The Dictionary of Buddhist Iconography is an endeavour of half a century to identify, 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 the 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 such several 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.
Prof. Lokesh Chandra is a renowned scholar of Tibetan, Mongolian and Sino-Japanese Buddhism. He has to his credit over 360 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 Art in about 20 Volume. Prof. Lokesh Chandra was nominated by the President of the 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.
Symbol and form are embodied in the vast pantheon of Buddhism as a panorama of transience, appearance and spiritual flow. Forms, shapes and images become a pilgrimage of the eyes and the beyond: para-gate para-sangate bodhi svaha.. The phenomenal world of the icon become the energy of meditation, and the aniconic of non-being. Borne on this dream of form, the human spirit evolves into the evanescence of immensity. A calm of the eyes dissolving into the vision and fury of intense depths, the Dhyana-paramita, who begins this fourth volume.
The several forms of a single deity due to varying contexts, different centuries and several geographic regions add to the multiple expressions of a single theonym. Their symbolic representation, hand postures or mudras, hierograms or bijas, and mantras evidence ever-going evolution.
The Derge of Tibetan master are at times prefixed by a geographical location, e.g. Dnul. Chu Dharmabhadra. They have been entered under the geographic habitat, and cross-referenced under the proper name. Thus Dnul. Chu Dharmabhadra is entered under Dnul. chu, with a reference under Dharmabhadra.
Dpal.Idan.iha.mo and her entourage deserves special mention. The Tibetan name is a translation of Remati wherein re is Sanskrit rai 'wealth, riches', like revat 'wealthy, prosperous'. She is the glory (rai, sri) of dominion, the Rajya-laksmi. Lha.mo Remati and Dmag.zor.ma are equated in the index to the Peking edition of the Tibetan Tanjur. The four Rematis (Dhumavati or Kamadhatvisvari, Chief Remati Dpal.Idan.iha.mo, Svayambhurajni, and Sankhapali) are accompanied by four emanation in different existences of Raksasi R., Nagi R., Yaksi R. and Garudi R. All of them have been described at one place, to bring out the distinctions and interrelationship.
The enumerations of the eighty-four siddhas in the three traditions of Camparanya, Vajrasana, and Nepal are well-known from Tibet. The lives of the eighty-four siddhas of Camparanya (mod. Champaran in Bihar) have been narrated at length by Abhayadatta. They are illustrated most of the time. The lineage of the eightyfour siddhas of Vajrasana (mod. Bodh Gaya) is known in the short verses of Ratnakaragupta. They are depicted on the exquisite thankas at Stockholm (Schmid 1958). The eightyfour siddhas of a Nepalese monastery were listed by Srisena in AD 1130 with brief indications in the Tanjur (Toh 4317), but no sketches or scrolls have been found. While some names are common among them, quite a number of siddhas are specific and unique to each tradition. The different series of eightyfour siddhas are like the transmission lineages (brgyud.rim) of Tibet, which are related to guru-paramparas.
Ganapati has forty-six iconographic forms and invites a monographic study. So too the multiple expressions of Garuda.
Some of the Bon deities, like Gsas.rnam.pa on page 1298, have been illustrated for the first time (?) in line drawings by Venerable Lopon Tenzin Namdak.
These divine gods and goddesses live close to the life of Asia in a combination of the profound and the naïve, of the simple and the whole, the worship of the poet and the peasant, the subtle and sublime mystically dripping in an evanescent tinge.
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