The Dictionary of Buddhist Iconography is an endeavour of half a century to identity, 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 a theonym arise in varying contexts. For example, Hevajra of 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 date of its occurrence (e.g Amoghapasa appears in Chinese in AD 587), 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 Sino-Japanese 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 about 20 volumes. Prof. Lokesh Chandra was nominated by the President of 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.
Buddhist art is the flowering of Being to discover the great calm within, a dialectic of light and shadow, wherein colour and form rain substance. Scrolls, murals, icons, stupas, sancta and other manifestations are all Visual Dharma. They demand of us: 'Follow us to the spring and descend deeply within yourself'. They create a space for meditation, they awaken cosmicity within us, they are a wave to lead us to the progressive sea, to a track of expanding consciousness, or as is said in the stirring crescendo of the Heart Sutra of the Prajna-paramita: gate gate para-gate para-sangate bodhi svaha.
The icon is the divine embodied , the concrete shape of an invisible transcendent vision. The Unmanifest (amurta) concretizes into a Manifest murti or image, to be seen with the eyes of faith. In the creative embrace of a sculptor or painter the subtle assumes plastic form which, in turn, transforms the visible world into transcendence. The interlacing of the body and limbs of a couple in embrace is the reunion of Person and Nature, of Purusa and Prakrti, in the passionless contortions of rapture, the cosmic creative process, the yab-yum of Tibetan iconography. The icons are a language for those in whom passion exists in the highest degree, beyond which they have to ferry to the Yonder. Intimacy and passion are transformed into blissful enlightened states of awareness.
From the understanding of the Many emerges the triumvirate of gods, goddesses, and ferocious beings known as Krodhas, Vidyadharas, and Dharmapalas in Buddhist parlance. The three constitute a central part of our cultural consciousness. They find valid space in Vajrayana art and thought and have to be transfigured: anger has to be crossed over by non-anger and violence by non-violence to reach the still centre of the Sublime. One has to draw out the Dharma that is within oneself. The body contains the entire universe (dehe visvasya mananam). In the higher stages of meditation, the body and cosmos are assimilated, the Dharmadhatu is shining light and concentration is its perception. By mystic light (Tibetan: hod.gsal) one purifies the samsaric infections. The divine forms do not remain in distant heavens, but descend into us: I am the cosmos and the Buddhas are in me.
This volume comprises entries of theonyms beginning with the letters O,P, and Q. The placement of a deity in its mandala, its place in a group, its descriptive attributes, and references to texts, sculptures of scrolls have been cited for every form, so that users can go back to the originals for legends and other details. It is essential to consult the basic texts like the Nispannayogavali (NSP), the Rin.hbyun brgya.rtsa by Taranatha (1575-1634), its amplification by the Fourth Panchen Lama Bstan.pahi.ni.ma in his Rin.Ihan. The English adaptations of the last mentioned text in Willson/Brauen 2000 with annotations, details the meditative generation of a deity from its bija, details of its raiments and ornaments, deity in the crown, offerings, praise, recitation, mantra, dedication of merit, and permission rites. All of them are central to the understanding of the deity in its spiritual, ritual and social contexts. They are symbols of the human psyche wherein gods and ferocious beings are not only transcendent entities but the ineffable truth of the insubstantiality of whatever appears.
Guru Padmasambhava has a panoramic iconography of his lineage (Amitabha, Avalokitesvara, Indrabhuti and himself), his eight aspects as narrated in his Life, his varied activities in Tibet, his twenty five disciples, as a terma master and so on. While the eight aspects have been described and illustrated in the Dictionary, the other elements have been referred to modern works that can be accessed, and have also been entered under their individual names.
The Incarnations of the Panchen Lamas were cut into fourteen xylographic blocks in Tibet in the nineteenth century, comprising seven pre-incarnations, three predecessors, and the first four Panchen Lamas. The pre-incarnations and predecessors appear under their personal names, while all the seven Panchen Lamas (1569-198?) have been illustrated in the Dictionary.
The twenty iconic forms of Pandara of Pandaravasini are interesting, for she gave rise to the White-robe Kuan-yin in China as the dominant from of Avalokitesvara. She was the consort of Amitabha, while Avalokitesvara was one of the two acolytes of Amitabha. Later on, she became one of the Thirty three Kuan-yin in East Asia.
What gave rise to multiple forms of a deity deserves a detailed study. Differing contexts, new philosophical concepts, creation of increasingly complex forms and a host of other factors contributed to the processes of theogony and its relation to human needs of transcendence.
The illustrations of various kinds of homa-kundas have been preserved in Japan from the last millennium. They are unique for a study of the fire rites in India since the Vedic period. This volume depicts the kundas for the paustika homa.
The names of the Twelve Generals of Bhaisajyaguru had been difficult to reconstruct from Tibetan translations and Chinese transcriptions. With the discovery of the Bhaisajyaguru-sutra in the Gilgit manuscripts we know their names from the original Sanskrit text. They are of Prakrit or of non-Indic origin. Payila in this volume illustrates the complexity of their origin as well as their depiction.
Prabhutaratna forms the theme of Chinese, Korean and Japanese sculptures and pantheons, but is not found in India, Nepal or Tibet, though he is an outstanding Buddha in the Saddharma-pundarika-sutra which is one of the Nine Basic Scriptures (nava-dharma) in Nepalese Buddhism.
Prajnaparamita has evolved extensively all over the Buddhist world. For instance, a number of statues of the Twnety two-armed Prajnaparamita have been found in Cambodia. She has eleven heads, which may be derived from Eleven-headed Avalokitesvara.
Puspa on pages 2732-2741 shows she range of variation of a goddess simply holding flowers, taking on new imaginings, and meditative beatitudes coming out in meaningful symbols. The hieroglyphics of spiritual visions, transfigured into forms, will have to be studied in root texts, commentaries, and the vast tradition of exegesis in Tibet, Mongolia and East Asian countries.
The list of 'Literature Cited' has been updated to supplement that in the first volume on pages xlvii-lxiv.
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