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.
The flowing theogonic manifestations of dhyana are a dialogue with 'The Search Within', a visit to the interior spaces of life, a continuing journey into the depths. Here we are at the bridge between the human and the divine, in a no-place (eutopia) of meditation, in the rupa of the arupa-dhatu, symbolized as deities. From is an upaya to lead to the formless divine element within the individual. Now, some specifics of this volume.
Mahakala is one of the Sixteen Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas in the main temple of Tabo. The attribute in his hands has escaped identification. He has also been delineated in the Japanese work Shighu-goma
zuzo as early as AD 821. This work enables us to identify the mountain held in his hands. It means that he is a sailendra 'lord of the mountains'. The Tabo Mahakala sanctified the dominion the Guge kings over their sprawling kingdom in the Himalayas.
Mahakala has played a major role in Sino-Japanese Buddhism as well as in Lamaism. In 1274 Anige made an image of Mahakala, on the request of the Imperial Preceptor Phagspa, to fortify the Mongols in their struggle against the Southern Song. Khubilai Khan succeded in his southern campaign, and he came to be known as the embodiment of Mahakala on the symbolic plane. Mahakala was henceforth essential to the charismatic power of the Mongol Emperor. Centuries later, in 1604 when Ligdan Khancame to the throne, Sarba Khutuktu brought to him the Mahakala image of Khubilai Khan. It linked him to Emperor Khubilai, symbolized his imperial rights, was a protector of his dominions, and vanquished his enemies: he tramples on a corpse with a crown. Ligdan refers to Legs. Idan Mgon. Po or Bhagavat Mahakala. Because of the Sa. Skya hierarch Phagspa, the Imperial Preceptor of Khubilai Khan, Mahakala has been highly popular among the Sakyapa sect. A vast range of ninety-seven forms of Mahakala are recorded in this volume.
Heruka is a generic term for a number of deities, among them is Mahamaya-Heruka. The Tibetan transcription Ma.ha.maya and the corresponding translation Sgyu.ma.chen.po (with the masculine suffix po) raised doubts about the correct orthography. The other Tibetan translation Sgyu.ma.chen.mo. with the feminine suffix mo clearly indicates that it is a feminine form. SM 248 elaborates that this Heruka is from the Mahamaya-tantra, and hence his name Mahamaya-Heruka.
This volume includes all the five protective goddesses known as Pancaraksa: Mahapratisara in the centre, Mahasahasra-pramardani in the east, Mahamantr-anudharani in the south, Mahasitavati (or ni) in the west, and Mahamayuri in the north. The Pancaraksa authority Prof. Gerd J. R. Mevissen of the Freie Universitat Berlin has gone through the entries on the five goddesses and obliged me by his valuable suggestions.
Mahasthamaprapta occupies an important place among the Bodhisattvas as one of the two acolytes of Amitabha. He appears in a number of forms, which points to the iconic dynamics of even leading Bodhisattvas.
Mahesvara is represented in the Buddhist traditions with two, four, six, eight, eighteen and thousand arms, as well as in subordinate positions (as being crushed under the feet of some deity). He has twenty-seven types in this Dictionary.
Maitreya the Buddha-to-be appears extensively in the art of Gandhara, with his long-necked kundika. As the Future Buddha he became so popular that he was owned in the later Pali tradition. The Three Buddhas (Dipankara, Sakyamuni, Maitreya) of the three times (past, present and future) were the eternal dimension of Buddhism. As many as forty-five forms of Maitreya as registered herein.
The letter 'M' which forms this volume will be continued in the next eighth volume. It is a continuing pilgrimage to the realm of shapes, with the gods in caravan constantly assuming different aspects in their great flux.
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