On the exterior, Garuda is depicted, composed of turquoise, red coral and other gemstone. Faceted beads of emerald, ruby with other gemstone surround the scene. At the top of the box, there is tube with a vajra and a faceted ruby, while at the bottom, are faceted ruby with twin emerald and reel ornamented tube appears capped with conical ends, and below that is a ring for suspending other ornaments or tassel. Moreover there is stupa shaped open work lattice design below the figure of Garuda. The back of the cover is embossed with syllable mantra Om Ah Hum.
The cover of the box opens with a hinge at left side to reveal an image of the Future Buddha Maitreya which has been depicted against a fine filigree work. He is made of turquoise and sits on an elevated seat in bhadrasana. His both the hands are in vitarka-mudra (preaching-gesture). His attributes, dharmachakra (wheel) and kalasha (vase) on lotuses are made of red coral, while lotuses are made of faceted emerald and ruby etc. Faceted gemstones are also set on the crown of Maitreya. Turquoise, red coral and emerald surrounded the image of Maitreya, are set with a brilliant wire work on the side of the walls of the box. The front of the seat which support the feet of future Buddha are decorated with faceted emerald and ruby.
Garuda, the mythic solar bird, possesses talismanic properties associated with his being a natural enemy of serpents. He is popular both in Buddhist and Brahmanical pantheon. Half-bird and half-man, the wing Garuda, holds a serpent in his beak and outstretched arms. He is supposed to protect against diseases associated with water and illnesses connected with serpents.
Maitreya embodies the enduring hope for the liberation of all sentient beings, for even if the Dharma were to fade or be or be forgotten on earth, there will be another Buddha to discover and reveal the precious truths that can help to free living beings from suffering. Moreover Maitreya is the example of individual enlightenment, the role model for all practitioners in their aspiration to become future Buddhas. The future savior Maitreya personifies loving-kindness (maitri) , an aspect of compassion.
Maitreya, thus, is the hope of civilization expressing the invisible future by means of the visible. He is the lord of enlightenment and the representation of mercy. It is said that whereas Avalokiteshvara delivers from suffering, Maitreya confers happiness. There is variety of the form of Maitreya with various combinations of attributes and mudras. Buddhist philosopher Asanga visited Maitreya in Tushita heaven and was initiated into the mysteries of tantra. The devotees of Maitreya hoped to be reborn in His heaven and the conception of Him as the future Buddha endowed His followers with further hope that if they could be redeemed by his teachings. And with this spirit followers wear his amulet box.
Alice Getty, Gods of Northern Buddhism, Tokyo, 1962
Barbara Lipton & Nima D. Ragnubs, Treasures of Tibetan Art, New York, 1996
Hannelore Gabriel, Jewelry of Nepal, London, 1999
Jane Casey Singer, Gold Jewelry from Tibet and Nepal, London, 1996
Lokesh Chandra, Transcendental Art of Tibet, Delhi, 1996
Marylin M. Rhie & Robert A.F. Thurman, Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet, Thames and Hudson, 1996
Marylin M. Rhie & Robert A.F. Thurman, Worlds of Transformation: Tibetan Art of Wisdom and Compassion, New York, 1999
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.)".
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