The Dictionary of Buddhist Iconography is an endeavour of half a century to identify, classify, describe and delineate the bewildering variation in Buddhist icons. It spans the last twenty centuries, and it is a comparative study of unprecedented geographic variations, besides the ever evolving visualizations of great masters who introduced extraordinary plurality of divine forms in the dharanis and sadhanas.
The multiple forms of theonym arise in varying contexts. For example, Hevajra of the Hevajra-tantra holds crania in his hands, while the Hevajra of the Samputa-tantra has weapons. Both are subdivided into four each on the planes of kaya, vak, citta and hrdaya, with two, four eight and sixteen arms. The Dictionary classifies several such types of a deity and places each in its theogonic structure, specifies the earliest image, the direction in which it is placed in the specific quarter of the mandala, its classification, colour, crown or hairdo, ferocious or serene appearance, number of eyes and heads, hair standing up and/or flaming, number of arms and attributes held in them, consort, lord of the family (kulesa), and so on. The esoteric name, symbolic form (samaya), bija (hierogram), mantra, mudra and mandala are given in this Dictionary for the first time and on an extensive scale. The Sanskrit, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Tibetan, Mongolian, Manchu and other names are given under the main entry, as well as cross-referenced in their own alphabetic order.
The Dictionary details the characteristic attributes, chronology and symbolism of over twelve thousand main and minor deities. It reflects the extraordinary cultural, literary, aesthetic and spiritual achievements of several nations of Asia over two millennia.
It will help to identify the masterpieces along with the profusion of masters and divine beings around them. The last few decades have seen an exuberant flourishing of the study and popularization of the patrimony of Buddhist art for its aesthetic magnificence. This Dictionary will add a dimension of precision and depth of perception to the visual tradition of paintings and sculptures.
About the Author
Prof. Lokesh Chandra is a renowned scholar of Tibetan, Mongolian and SinoJapanese Buddhism. He has to his credit over 400 works and text editions. Among them are classics like his Tibetan-Sanskrit Dictionary, Materials for a History of Tibetan Literature, Buddhist Iconography of Tibet and the present Dictionary of Buddhist Iconography in 15 volumes. Prof. Lokesh Chandra was nominated by the President of the Republic of India to the Parliament in 1974-80 and again in 1980-86. He has been a Vice-President of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, and Chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research. Presently he is Director, International Academy of Indian Culture.
Beyond intellection, surrounded by the transfinites of images that are a home to pensive reflections, this volume is again a whirlwind of forms that weave the threads of our inner being, in the constant yonder-faring of Buddhist iconography.
The four goddesses of mahabhutas in the Pao-hsiang Lou Pantheon 2A18-21 are Vajranila (ether), Vajrodaka (water), Vajranala (fire) and Vajrabhumi (earth). Vajranala and Vajranila occur in the Durgati-parisodhana-mandala (NSP.22 p.69, 70) but the other tow are missing. It may be more in consonance with the two known names, to reconstruct Vajrabhumi as Vajrorvi.
Vajrapani is a metamorphosis of Indra/Sakra according to Buddhaghosa. His iconographic evolution has been phenomenal: he is a standing or sitting Bodhisattva, a ferocious demonic identity, a serene attendant of Sakyamuni in the Manjusri-mula-kalpa, a kneeling Vajrapani attending on Niladanda Vajrapani (no.19), carries sarsapa 'mustard' as one of the erotocentric deities, like Ragaraja/Takkiraja, Kurukulla, Ragavajra, Vajraraga Manjusri. The cult of Kamadeva and a study of the erotocentric deities may elucidate the emergence of yab.yum in the anuttara-yoga tantras.
Vajrasadhu is one of the Bodhisattvas of debate to destruct and defeat heretics. The system of debate according to Asanga has seven major divisions. Vajrasadhu represents vada-nihsarana as the assembly lauds the sill, confidence and ingenuity of the victor. Vajrasadhu is the acclamation by the participants: sadhu sadhu 'well done, well done'. See details in my 'Pensive images and martial traditions' in the Cultural Horizons of India 1997:6.11-13.
Vajrasattva has 18 forms, and is distinguished from Vajradhara. He is both a Buddha and a Bodhisattva (no. 1p.4114). In the Nayasutra he is the center deity of the mandala. The Nayasutra is recited thrice daily, in the morning, noon and evening, in the Shingon sect of Japan. This must have have so in Indonesia, where large size images of Vajrasattva have been found, sitting on a throne and with a royal umbrella. They have been a problem as he was deemed to be a Bodhisattva, and his status as a Buddha was not known. The Pao-hsiang Lou Pantheon clearly distinguishes his two roles as V. Bodhisattva (4A50) and V. Buddha (4B27) though the attributes are identical. The Pancaguhya-mandala has erotic undertones. Vajrasattva is embraced by Manoja-vajrini, Mana-vajrini, Raga-vajrini and Kelikila-vajrini(p.4139). They symbolize four stages of intense passion: rising of desire, feined disdain, intense love, and consummation. Once the desires are purified, one is awakened to enlightenment. The Citta-visuddhiprakarana says: rajyate raga-bhogena mucyate or the mystic delights in thoughts of passion, and by the enjoyment of passion he is set free.
Vajravarahi is shown in two intersecting triangles that represent the basic sricakra. She is the vanquisher of enemies, as her invocations indicate: ajite, aparajite 'unconquered' vijaye 'victorious', trasani marani prabhedani parajaye 'you terrify, kill, tear to pieces, and conquer'. She reminds of the Varaha incarnation of Visnu. The demon king Hiranyaksa dragged the earth to the bottom of the ocean and threatened to take heaven by storm. The terrified gods appealed to visnu who assumed the form of Varaha, slew the demon king, and raised up the earth. See my article 'Vajravarahi as the protectress of khotan' (to be published in the journal Kala-kalpa). She is the consort of Hevajra as well as of Cakrasamvara whose rites were employed by emperor Kublai Khan for his campaigns against South China and SE Asia. Deities and their rites have been powerful imperatives of sacred and secular concerns of humanity. Subjugation of dark inner forces, as well as the vanquishment of enemies, both have been structured in the sanctified universes of the Divine.
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