The complexion of Chenrezig is white, which emits rays of light, for he is untouched by any imperfection. He has a smiling countenance, as he is filled with compassion for all beings. His two eyes look down with tranquility, as he feels equal compassion for all. His two main hands with palm together hold chintamani, a wish fulfilling gem. The folded hand gesture of the Bodhisattva symbolizes the unity of Wisdom and Method. His right hand holds a rosary, a sign that he draws forth beings from phenomenal existence. His left hand holds a lotus-flower – assign that he serves living beings but is free from attachment. His hair is partly upswept in knots with decoration on it and partly falls on his shoulders. He is adorned with five-leaved crown with jewels and jeweled ornaments, as a sign that while pure he has not abandoned pleasant things. He wears finely crafted hoop earrings, necklaces, armlets, bracelets and anklets; silk scarves and dhoti. An antelope skin is over his left shoulder that indicates his compassion for all human beings.
Shadakshari Lokeshvara or the Six-syllabled Lord of the world embodies his six-syllable mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum. The six syllables of the mantra are the seed syllables of the six realms of the wheel of life. Om is white and stands for the good realm; Ma is green and stands for the demigods or asura realm; Ni is yellow and stands for the human realm; Pad is blue and stands for the animal realm; Me is red and stands for hungry ghost realm; Hum is black and stands for the hell realm. Avalokiteshvara helps to bring all beings from the six realms into enlightenment. It is believed that the sacred syllables invoke the Buddhas of the six realms, who are the manifestations of Avalokiteshvara, as he appears to the beings there to alleviate their suffering. The six realms, or forms, of rebirth as mentioned above are hell beings, hungry ghosts (preta), animals, human, demigods and gods. By repeatedly intoning the mantra, Tibetans and many others who do practices centering upon Chenrezig invoke the presence of a Buddha for the benefit of beings in each of those realms, as well as for increasing their own compassion.
Mandala (mandal)is a Sanskrit word meaning “circle” and the term is of Hindu origin as it appears in the Rig Veda as the name of the sections of the work, but the term is also used in other religions, particularly in Buddhism. In early Buddhism, the mandala can be found in the form of the stupa. In Tibetan Buddhism, mandalas have been developed into sand-painting. in various religious traditions, mandala may be employed for focusing attention of adepts and practitioners, as a spiritual teaching tool, for establishing a sacred space, and as an aid to meditation. In general, mandala has become a generic term for any plan, geometric pattern that represents the cosmos symbolically, a microcosm of the universe from the human perspective.
Tibetan Buddhists or who are following Tibetan forms of Buddhism most commonly used mandalas as an aid to meditation. A Buddhist mandala is visualized as a sacred space, “a Pure Buddha Realm,” and also as an abode of fully realized beings or deities. Moreover mandala is regarded as a place separated and protected from the ever-changing and impure outer world of samsara and thus seen as a place of Nirvana and peace. Further a mandala also represents the entire universe, which is traditionally depicted with Mount Meru as the axis spindle in the center, surrounded by the continents. In another way we may say that mandalas are three-dimensional residence of the deity. Geometrically it is subdivided into squares and circles
The square within the circle represents the building, in which lives the deity. Here Chenrezig is seated in the center as also mentioned above. The building has been constructed to face in four cardinal directions. Here Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are shown seated in the four gateways. The eastern gateway is protected by the Buddha Amoghasiddhi; red-complexioned Buddha Amitabha is protecting southern gate. Bodhisattva Manjushri is protecting the western gate while Goddess Green Tara is protecting the northern gate. Cosmic Buddhas protect each corner of the square. Through the entrance gates, a believer gets inside the mandala. The walls and area inside the square is finely decorated with floral motifs.
The square is surrounded by three circles. The outer circle is of charnel grounds, represents the Buddhist exhortation to always be mindful of death, and impermanence with which samsara is suffused – such locations were utilized in order to realized the transient nature of life. Thus the charnel grounds represent the next stage in the initiatory process of entering the mandala. Then there is a circle of flames, which is stylistically rendered here. This forms a barrier that prevents anything from passing through. However one can pass through this circle only after transformation. Fire in Vajrayana Buddhism means knowledge (prajna) . Without knowledge there is no possibility of arriving at supreme understanding. The circle of flames, thus symbolizes the transforming power of wisdom. By crossing this circle, sadhaka’s ego and illusion will burn away. After this comes a circle of lotus petals. Here the spiritual realm begins and one enters the mandala of Chenrezig. The lotus represents purity and rebirth on a higher level. Within the circle of lotuses is the divine mansion of Shadakshari Lokeshvara with a gateway at each of the cardinal directions.
The top center of this thangka depicts Dhayani Buddha Amitabha, seated on lotus throne and flanked by two dragons in clouds. The left corner is filled with figure of Green Tara. The upper right corner is rendered with the figure of a Nyingma Siddha holding prajna- khadga (wisdom sword) and manuscript. At the bottom Bodhisattva Manjushri is depicted in the left corner, while a Buddha is seated in the right corner under a tree. The bottom center is filled with the figure of wrathful goddess Palden Lhamo, holding command staff and, which is galloping furiously over a sea of blood. Moreover middle ground and foreground also depicts animals, birds, charnel-grounds a stupa and auspicious offerings, respectively. The landscape depicts pancha bhutas - five great elements - earth, water, fire, air, and space. They are symbolically represented here. Rock formations and mountains as shown in the foreground and middle ground depict the element earth here, respectively. Lakes, also shown in the middle ground and foreground, respectively, depict the water here. Aureole flames represent fire; air by cloud formation and space by sky. The brocade is woven with stylized flowers and auspicious Chinese Buddhist symbols. The thangka is very much suitable for sadhana and practices
This description is by Dr. Shailendra K. Verma, whose Doctorate thesis is on “Emergence and Evolution of the Buddha Image (From its inception to 8th century A.D.)”.