large cylindrical drums, brightly p ~ i n t e d m d h o ~ ~ s e d in

  • Amulet box withfigure of Amitayus

    Dr,rge, ~~ortllensr Tibr.t, sllvtr w~tli hrt~ss, 1% ~ 4 % x ? % 1 1 1 . Ko.ic'Art

    h l l r~z~rn~, Rrtl~ldns Utllvsrstry, \VaItht~n~, j~~l t~ssnc~l~~~.~ct t .~ , G!P of N . L.

    tforrli to the Rlvt-rs~de Musrum Collt.ct~on, IV~I .D ,J , y110to:Jerry Blow

    Th i s gau (portable shrine) contains the image of a n indiv~dual ' s

    guiding deity, which is attached to a belt and carried o n long

    journeys. W h e n a t home, the gau is placed on the altar. Ami-

    t a y w (alto called Amitabha), the Primord~al or Cosmic Buddha

    of the West , IS enshrined w i th permanent oferings i n theforrn of

    the eight Buddhist emblemr of good luck. T h e elaborate, inter-

    connecting tnetalwork design on the outside contrasts u l t h the

    more classical representation of the deity.

    The g u ~ d ~ n g de~ty Cv~tii~m In 7'1b~tan). whose splr~t IS

    embodled 111 a work ot a ~ t , 1s a focal polnr In the pracrlce

    of V a j r ~ y a n a Buddh~sm A lama (reather) selects and

    ~ritroduces the btudent to h15 or her ylriam, who 15 also

    evoked by an accompanying mantra Together the deity

    and mantra safegua~d the ~ndlv~dual horn ~ntelnal, psy

    cholog~cal d~horders and extel nal, phys~cal dangers As an

    a ~ d to visual med~ta t~on , a plocess necessary to reach the

    goal of enlightenment, the gu~ding de~ty 1s ' ~ l w a y ~ nearby,

    placed In an altar or cdrr~ed In a gnu (portable shrine) or

    tangku palntlng

    Art, In the form of the y ~ d a m , plays a transformat~ve

    role In delty yoga, an important practlce that dlstlngu~sh

    es V a ~ r a y n n a from the other Buddh~st paths While engag-

    Ing In deity yoga, the devotee med~tates and vlsual~zes

    hlmself as one w ~ t h the y ldam, thereby dlre~tlng body,

    speech and mlnd towards the goal of greater w~sdom and

    compa5slon The qual~ties represented by g u ~ d ~ n g deities

    are dormant In each person's mind De~ty yoga and ~ t s

    accompanying work of art enable these qua l~ t~es to


    Bodh~sattvas are 'heroes of enl~ghtenrnent, ' who have

    attained the compassionate motlvarlon to become en

    lightened for others They are d~vlne med~ators on behalf

    of humans to the Buddhas Because of t h e ~ r psycholog~cal

    closeness to ordlnary be~ngs, they are usually worsh~ped

    more ~nt~mately than the histor~cal or Pr~niord~al Bud

    dhas Appeanng early In the Mahayana sutras and closely

    assoc~ated w ~ t h t h ~ s path, Bodh~satrvas are ~~sua l ly por

    trayed weanng regal dress and jewel1 y wlth crowns bear

    Ing an Image of one of the Pr~mord~al Buddhas to ~denr~fy

    t h e ~ r cosnilc 11neage

  • The Bodhislrtiv~l Avalokitrsv~ra

  • Tara, whose name means "one who saves," is anlong

    the most popular Bodhisattvas of compassion. Wor-

    shiped by both Hindus and Buddhists alike, she may ulti-

    mately derive from an indigenous Mother Nature cult fig-

    ure symbolizing the creative principle of life. She is

    considered the Mother of the Buddhas-past, present

    and future. Tara's many emanations help humanity to

    overcome emotional difficulties that also correspond

    to physical dangers-pridellions, delusionslwild ele-

    phants, hatredlforest fires, envylsnakes, robberslfanati-

    cism, greedlprisons, lust 1 floods.

    According to popular legend, Tara was born out of a

    lotus that germinated from the tears of Avalokitesvara as

    he lamented the world's sufferings. The peaceful White

    Tara sprung from the tear in one eye and the more

    dynamic Green Tara came from a tear in the other. Tara

    is often represented holding a lotus flower, symbolizing

    her miraculous birth. The initiate meditates upon an

    image of Tara according to the instructions contained in

    the Tara Tantra that embodies the knowledge to reach

    perfected wisdom.

    According to Buddhist teaclungs, a woman must be

    reborn as a man in order to reach Buddhahood. With the

    influence of Tantricism, celebrating feminine energies as

    the universal source of life, Tara emerged as the only

    female Bodhisattva in her own right. Although referred to

    in sutras as Bodhisattvas, both Tara and Avalokitesvara

    are also worshipped in Tibet as fully enlightened Bud-


    The Goddess Tara

    Ncpal, 12th cetitlrry, copper alloy w i th gilt, pigttlt-nr and settu prrctous

    stones, 7% ~ 3 % " x 1x6 itl., Los Angrles County Museutn of Art, (;IF o j Dons and Ed Wietttsv, M. 72.108.8, photo: Jrrry Blow

    In her role as a saviottress, Tara is shown with one handfanng

    out, offering peace, longevity, and good wishes. Her elegantfirm,

    emphasized by the sinuous S-curve of her stance, is characteris-

    tic of Nepali art. Holding a lotusflower that refers to her birth,

    she resembles Brahmflnical goddesses like Parvati, thefimale

    counterpart to Lord Shiva. It is often dijicult to ident~f i , Nepali

    goddesses as either Buddhist or Brahmanical, because Newari

    artists were responsiblefor the creation of imagesfor both spiri-

    tual traditions. Thej igire orignally stood on a lotus-shaped


  • At thc ~ l t a r he Urliorr L$ wisdom a r ~ d ~ o r y a s ~ i o r ~

    In Buddhist teachings and practice, the female deity

    emanates wisdom, defined as the realization of selfless-

    ness, the ultimate nature of reality. Complimenting and

    expandng upon this quality, the male deity embodies

    compassion, reaching out to all beings in their quest for

    nirvana. The union of the two symbolizes the enlight-

    ened mind where opposites merge and freedom from suf-

    fering ensues. Buddhists meditate on images such as

    Chakrasamvara and Vajravarahi, represented in sculp-

    tures, tangka paintings and mandalas, in order to visualize

    and experience a transcendent state of being. Many differ-

    ent deities are represented in this posture, called yab-yurn

    or "mother-father" union, but Chakrasamvara (a form of

    the y d a m deity Samvara), is among the most popular.

    Through the tantra devoted to Samvara (meaning

    Supreme Bliss), the Ultimate Yoga 'Tantra, one can find

    enlightenment in a single lifetime. The image of sexual

    union is used here in conjunction with meditation and

    deity yoga in order to eliminate desire and catalyze a

    mental state of total emptiness and bliss. Within this Chakrasamvara and Vajravurahi realm, opposing forces-life and death, dark and light,

    male and female, good and evil-become one single ener- (see pugc L I . \ O ~ [lt,srnp~~ui~.)

    gy source. These images of yab-yum were viewed only by

    a very few of the most advanced initiates. This tangka of Chakrasamvara and Vajravarahi shows the Bud-

    dha in his mnnqestation us theguiding deity Samvara entwined

    with his consort. Wi th4ur faces and twelve arms, he holds

    attributes that aid Buddhlst practice-the vujru scepter; wisdom

    bell, damaru tirum-and destroy obstacles to enlightenment-

    axe, trident, thunderbolt, skull cup, lasso, m u g c stafl severed

    hcud of'god Brahma. Sanlvaru stretches out aflayed elephant

    skin behind him, symbolizing the end oj~delusions and igno-

    rance. His garland oj ' j j iy- two severed heads is emblematic of'

    the dozens of emot~onal barriers to enlightenment. Although a

    Huddhist dcity, Samvura shares a number offiaturcs with Shi-

    va, the Brahmanical deity.

  • At the tar $ Protectors of the ~ a i t h Dharmapalas literally means "protectors of the Dharma,"

    referring to the deities who defend Buddhist teachings.

    With fierce expressinns, they are represented in both

    sculptures and tangka paintings wearing garlands of

    skulls, trampling enemies and holding implements in-

    tended to cut down evil transgressors. The faces and hair

    of sculptures are often painted orange-red, a color associ-

    ated with blood and anger. The flames surrounding the

    head heighten the destructive potential of the deity and

    often symbolize the cremation grounds.

    On a more personal level, Dharmapalas also symbolize

    the triumph over the demons within the psyche-anger,

    hatred and violence-that account for humanity's nega-

    tive impulses. These works of art conjure the self-cen-

    tered ego whose passions and desires obscure sensitivity

    and compassion towards other beings. By meditating

    upon images of these deities, the dark forces and igno-

    rance within can be directly confronted and no longer

    feared, clearing the way for transformation and positive


    Penden Lhamo (Shri Devi)

    Tibeto-Chinese, late 17th-early 18th century, gilt bronze with pigment, 7% x 7% x j in. Rose Art M~ueu~n, Brilndeis University, Wnltkam, Massa. chusetrs, Gi j of N. L. Ho,rh to the Riverside Museum Collection,

    1971.267, photo:Jl'lerry Blow

    Penden Lhamo is the onlyfemale deity represented among the

    eight defenders of the Buddhist faith, called Dharmapalas. She rides a mule across the Himalayan Mountains bathed in a sea of

    blood strewn with human heads and limbs. Lhamo is conceptu-

    ally related to the Brahmanicalgoddess Kali or Durga who also

    destroy demons. Her origin har been traced to an indigenous god-

    dess of the ancient Bon religion of Tibet. Holding a trident and

    scull cupfilled with demon blood, Lhamo sits on the flayed skin

    of her own son, whom she murdered after her husband, the King

    of Sri Lanka, refused to renounce human sacrifice. Representing

    the destructiveforces of the Great Mother who clears the wayfor

    spiritual regeneration, she stailds in sharp contrast to thepeace-

    f i l Tara. Conceptually, thesefierce and peaceful deities represent

    the unity and totality of Ife, signaling the end to dualities that

    divide the phenonlenal world. Lhamo often appears with

    Mahakala and is sometimes considered his consort. She is the

    premiere protective deity of the nation of Tibet.

    This work of art is believed to be one of thefinest sculptural

    representations of Lhamo. Although small in scale, the sculpture

    is monumentally impressive. Alive with movement and intense

    psychic enerty, Lhamo is perched to spring into defensive action.

    Thisfnghteningportrait bristles with incredible details-fanged

    teeth,forked tongue, bulging eyes and a tiara and necklacefes-

    tooned with scullsdesigned to jolt the viewer into confronting the dark forces latent within the psyche. Probably made in Chi-

    na, this sculpture demonstrates the international influence of

    Tibetan art and iconography in the seventeenth century.

  • S'~kyc~pn Monrl~trrv, Crt~frr~l ' I ' I ~ L . ~ , 17tI1 rft~lllry, ~.oyyt.r wit11 fnlct3.i u f . g l f ( ~ t ~ r l pr~ir~f , 4 % x 1 x I % ill., CIS A~~gt,l~,s L*LIII~IIY MIIIJC,IIIII ,q All, (;I/[ OJ' DIIIC. Crc~wjbr~l, MI. 70.184

    M(~hukula , "The Grec~t Bl(~ck One," is a popll-

    L~rprotector qf t he t i~ i th in both Ncprll r~t td

    Tibet. Holtl~ttg a c-hopper a n d (I skull carp, ILL.

    stantls retlriy to rlire up his enenlit-s (obstc~clt.~

    to etzlightenment) a n d swallow thcir blood. A

    ring oj-$rr that syntbolizes the earthly realm,

    particlrlr~rly the cremation grounds, .surro~rt~ds

    h ~ m . Like Penden Lhnmo. he hus a third eve.

    P , ,

    g v l n g h ~ m the power to see the u l t ~ n ~ a t e real1

    ty 01' nonrtuality. Risingfiom a corpse o r ghost, with knees bent, Mahakala assumes

    b this posture a s the Lord of' the Tent in Tibet.

    Penden Llamo is sometimes shown a s his con- - - 1 . r sort. In addition to hisf in i t ion a s a

    Dharmapala, he may also be a personal

    yidam orguidingdeity. The initiation rites

    associated with Mahaka la a r e extremely com-

    plex a n d only open to those advanced enough

    in the practice of Vajrayana Buttdhism to

    handle hisfierce aspects.

  • 111 Kl.pi~l, Nlrtlil111sw1 r111c1 I i r t ~ h i t ~ i ~ r ~ ~ i i ~ l 11.rrt11

    llllll.\ '-ol~xl.\l [lll'l tl l l~lt l l l l~~l . \c~~-l l l lg llt,llly\ 111161

    ~I~,III~.\ ~ o i t t l ~ ~ t ~ i t , . \ I II~I~~, 11 i11fic1111 to ~~I.\IIII

    gt11\11 IIC.I~~YII rht* IWO, (I\ ,\c,t.l~ Iit,rt., h l ( l l ~ ( ~ k ( ~ l r ~

    t~volvt.rl /nlt11 t h e B r r ~ h n ~ r ~ r ~ ~ c i i l gail H~I~III~II~~I,

    fI~t,ficrc-t ~IILIIII\>.\~LI~I~III 01 1111, ,ALI;I~C.I~IL, / . ~? , l Sl~rvi~, who rl~,stroy.stbrit.\ of t,v~l. T l ~ r ~ . \ ~ ~ t ~ l ~ c ) l - Istn clnrl vi.\lrrrl rcyrt~~t~nlatlon qJ Nhn~r(lv(r t111rl

    Mah(lk(~l[~ ilrc p r i ~ ~ t l ( . ~ I I y 1rl~i111it11. Bi4~111111~1~

    c~nil H~nrlrrs w o r ~ l ~ ~ y bofh (lcr11e.s whoji~.\t.i-oil-

    ccp~~rr~l ly a,\ thc ~~h~t'f'prolc~l.lor qf K r ~ l h r ~ ~ t r i ~ ~ l ~ r

    Vullcy. Herr., (I wornnil ~lvc..\ (111 oflir111g lo 1111,


  • l

  • ildonk.\jrom the 7ir. Chcn S h n l ~ c y 1,lng Sakya Mona\trry In Kr~thn~andlr t t~ t lk~l lg LI wlntl I ~ I L I I I L ~ L I ~ ~ I ti)) world yerlce a n d the yrotect l~w ~lf tlzc envlronment


    } ~ I I ( I I L ~ i(t111lt11d q l i ~ l l l s k ~

  • Sketch for a Medicine Buddha sand mandala

    Constructed at the Ackland Art M ~ ~ s e u m , February ZJ-March 21, zoo1

    The Buddha is often considered the Great Physician, diag-

    nosing the suffering that plagues the human mind. The

    Dharma-through teachings and scriptures-offers the

    remedy for purifying the mind and ending suffering. The

    Sangha, a monastery or spiritual community, functions as a

    nurse by administering the remedy. The Buddha, the Dhar-

    ma and the Sangha are thus known as the Three Jewels of


    For over 2,500 years, the Buddha's teachings have

    offered a multifold path towards the integration of the

    self on emotional, spiritual and intellectual levels. At the

    same time, Buddhism offers a guide for more evolved

    relationships with others based on love and altruism. In

    t h s regard, it is a deeply psychological set of beliefs and

    practices, interweaving art, ritual, meditation and visuali-

    zation techniques for establishing harmony. Art provides

    both an important vehicle and transcendent vision-

    through symbolic imagery and intense color-to attain


    Mandalas, sacred compositions created in sand or in

    paint, are symbols of the pure, perfected universe, provid-

    ing a visual framework for establishing feelings of peace,

    well-being and wholeness. Mandala compositions, organ-

    ized around a symmetrical design, based on squares with-

    in circles, center the devotee by fostering stability and uni-

    ty. The psychological dissolution of boundaries, contra-

    dictions and dichotomies melt away as the beholder

    absorbs the work of art.

    The mandala is a visualization of a particular deity in

    his or her paradise palace. Its two-dimensional plan re-

    sembles a sacred stupa. As a cosmic diagram of Buddha-

    hood, it establishes a medtative pattern for achieving en-

    lightenment. Although mandala-making appears in many

    diverse cultures, Tibetan Buddhists have advanced this art

    form into a highly developed and specialized genre.

    Although mandalas are constructed to accompany

    secret Tantric initiations, His Holiness the Fourteenth

    Dalai Lama invited the public for the first time, in 1988, to

    observe the making of a Kalachakra mandala as a cultural

    offering at the American Museum of Natural History,

    New York City. Since that time, he has personally given or

    authorized many Kalachakra mandalas, the most elabo-

    rate and complex design, around the world. His passion-

    ate belief in the transformative power of Tantric Bud-

    dhist art to foster wisdom, compassion and world peace is

    an inspiration to contemporary culture and imagination

    at the dawn of the twenty-first century.

  • Many people were instrumental in bringing this exhibi-

    tion to Fruition. I am grateful to Ray Williams, former

    curator of education at the Ackland and currently head of

    the education department at the Arthur M. Sackler Gal-

    leries and Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution,

    who helped select the works of art for this two-year exh-

    bition. We traveled together, courtesy of a grant from the

    Museum Loan Network (MLN), to view Buddhisr sculp-

    tures, paintings and ritual objects from collections around

    the country.

    Lori Gross, director, and Michele Assaf, program asso-

    ciate of the MLN, were extremely generous in their time

    and encouragement of this project. Support from the

    MLN travel and implementation grants enabled the Bud-

    dhist Art and RitualJrom Nepal and Tibet project to include

    many components: state-of-the-art exhibition display, cat-

    alogue and educational programming opportunities, to

    name but a few.

    I would like to thank Jerry Bolas, director of the Ack-

    land Art Museum, who suggested applying to the MLN

    and also embraced this project from its earliest stages.

    Andy Berner, assistant director of development, skillfully

    shepherded through the design and production of the cat-

    alogue and web site; Libbie Hough, development assis-

    tant, garnered media support. Megan Bahr, assistant cura-

    tor of exhibitions, helped organize the lecture series. Joe

    Gargasz, Kirby Sewell and Patrick Krivacka created a

    beautiful installation. Emilie Sullivan, registrar, arranged

    for all of the works to arrive safely at the museum and on

    time. Michelle Schaufler, director of development, and

    Timothy Riggs, assistant director for collections, also

    helped facilitate the exhibition. Thanks to Susan Harter,

    museum secretary, for all of her help.

    The following people welcomed Ray and me into their

    museums, sharing their expertise while showing us ob-

    pp ~ - -

    jects on display and in storage: John Listopad, curator of

    Himalayan art, and Stephen Markel, chief curator of

    Asian art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Val-

    rae Reynolds, curator of Asian collections at the Newark

    Museum; Joseph Ketner, director, and John Rexine, regis-

    trar, at the Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University.

    The Ackland Art Museum was privileged to have two

    monks from the Namgyal Monastery in Ithaca, New

    York, construct a Medicine Buddha sand mandala in our

    gallery. I would like to thank the Namgyal Monastery

    Institute of Buddhist Studies, and Venerable Tenzin Desh-

    ek, Venerable Tenzin Gephel, Venerable Tenzin Thutop

    and Venerable Tenzin Yignyen for their spiritual inspira-


    Thanks to William Magee, visiting assistant professor

    in the Department of Religious Studies, at the University

    of North Carolina at Greensboro, for reading the first

    draft of this essay and suggesting appropriate changes. I

    appreciate the efforts of Suzanne Rucker, the Ackland's

    business manager, who edited the catalogue. Carolyn

    Wood, curator of education, read and made suggestions

    to the text as well. Credit for the design of this beautiful

    catalogue goes to Anne Theilgard and Joyce Kachergis of

    Kachergis Book Design, Inc.

    Finally, 1 would also like to acknowledge the on-going

    support of Jyoti Duwadi, who offered important ideas to

    both exhibition and catalogue, created the video for this

    installation and first introduced me to the arts and rituals

    of Nepal and Tibet.

    Barbara Matilsky

    Curator of' Exhibitions

    Ackland Art Museum, UNC-CH

    Chapel Hill, North Carolina

    October zoo0

  • p~

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  • Endless Knot

    The Endless Knot is a popular emblem in Nepal and Tibet. Comidered auspicious, it symbol- izes the interconnectedness of all things. The twining form expresses both movement and bal-

    ance, personihing the harmony between opposites. Without bepnning or end points, the Endless Knot also sign$es the unlimited knowledge of the Buddha.

    &? Copyright 2001 by the Ackland Art Museum

    The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    ,411 rights reserved

    Library of Congress Caralogue Number: oo-111537

    ISBN: 0-9653805-4-8

    This catalogue has been published in conjunction with the exhibition Buddhist Art and Ritualfiom Nepal and

    Tibet presented by the Ackland Art Museum from February 25, 2001 through spring 2003.

    Buddhist Art and Ritual in Nepal and Tibet was made possible by the Museum Loan Network-a national col-

    lection-sharing program funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Pew Charitable

    Trusts, and administered by MIT's Office of the Arts. Additional funding was provided by the William Hayes

    Ackland Trust.

    Front cover: Bauddha, Kathtnand~~. Nepal

    Photo: Barbara Matilsky

    Book and cover designed by: Kachergis Book Design. Pirrsboro. Nonh Carolina

    Printed and bound by: Greensboro Printing. Greensboro. North Carolina

    Pnnted in the United States of America

    No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means without the writ-

    ten permiss~on of the publisher.

    Published by the Ackland Art Museum. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Campus Box 3400,

    Chapel Hill. North Carolma 27599-3400


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