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.
The cosmopolis of deities is a journey into the heart of Buddhism. They are the organic universality that asserts our right of subjectivity to recover the underlying rhythms of consciousness. The iconic world of transcendence is the realm of living reality away from the world of destructive formlessness. It is the romance of the inner truth to discover the sacredness of life. "To live is to defend a form" (Holderlin).
This volume continues the theonyms beginging with S and end with the letter T. Sphota or Vajrasphota as the masculine form, and Sphota or Vajrasphota as the feminine show the deity with a chain as one of the four doorkeepers of a mandala. The variations of their representation from different centuries and countries and the many types of mudras inscibe deviation as an assertion of the life-texture.
The Derge Tanjur illustrates a number of Tathagatas some of which can be traced to the Thousand Buddhas, e.g. Spos.kyi.dban.phyug is Gandhesvara (p.3361, Weller 154, LC. 1996:108), Spos.kyi.hod is Gandhabha (p.3362, Weller 867, LC.1996:344), Sprin.dbyans is Meghasvara (p.3362, Weller 74, LC.1996:77). But Sprin.dbyins.ston.gi.sgra (p.3362) is not among the Thousand Buddhas. The source of the Tathagatas in the Derge Tanjur deserves to be investigated.
The thirty sde.dpon who live on different levels of the four directions of Sumeru are: Mahadeva Mahesvara and his consort Uma Devi, surrounded by twenty eight commanders-in-chief of the different kinds of beings. The commanders are both male and female, e.g. Srid.pahi.rgyal.mo/*Bhavarajni is the commanderin of all the matrkas and lives in the south of the second level of Sumeru. The 28 commanders-in-chief are detailed below:
The entries on stupa and Sumeru raise new questions about their role in Buddhist iconography. There were several classifications of stupas, e.g. the Twenty one Stupas of the Nyingmapa illustrated on p.3413-3415. The gorinto stupas of Japan are a category apart, secular in character, and pertain to death rites. They are distinctively separate from the religious stupas. The Chinese t 'a is a transcription of dha[tugarbha], that is OPEN, to symbolise the state of Buddhahood realised. It is in the Vajradhatu-mandala. It is in apposition to Chinese suo-to-po =stupa (see p.3493). It is an important piece of information which has significance for the identification of the Borobudur. The stupa on top of the Borobudur was originally open before it was restored by van Erp and later on by the Government of Indonesia. The stupa was closed in both restorations. It could not be realised that the stupa had been kept open by the founders themselves as per scriptural requirements.
This volume has an extensive coverage of Sudarsana or Pole Star (p.3426-3440), as he was worshipped in the Shingon and Nichiren sects for averting disasters and for national security. Fifty forms of Tara have been detailed for the first time, besides two distinct traditions of Twenty one Taras.
These icons of being and time, the invisibles we carry within, are the timeless gaze, the Other Bank, the vision that implodes in the plenitude of sunyata.
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