Shamwara has four faces and twelve arms. His first two arms are wrapped in
passionate embrace around his consort Vajravarahi. The first two hands hold
a vajra scepter and bell.
Shamvara's hair is arranged in the coif of a yogi and is decorated with a
lunar crescent. This is a reminder that he was first worshipped by the
wandering ascetics of medieval India, and that he shares some attributes
with Shiva. According to legend, the Hindu god Shiva became the Buddhist
deity Shamvara, and his teachings were brought to Tibet in the eleventh
century. Both Shiva and Shamvara are supposed to dwell on Mount Kailash, a
place for pilgrimage for Hindus and Tibetan Buddhists. His name too, for
example, is related to Shamba (Fortunate), an epithet of Shiva.
Several forms of Shamvara are known. The sadhanamala, a 12th century manual
of iconography, identifies this form as Chakrasamvara. In Tibet,
Chakrasamvara is a deity particularly associated with the Kagyu Order,
although he is important to the Geluk and Sakya as well (Beyer, p. 52).
The name Shamvara, or Shambara, itself means Supreme Bliss, the bliss that
is the fruit of Tantric meditation. Similarly, Chakrasamvara, literally
"joined to the wheel," may be interpreted as "joined to the wheel of wisdom
and bliss." Equal to a Buddha, Shamvara is beyond the extremes of samsara
and nirvana. His left foot rests on Bhairava, the Terrifier, who represents
samsara (Snellgrove, pp. 153-54).
Shamvara is a deity of the yidam class, which are personal deities of
Buddhist meditation. A yidam is at once the embodiment of a philosophical
view and a role model, for the meditator, of the Buddha he aspires to
become. A yidam is a "pure appearance," a vision of purity. Tibetans say
that rather than having an ordinary physical form, such a deity is a
congerie of pure symbolic elements. Thus, the deity's attributes are of
paramount importance; they are clues to his identity and to his function in
meditation and ritual. According to Snellgrove, the symbolic interpretation
of Shamvara is as follows:
Each of his face has three eyes, indicating that he sees the (whole)
threefold world and that he knows the substance of the three times (past,
present, and future). He has twelve arms indicating that he comprehends the
evolution and reversal of the twelvefold causal nexus and eliminates these
twelve stages of transmigration.
Click Here to view the sculpture in profile.
Of Related Interest:
Shamvara and Vajravarahi in Yab Yum
Love and Passion in Tantric Buddhist Art
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