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 tenth volume incorporates names of deities, Tathagatas, Bodhisattvas, teachers and other hieronyms, beginning with R and some entries of S. The vast geo-cultural development of the pantheon in Buddhist countries virtually made it a visual language of meditation. In this polytheos, man the microtheos gained extension of the frontiers of consciousness in a harmony that unifies the cosmos and the Divine.
Ragaraja, also known as Takkiraja, is fierce and passionate. Sixteen forms are described, with two, four, six and eight arms. The root text for his iconography and ritual is the Yugikyo (or Yoginitantra) in Chinese translation and commentaries thereon by Japanese masters. This is the only anuttara-yoga Tantra in the living practice of Japan.
Ratnasambhava is well-known as one of the Five Jinas or Transcendental Buddhas. His principal form in modern literature is that which is found in the Vajradhatu-mandala. When Hodgson laid the foundations of modern scientific study of Buddhist art, he thought that the Five Jinas explained to him by the Residency Pandit Amritanand were standard. From the formulation in this volume, we find 25 variant forms of Ratnasambhava. The original text of each form has been cited, and that enables us to locate every form in its appropriate context. An important feature of this Dictionary is to contextualise each form, so that its position in the mandala, ritualistic role, or philosophical interpretation can be formulated with precision within the tradition.
Rdo.rje.bdud.hdul is one of the twenty eight generals who accompany Mahadeva Mahesvara (Lha.chen Dban.phyug.chen.po) and his consort Umadevi (Tib. transcribed). They are generals (Tib.sde.dpon) of various genres like maras, raksasas, yaksas, grahas, nagas, matrkas, asuras, dakinis, yaksa-rudras, btsan demons, hgon.po demons, vighnas, tirthikas, dmu demons, gin, dharmapalas, etc. Mahesvara and Umadevi thus occupy an important status in Tibetan ritual and iconography. They have been described and illustrated by Rudolf Kaschewsky and Pema Tsering, in Sde-dpon Sum-cu: Ritual und Iconographie der "Dreissig Schutzgottheiten der Welt" (Harrassowitz Verlag, 1998). They are not thirty protective (Schutz) deities, but are Mahesvara and Uma with twenty eight generals of different kinds of beings.
Twenty eight yaksa generals are mentioned in the Suvarna-bhasottama-sutra 85.4. In the Lalita-vistara 202.9-12 they are led by Pancika and the five hundred sons of Hariti (astavimsati-mahayaksa-senapatayah Pancika-yaksasenapati-purvangamani ca panca-hariti-putra-satani). The twenty eight generals also accompany Sahasrabhuja Avalokitesvara (see page 2992f.) The names of the generals are different in every case, but they seem to reflect ancient strategic formulations.
The entry on Rocana deserves specials mention. Though known for a long time as Roshana Daibutsu, or the Colossal Rocana at Nara, Rocana has been overshadowed by Vairocana. For several centuries the colossi of Rocana dominated the sculptural art of Buddhist Asia, as a symbol of power, or the polities of eternity. Though with varied iconic attributes, he is called Abhyucca-deva or the imposing colossus in the Gandavyuha.
Sahasrabhuja Avalokitesvara is thousand-armed, but he has syncopated forms with two, four, six or eight arms, in Japanese pantheons as early as the 11th century, and in Nepalese sketch-books.
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