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

he University o f ~ o t ~aro(ivra
~h at c h a p e l ~ i l l
M o n k constructing a sand mandala.
photo: A. Pince Bounds
T h s catalogue accompanies the exhibition Buddhut Art hsh~ngharmony w~tlunand unlry among all living thngs
and Rttualfrom Nepal and Tibet, w h c h highhghts the way Buddhut Art and R~tualfiornNrpal atd T~brtexamlncs the
art funct~onsin a trad~tionalBuddlust altar It conveys the context in which scroll paintings, called tangkas cpaubhas
integration of art and ritual that is fundamental to under- m Nepali), and sculptures were created and used by devo-
standing the meanlngs of these objects as part of livmg tees o n route to spiritual transformat~on Ultimdte en-
cultural tradit~ons.As a context-oriented approach to the lightenment, achieved through the cultivation ot wlsdom
presentation of art, it complements the chronological and compassion, IS a culmmating goal represented in art
and stylistic dsplay of painung and sculpture in our Asian by the mergmg of male and female deities In order to
gallery. suggest the wide drsseminatlon and vaned lnterpretatlon
For this two-year exhibition, the Ackland Art Museum of Buddhist philosophy and art In Asla, ~llustrauonsof
at the Un~versityof North Carohna at Chapel Hlll bor- works of art From the AcMand's permanent collection are
rowed twenty pa~ntings, sculptures and other sacred included m t h ~ catalogue
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~onedfor 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-
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 enlightenment, represented by symbols or images of the
evolved to meet the needs of peoples from diverse cul- Buddha, and later a multitude of related deities. Commis-
tures in Asia, and beginning in the nineteenth century, in sioning a work of art for home or monastery plays an
Europe and North America. While the basic philosophy important role in all paths of Buddhist practice. Through
has endured, its practices and methods of achieving the t h s process, the devotee garners merit that helps pave the
goal of enlightenment have been adapted and revitalized way towards his or her enlightenment.
through the centuries. Historically, the Buddhist path that first emerged dur-
The Buddha (566-486 B.C.E.) traveled and preached ing the fifth through second centuries B.C.E. was called
for forty-five years and his followers orally transmitted his Theravada. Founded in India, Theravada Buddhism
teachings. A few hundred years after the Buddha's death, spread to Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Bur-
a council was called to record h s sermons, which were ma. It was largely practiced communally, confined to the
later translated into the ancient classical languages of Pali monasteries and the surrounding lay communities that
and Sanskrit. provided sustenance to the monks through donations of
A Buddhist aims to acknowledge the self, not as a per- food. Within a rigorous, intellectual atmosphere, monks
manent, partless entity, but rather as an aggregation of dedicate themselves to study, contemplation, practice and
constituents, evolving and adapting to new environments, the preservation of the Dharma for future followers.
and capable of becoming enlightened. The Buddha Theravada means "teachings of the elders," indicating
offered teachings and a role model for people to discover that the followers of this path consider theirs to be the
this truth (Dharma) for themselves. Recognizing the vary- original Buddhist tradition. In the Theravada Vehicle, the
ing needs and capabilities of individuals in their quest for Buddha is the only spiritual figure represented in works of
understanding, the Buddha consequently laid the founda- art. Free-standing figures of the Buddha and relief sculp-
tion for several paths or vehicles that offered enlighten- tures with scenes from his life are often portrayed in a
ment or nirvana. Nirvana means "blowing out" or extin- classical style that developed in northern India during the
guishng the flames of passion and ignorance, a process Gupta Dynasty (fourth to sixth century C.E.), when both
that leads to liberation from suffering and perpetual Brahmanical and Buddhist art flourished. The Gupta style
rebirth. Although the methods of each path differ, their of elegant, flowing volumes and beautiful proportions
goal is ultimately the same. influenced later cultures and generations, including the
The works of art emerging from these different paths Pala Dynasty (750-1200 C.E.) of eastern India, where
assume various forms and styles. They are, nonetheless, Tantric art emerged as a fully evolved style.
linked in spirit as all artworks are alive with the essence of
Around the first century B.C.E. in India, Buddhism The word Vajrayana literally means "Thunderbolt
was revitalized through changing methods and beliefs Vehicle" as well as "Diamond Vehicle," symbolic of both
that appealed to a growing population. In addition to the the speed and power of the journey. Art of the Vajrayana
meditative and altruistic practices already established, the path, often referred to as Tantric art, is elaborate in style
Mahayana Buddhist path incorporated the concept of with complex symbolism. Characterized by brilliant col-
deity worship in the form of Bodhlsattvas. Bodhisattvas ors in both painting and sculpture, the art is used to
are advanced pracritioners who have generated compas- liberate consciousness through rituals, meditation and
sion for others. They possess bodhicitta, the altruistic visualization. The depiction of deities in both fierce
intention to become enlightened for the sake of benefit- and peaceful manifestations is a distinguishing feature of
ing others. The compassionate Bodhisattva motivation is Tantric art.
said to be vast. thus this path is sometimes called the
Great Vehicle.
With the introduction of these deities, works of art Head of Guanyn
were no longer limited to portraying the Buddha. Now a
burgeoning number of Bodhisattvas, added to the canon Northern Chinese, 12th-ljth imtury, gilded and painted cast iron,
of Buddhist scriptures, assumed their own distinctive IJXx 8% in.,Ackland Art Museum, Ackland Fund, 88.29,
photo:Jerry Blow
qualities and attributes in sculpture and painting. Bod-
hisattvas, often associated with Cosmic or Primordial Buddhism entered south China in the second century C.E.
Buddhas corresponding to celestial territories. are usually through central Asian trade routes. Guanyn quickly became
elegantly attired in royal dress. Although they assumed one of the most popular deities in this region. This head of
different names after their assimilation into other coun- Guanyn, the Chinese Buddhist equivalent of Avalokitesvara, lit-
tries and cultures, their embodiment of compassion erally means "Regarder of the Cries (of the World). Devotion to

remained the same. Guanyn emerged during the third through sixth centuries C.E.,
Vajrayana Buddhism evolved from Mahayana Bud- a time of social and yolitical instability in China. With the Song
dhism and an earlier mystic tantric tradition, becoming Dynasty (960-1279 C.E.),Guanyn was transJormed and wor-
fully established by the seventh century C.E., first in India shiped m a fmale Bodhisattva. Her identity continued to evolve
and later in Nepal, Tibet, China and Japan. Sharing simi- when Guanyin, as the Bestowt-rof Sons, assumed paramount
importancefbr women, in particular.
lar goals to Mahayana, Vajrayana encompasses a different
In this sculpture, G u a n y n i crown bears the image of
body of practices and rituals to achieve a faster route to
Amitabha, the Primordial or Cosmic Buddha of' the West, who
enlightenment. In the earlier paths of Buddhism, count-
gained a popularfillowt ng in China. Guanyin is believed tofer-
less eons and rebirths must pass before one can reach a
ry departed soub to Amitabha's Western Paradise wlzerr t h y
perfected state of awareness. By contrast, adherents of
are peaiefilly reborn. This head once belonged to a 1fe-sized
the Vajrayancl tradition can potentially attain a state of
standing or seated sculpture. Magn~firentlyplded in gold with a
complete, perfect enlightenment in one lifetime. The jewel, now missing, f'or the all-knowing thlrd y e , it was proba-
motivation for the quick path is purely altruistic-to help bly exhibited in a sirmptltously decorated trmple sugestive of a
others and end suffering sooner. 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 dhist--enshrined in public squares. In Tibet, monks and
in the powerful energies of the universe that permeate nuns dedicate themselves to spiritual practices, which
and unif) all things. Aspects of tantricism are believed to include the creation of artworks intrinsic to rituals. Until
extend as far back as the Indus Valley civilization over five the 1950S, thousands of monasteries, housing murals, life-
thousand years ago. Its methods and practices of achiev- s u e sculptures and ritual objects, flourished in Tibet.
ing enlightenment are based on yoga ("union"), medita- Over the centuries, the interactions between Nepal
tion, complex rituals and symbolic works of art. Original- and Tibet enabled both the arts and Buddhist teachngs to
ly, hermits called Tantrlkas practiced it in India outside thrive. Nepal, bounded by forests in the south and the
the organized faith traditions. Tantricism became system- Himalayan Mountains to the north, served as a refuge for
atized around 300 C.E. and infiltrated both Vajrayana Bud- Buddhist devotees during times of social and political
dhist teaching and Brahmanical traditions.' unrest. Indan Buddhists made their way there during the
Sacred texts, called tantras, contain the means to gain Muslim invasions of the eleventh and twelkh centuries.
enlightenment during one's lifetime. They instruct devo- while Tibetans, at various points in their history, also
tees in specific rituals, meditations and visualizations found a haven for Buddhist practice in the Kathmandu
towards understanding particular aspects of deities. Valley. Consequently, Buddhism was revitalized in Nepal
These tantras were kept secret, passed on from master to after its appearance in the valley around the second cen-
pupil through elaborate initiation ceremonies. Art is an tury C.E.
essential component of tantricism. Tangku, mandalas In Nepal, a place where both Brahrnanical tradtions
and sculptures of deities accompany rituals to help and Buddhism coexist, many of the most important
achieve insight into the essence of unity. In Vajrayana works of art were, and continue to be, created by New-
Buddhism, one medtates on oneself as similar in aspect ars, the indgenous peoples of the Kathmandu Valley.
to the deity. Under the Malla kings (1200-1768 C.E.). Newari craftsman
Although tantricism spread to other regions in Asia, created magnificent palaces, temples, sculptures and
nowhere has its influence been more pervasive than in paubhas, inspired by the elegant, sensual styles of India's
Nepal and Tibet, where it continues to energize and earlier Gupta and Pala dynasties.
shape the spiritual and cultural landscape. As a result, The reputation and skill of Newari artists resulted in
Himalayan art and architecture have evolved in unique commissions to execute mural and tangka paintings for
directions and in relative isolation. Art and spirituality are Tibetan monasteries beginning in the thirteenth century.
wedded to life, nourished by daily worship. In the cities of The Nepali style spread to C h n a during the Yuan
the Kathmandu Valley, men, women and children bring Dynasty (1260-1368 C.E.) with the Newari artist and
offerings to tantric deities-both Brahmanical and Bud- monk, Anlko (or Anige). Living in Tibet, Aniko headed a
delegation of eighty artists to the Mongol Imperial court
'Brahmanical traditions refer to a complex of rituals and philo. of Khubilai Khan (1260-1294 C.E.), which converted to
sophical ideas in South Asla that later became grouped under the colo- Vajrayana Buddhism and constructed temples and monas-
nial term "H~nduism." teries with magnificent works of art. By the seventeenth
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Art and ors shy The ~iberan~uddhisttau

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.
Objects on the Altar

Fourth Tier (left to right): Second Tier (lefi to right):

Chorten Water vessel, Tibet
Central Tlber, late 14th+arly r ~ t hcentury (seepage 18) Metal, fabric,pathmr. height: 11 In. (7 in. d i a m u r )

Buddha Sakyamuni, Kham, Tiber, 19th collury Collec?lon of The Newark Murum, G# of Dr. WcsLy Halpmr and Mn. Carolyn

Gilt copper, height: 17% in. Holpmt. IW

CoUection of The Newark Museum. Gilt of Dr. A. L. Shelton, 1920 (po.297a-c)

(20.4~44) Amulet box withfigure of Amitayw

VajracchedikaPrajnaparamita sutra, Tibet Derge, Northeast Tiber (see page q)
Wood, papm, leather, 2% x9Xoxjl/. in.
Collection of The Newark Museurn, Purchase 1988 Thonlar L. Raynlolld Bequest The Goddess Tara
Fund and Mrs. C. Suydam Cutting Bequest Fund Nepal, 12th century (see page 27)
Pmden Lhamo (Shri Devi)
Tibeto-Chinese,late 17th to early 181hcmrury (seepage31)

Third Tier @ft to right): Mahakala

Cenrral Tibet. ~ p ccnrury
h (scepage3z)
A Sakyapa Abbot, Sakyapa Monastery, Central Tibet
16th century Prayer wheel, Tibet, 19thcmrury
Brass and wood, length: 1 1 In. (Jiamner:j% 111.)
Gilt bronze repousse with paint. 1 % ~ 4 x%I % in,
Collpctwn of The Newark Museum, Ci@ of Mrs. E. N. a J Mr. A. hl. Crane. 1911
Los Angeles County Musnim of Art. GiJ of Dr. and Mrs. I? Pal in Mary of (I I ,618)
Christian Humann
M 81.183.2
First Tier (left to right):
Dorje, Tibet, c. 1900
Copperalloy 1% in. length x r l ill. diumetm Set of offering bowk, Tibet
Lor Angeles County Museum of Art, Francis Eric Bloy Bequest. AC1994.116.6 Brass, height: 2% in. (J% in. diameter)
Collection of The Ntwark Museum, Gifl of Dr. A. L. Shelton. 1920
Bell, Tibet (20.368)
Brass m t h steel tongue, height: 7% in. (3% In diametm)
Collection of The Newark Museum, G$ of Dr. A. L. Shelton, 1920 Butter lamp, Tibet
(20.398) Brass, height:^% in. (4% In. diamem)
Collection of The Ntwark Museum. Gifr of Mrs. E. N. and Mr. A. hl. Crane, 1911
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(seepagez9)

The Boddhisanva Avalokitesvara

Nepal, ~ j t hcentury (see page zj)
Most Buddhist homes, monasteries and temples have Ngawang Losang Gyatso, the Great F$h Dalai Lama
an altar, in some form, dedicated for worship. The altar
Celrtrnl Regio~ls,Tibet, late 17tl1cetttl~ry,gilt bronze, 7% x 7 x 5 % it!. Rose
houses an image of the Buddha, and often other deities as
Art Museuit~.Hrandns Univrrsity, W(11thun1,Massuchusrtts. G i j i of N. L.
well-in sculpture, painting, and more recently, photo- Horch to the Kivrrside Musewn Collrctiol~,1971.267, yhoto:Jerry Blow
graphs and print reproductions. Works of art are consid-
ered alive with the essence of the deity after their ritual Tibetan art is uniquefor the large number of representations of
consecration. lamas (teachers) represented in both painting and sculpture.
The altar creates a sacred space and atmosphere con- Some lamas are considered emanations of Bodhisattvas and thus
ducive to meditation and transformation. Traditionally, an an extended lineage can be traced through the centuries. The line

altar contains reference to the Buddha's perfected speech, of Dalai Lamas is linked to the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. The
F ~ j hDalai Lama (1617-1682 C.E.), who consolidated both politi-
body and mind, symbolized by a scripture (sutra), a statue
cal and spiritual power to lead a unified Tibetan nation, ushered
of the Buddha Sakyamuni and a stupa (see page 18) respec-
in a golden age of Tibetan art. He commissioned the Potala in
tively. The devotee aspires to the ideals emboded in these
Lhasa, a magnificent architectural complex thatficnctioned as
forms in order find inner wisdom and help other human
fort, temple, university, monastery and the residence of the Dalai
beings to see their inner light. Lamas (illustrated on back cover).
Other sculptures are placed in proximity to this central This sculpture of the Dalai Lama is considered one of the
grouping, beginning with the lamas with long spiritual finest depictions of this important historicalfigure. Artistically,
lineages, such as the Fifth Dalai Lama. Next in order are it represents the height of Tibetan art, showing a n exquisite
the y d a m s , guiding or archetype deities of an individual, equilibrium between naturalism and abstraction. In a gesture of
family or monastery Figures that protect the Buddhist discernment, the Dalai Lama appears calm, poised and digni-
faith, called Dharmapalas, are arranged nearby. fied. His idealized head is set o f by a voluminous mound of
drapery, elegantly and abstractly incised with foliage and l o t w
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
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
Only a Buddha has extinguished all faults and gained are also offered, representing the seven aspects of
prayer-offering, confessing, prostrating, celebrating the
positive qualities of all beings, asking the Buddhas to
all attainments. Therefore, one should mentally go for
remain in this world, requesting their guidance for all peo-
ple, and dedicating the merits obtained from the offering
refige to a Buddha, praise him with speech, and respect process. Butter lamps, providng light and symbolizing
wisdom, are interspersed among the offering bowls. Dur-
him physically. One should enter the teachings of such ing important ceremonies, hundreds of butter lamps are
lit in a dramatic show of offerings in monasteries and
around stupas.
a being.
The act of offering consciously focuses the mind on
the Buddha's teachings. I t is a means to purify thoughts
-His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, The Fourteenth and actions. During the process of offering food and
water, the devotee visualizes the end of hunger and thirst.
Dalai Lama, Tantra in Tibet, p. 30
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~nrli13onc of' thc itlosf glorious stlrpas cvcr rolrslruif-

?ii. Here, N l ~ ~ i d hyllgnmsfiun~
ls~ around the world e.~r~-un~rlmbrr-
late c-1ockw1.s~!he prnmctcr of ~ h bcu ~ l r l ~ n w111ch
g, IS slrrrounilcd

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

~nfont.dto proLc~.Ifht- m ~ n ~wi h) ~ l esylnnlng thi,gcr~r.i,S E I I I I I ~
prayer.<!br criligh~enmrntI I I mollon. Colorrd y r r ~ y r l . p a y ,
i~ltacht~dfrom r11c bu.ir to 111t. crown of'tht. stupc~,dt'prn[I on the,
f l ~ ~ t t t . r ~winds
ng l i ~ l ~ r ~n~~.ssirgcs
~ L I slr of ptrlie rnto t h t r~ttnos-
ylirrc. l)cvo~ci,.ic.cln r ~ l s cwtr
~ ik (I round tht, .if 11yr1(11 [I h1g11crt*li.-
I V I I I O ~ ,WIIIL.II C . L ) I I ~ ~ I I Ilo%\
. ~ l l l ~ ~ \ l c ' , ic.r~rvc(l
~ l ~ r .itoni, 'lc~tic~>.
PI-dyerwheels 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,ll~~y,ln
Mount,lrn.\, pr'lyel- wheels
motion. Mdntras are embosscd o n the rner'~l wheel ' ~ n d powcr.cd by the Lv;lter of tol-rcnri.~lr~vcl-s. ~ r cc o m m o n . In
dlso written on paper or s k ~ n,lnd s c ~ l c dwitlirn the c y l ~ n - c . ~ ~ -I3uddIirsn1,
ly the wheel bcc.,rmc ,I symbol of the [>II~II--
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 1 3 ~ 1 d ~ i111
h ~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 dm d h o ~ ~ s eind
The g u ~ d ~ nde~ty
g Cv~tii~m
In 7'1b~tan).whose splr~tIS
embodled 111 a work ot a ~ t1s, a focal polnr In the pracrlce
of V a j r ~ y a n a Buddh~sm A lama (reather) selects and
~ritroducesthe btudent to h15 or her ylriam, who 15 also
evoked by an accompanying mantra Together the deity
and mantra safegua~dthe ~ndlv~dual
horn ~ntelnal,psy
cholog~cald~hordersand extel nal, phys~caldangers As an
a ~ to
d visual m e d ~ t a t ~ oan ,plocess necessary to reach the
goal of enlightenment, the gu~dingd e ~ t y1s ' ~ l w a ynearby,
placed In an altar or cdrr~edIn 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 afrom the other Buddh~stpaths While engag-
Ing In deity yoga, the devotee med~tatesand vlsual~zes
Amulet box withfigure of Amitayus
hlmself as one w ~ t hthe y l d a m , thereby dlre~tlngbody,
Dr,rge, ~~ortllensrTibr.t, sllvtr w~tlihrt~ss,1%~ 4 x%? % 1 1 1 . Ko.ic'Art speech and mlnd towards the goal of greater w ~ s d o mand
hllr~z~rn~, Rrtl~ldnsUtllvsrstry, \VaItht~n~, j~~lt~ssnc~l~~~.~ctt.~,
G!P of N . L. compa5slon The qual~tiesrepresented by g u ~ d ~ ndeities
tforrli to the Rlvt-rs~deMusrum Collt.ct~on,I V ~ I . D , J ,y110to:JerryBlow are dormant In each person's mind De~tyyoga and ~ t s
accompanying work of art enable these q u a l ~ t ~ eto
T h 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
Bodh~sattvasare 'heroes of enl~ghtenrnent,' who have
journeys. W h e n a t home, the gau is placed on the altar. Ami-
attained the compassionate motlvarlon to become en
t a y w (alto called Amitabha), the Primord~alor Cosmic Buddha
of the West, IS enshrined w i t h permanent oferings i n theforrn of lightened for others They are d~vlnemed~atorson behalf
the eight Buddhist emblemr of good luck. T h e elaborate, inter- of humans to the Buddhas Because of t h e ~ psycholog~cal
connecting tnetalwork design on the outside contrasts u l t h the closeness to ordlnary be~ngs,they are usually worsh~ped
more classical representation of the deity. more ~nt~mately
than the histor~calor Pr~niord~al
dhas Appeanng early In the Mahayana sutras and closely
assoc~atedw ~ t ht h ~ spath, Bodh~satrvasare ~ ~ s u a l lpor
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 ~ cosnilc
r 11neage
T h e Bodhislrtiv~lAvalokitrsv~ra
Tara, whose name means "one who saves," is anlong The Goddess Tara
the most popular Bodhisattvas of compassion. Wor-
shiped by both Hindus and Buddhists alike, she may ulti- Ncpal, 12th cetitlrry, copper alloy with gilt, pigttlt-nr and settu prrctous

mately derive from an indigenous Mother Nature cult fig-

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
ure symbolizing the creative principle of life. She is
considered the Mother of the Buddhas-past, present In her role as a saviottress, Tara is shown with one handfanng
and future. Tara's many emanations help humanity to out, offering peace, longevity, and good wishes. Her elegantfirm,
overcome emotional difficulties that also correspond emphasized by the sinuous S-curve of her stance, is characteris-
to physical dangers-pridellions, delusionslwild ele- tic of Nepali art. Holding a lotusflower that refers to her birth,
phants, hatredlforest fires, envylsnakes, robberslfanati- she resembles Brahmflnical goddesses like Parvati, thefimale
cism, greedlprisons, lust 1floods. counterpart to Lord Shiva. It is often dijicult to ident~fi,Nepali
According to popular legend, Tara was born out of a goddesses as either Buddhist or Brahmanical, because Newari
lotus that germinated from the tears of Avalokitesvara as artists were responsiblefor the creation of imagesfor both spiri-
tual traditions. Thejigire orignally stood on a lotus-shaped
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-
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 ~[ l t , s r n p ~ ~ u i ~ . )

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. W i t h 4 u r f a c e s 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~delusionsand igno-
rance. His garland oj'jjiy-two severed heads is emblematic of'
the dozens of emot~onalbarriers 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," Penden Lhamo (Shri Devi)
referring to the deities who defend Buddhist teachings.
Tibeto-Chinese,late 17th-early18th century, gilt bronze with pigment, 7%
With fierce expressinns, they are represented in both
x 7% x j in. Rose Art M~ueu~n,
Brilndeis University, Wnltkam, Massa.
sculptures and tangka paintings wearing garlands of chusetrs, Gij of N. L. Ho,rh to the Riverside Museum Collection,
skulls, trampling enemies and holding implements in- 1971.267,photo:J€l'lerry Blow
tended to cut down evil transgressors. The faces and hair
of sculptures are often painted orange-red, a color associ- Penden Lhamo is the onlyfemale deity represented among the
ated with blood and anger. The flames surrounding the eight defenders of the Buddhist faith, called Dharmapalas. She
head heighten the destructive potential of the deity and rides a mule across the Himalayan Mountains bathed in a sea of
blood strewn with human heads and limbs. Lhamo is conceptu-
often symbolize the cremation grounds.
ally related to the Brahmanicalgoddess Kali or Durga who also
On a more personal level, Dharmapalas also symbolize
destroy demons. Her origin har been traced to an indigenous god-
the triumph over the demons within the psyche-anger,
dess of the ancient Bon religion of Tibet. Holding a trident and
hatred and violence-that account for humanity's nega-
scull cupfilled with demon blood, Lhamo sits on the flayed skin
tive impulses. These works of art conjure the self-cen-
of her own son, whom she murdered after her husband, the King
tered ego whose passions and desires obscure sensitivity of Sri Lanka, refused to renounce human sacrifice. Representing
and compassion towards other beings. By meditating the destructiveforces of the Great Mother who clears the wayfor
upon images of these deities, the dark forces and igno- spiritual regeneration, she stailds in sharp contrast to thepeace-
rance within can be directly confronted and no longer fil Tara. Conceptually, thesefierce and peaceful deities represent
feared, clearing the way for transformation and positive the unity and totality of Ife, signaling the end to dualities that
energies. 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 ~ , rft~lllry,
' I ' I ~ L . 17tI1
~.oyyt.rwit11fnlct3.iuf.glf ( ~ t ~pr~ir~f,
rl 4% x 1 x I %
ill., CIS A~~gt,l~,s

DIIIC.Crc~wjbr~l,MI. 70.184

M(~hukula,"The Grec~tBl(~ckOne," is a popll-

L~rprotectorqf t h e t i ~ i t hin both Ncprll r~ttd
Tibet. Holtl~ttga 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~rlythe cremation grounds, .surro~rt~ds
h ~ m Like
. Penden Lhnmo. he hus a third eve. ,,
P gvlng h ~ m the power to see the u l t ~ n ~ areal1
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 hisfinition a s a
Dharmapala, he may also be a personal
yidam orguidingdeity. The initiation rites
associated with M a h a k a l a 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.
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ildonk.\jrom the 7ir. Chcn S h n l ~ c y1,lng Sakya Mona\trry In Kr~thn~andlr
LI wlntl ti))

world yerlce a n d the yrotectl~w~lftlzc envlronment


} ~ I I ( I I L i(t111lt11d
~ qli~lllsk~
Sketchfor a Medicine Buddha sand mandala

Constructed a t the Ackland Art M ~ ~ s e u mFebruary

, ZJ-March 21, zoo1

The Buddha is often considered the Great Physician, diag- in circles, center the devotee by fostering stability and uni-
nosing the suffering that plagues the human mind. The ty. The psychological dissolution of boundaries, contra-
Dharma-through teachings and scriptures-offers the dictions and dichotomies melt away as the beholder
remedy for purifying the mind and ending suffering. The absorbs the work of art.
Sangha, a monastery or spiritual community, functions as a The mandala is a visualization of a particular deity in
nurse by administering the remedy. The Buddha, the Dhar- his or her paradise palace. Its two-dimensional plan re-
ma and the Sangha are thus known as the Three Jewels of sembles a sacred stupa. As a cosmic diagram of Buddha-
Buddhism. hood, it establishes a medtative pattern for achieving en-
For over 2,500 years, the Buddha's teachings have lightenment. Although mandala-making appears in many
offered a multifold path towards the integration of the diverse cultures, Tibetan Buddhists have advanced this art
self on emotional, spiritual and intellectual levels. At the form into a highly developed and specialized genre.
same time, Buddhism offers a guide for more evolved Although mandalas are constructed to accompany
relationships with others based on love and altruism. In secret Tantric initiations, His Holiness the Fourteenth
t h s regard, it is a deeply psychological set of beliefs and Dalai Lama invited the public for the first time, in 1988, to
practices, interweaving art, ritual, meditation and visuali- observe the making of a Kalachakra mandala as a cultural
zation techniques for establishing harmony. Art provides offering at the American Museum of Natural History,
both an important vehicle and transcendent vision- New York City. Since that time, he has personally given or
through symbolic imagery and intense color-to attain authorized many Kalachakra mandalas, the most elabo-
enlightenment. rate and complex design, around the world. His passion-
Mandalas, sacred compositions created in sand or in ate belief in the transformative power of Tantric Bud-
paint, are symbols of the pure, perfected universe, provid- dhist art to foster wisdom, compassion and world peace is
ing a visual framework for establishing feelings of peace, an inspiration to contemporary culture and imagination
well-being and wholeness. Mandala compositions, organ- at the dawn of the twenty-first century.
ized around a symmetrical design, based on squares with-
pp ~ - -

Many people were instrumental in bringing this exhibi- jects on display and in storage: John Listopad, curator of
tion to Fruition. I am grateful to Ray Williams, former Himalayan art, and Stephen Markel, chief curator of
curator of education at the Ackland and currently head of Asian art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Val-
the education department at the Arthur M. Sackler Gal- rae Reynolds, curator of Asian collections at the Newark
leries and Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Museum; Joseph Ketner, director, and John Rexine, regis-
who helped select the works of art for this two-year e x h - trar, at the Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University.
bition. We traveled together, courtesy of a grant from the The Ackland Art Museum was privileged to have two
Museum Loan Network (MLN), to view Buddhisr sculp- monks from the Namgyal Monastery in Ithaca, New
tures, paintings and ritual objects from collections around York, construct a Medicine Buddha sand mandala in our
the country. gallery. I would like to thank the Namgyal Monastery
Lori Gross, director, and Michele Assaf, program asso- Institute of Buddhist Studies, and Venerable Tenzin Desh-
ciate of the MLN, were extremely generous in their time ek, Venerable Tenzin Gephel, Venerable Tenzin Thutop
and encouragement of this project. Support from the and Venerable Tenzin Yignyen for their spiritual inspira-
MLN travel and implementation grants enabled the Bud- tion.
dhist Art and RitualJrom Nepal and Tibet project to include Thanks to William Magee, visiting assistant professor
many components: state-of-the-art exhibition display, cat- in the Department of Religious Studies, at the University
alogue and educational programming opportunities, to of North Carolina at Greensboro, for reading the first
name but a few. draft of this essay and suggesting appropriate changes. I
I would like to thank Jerry Bolas, director of the Ack- appreciate the efforts of Suzanne Rucker, the Ackland's
land Art Museum, who suggested applying to the MLN business manager, who edited the catalogue. Carolyn
and also embraced this project from its earliest stages. Wood, curator of education, read and made suggestions
Andy Berner, assistant director of development, skillfully to the text as well. Credit for the design of this beautiful
shepherded through the design and production of the cat- catalogue goes to Anne Theilgard and Joyce Kachergis of
alogue and web site; Libbie Hough, development assis- Kachergis Book Design, Inc.
tant, garnered media support. Megan Bahr, assistant cura- Finally, 1 would also like to acknowledge the on-going
tor of exhibitions, helped organize the lecture series. Joe support of Jyoti Duwadi, who offered important ideas to
Gargasz, Kirby Sewell and Patrick Krivacka created a both exhibition and catalogue, created the video for this
beautiful installation. Emilie Sullivan, registrar, arranged installation and first introduced me to the arts and rituals
for all of the works to arrive safely at the museum and on of Nepal and Tibet.
time. Michelle Schaufler, director of development, and
Timothy Riggs, assistant director for collections, also Barbara Matilsky
helped facilitate the exhibition. Thanks to Susan Harter, Curator of' Exhibitions
museum secretary, for all of her help. Ackland Art Museum, UNC-CH
The following people welcomed Ray and me into their Chapel Hill, North Carolina
museums, sharing their expertise while showing us ob- October zoo0

Bechert, Heinz, and Richard Gombrich, eds. The World of Bud- . Worlds 4 Transfirmatwn: T i h n Art of \Vdom o d C m
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Frederic, Louis. Buddhism, Flammarion Iconographic Guides. Paris: Newark Museum, 1986.
Flammarion, 1995. Reynolds, Valerie. Tibetan Buddhisr Allar. Newark. N.J.:The
Gyatso. Tenzin (the Fourteenth Dalai Lama), Tsong Khapa, and Newark Museum, 1991.
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cations, 1977 ture. Sommerville. Mass.: Wisdom Publications. 1995.
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Kossack. Steven M., and Jane Casey Singer. Sacred V~sions:Early Press. 1982.
Paintingsfrom Central Tibet. New York: The Metropolitan Snelling, John. Bddhism. Brisbane. Australia: Element Books. 1996.
Museum of Art, Harry M. Abrams, 1998. Stuart, Jan. Guanyin, Thr Chinese Bodhisatlva of Comyatsion.
Mookerjee, Ajit, and Madhu Khanna. The Tantru Way: Arl, Science, Washington. D.C.: Freer Gallery of Art, Srnithsonian 1 n S t i ~ -
Ritual. London: Thames and Hudson, 1989. tion, 1993.
Pal, Pratapaditya. Where the Gods Are Young. New York: The Asia Tucci, Giuseppe, translated from the German and Italian by Ceof-
Society, New York, 1976. key Samuel. The Rtligions qf Tibet. Berkeley: University of
. Art of Tibet. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum Berkeley Press. 1980.
of Art, 1983. WiUson, Martin, ed. In Praise of Taro, Songs to the Saviourrss, Source
. Art of Nepal. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum Texttfroin lr~diaand Tibet On Buddhisnl's Great Goddess. London:
of Art. 1985. Wisdom Publications. 1986.
. Art of the Himalayas. New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1991. Yignyen. Tenzin. The Tibetan Altar. Ithaca. New York: Snow Lion
h e , Marylin M., and Robert A. F. Thurman. Wisdom and Compas- Publications, zooo. See htrp:l lwww.snowlionpub.com/pagesi
sion: The Sacred Art of Tibet. New York: Harry N. Abrams. 1996. altar.html.
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


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~~.

Photo: Barbara Matilsky

Book and cover designed by: Kachergis Book Design. Pirrsboro. N o n h 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~onof 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