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 gods and goddesses will be there, as long as there is humankind. They are the palingenesis of the fire of the human mind, a symbol of the sky-void steps into a spring mist of luminous consciousness. The power dwelling withing them restores to our dreaming ink all its crystals in their visual representation.
This volume begins with the mega-entry of Manjusri and ends with the letter N. Manjusri has 106 forms with a bewildering variation in their attributes. We have even a Thousand-armed Manjusri holding a bowl in each hand and hence called Sempatsu Monju in Japanese: Sem 'thousand', pastu 'bowl', Monju 'Manjusri'. A complete tantra is devoted to him and it survives in the Chinese translation by Amoghavajra completed in AD 740. It is larger than the Guhyasamaja-tantra.
Four concupiscent goddesses who accompany Vajrasattva are Manoja-vajrini or Ista-vajrini, Mana-vajrini, Raga-vajrini, and Kelikila-vajrini. The pentad is known as Pancaguhya. In China, they were replaced by four goddesses of offering (puja-devi): Dhupa, Gandha, Dipa and Puspa. Their attributes were transferred to their male consorts in the Sino-Japanese mandala:
Manoja-vajrini or Ista-vajrini arrow transferred to Manoja-vajra or Ista-vajra
Replaced by Dhupa
Mana-vajrini pride transferred to Mana-vajra
Replaced by Gandha
Raga-vajrini ensign transferred to Raga-vajra
Replaced by Dipa
Kelikila-vajrini visvavajra transferred to Kelikila-vajra
Replaced by Puspa
Their original attributes survive in the Indonesian bronzes from Surocolo, dateable to the tenth century (see p.2245 of this volume).
The goddess Marici has twenty four forms (pages 2253-2274). She represents the Goddess of the Dawn. In the Nispanna-yogavali she is surrounded by twelve goddesses whose names end in masi. Their nomenclature has been explained for the first time in this Dictionary: masi is the back ointment to paint the eyes, as one of the sixteen elements of the make-up of a lady (sodasa-srngara); and at the end of a feminine name it means a beauty. The names of the twenty four attendant goddesses pertain to the dawn.
The names of the Twelve Generals of Bhaisajyaguru in their Chinese transcriptions and Tibetan translations have been an enigma. They have been corrected according to the readings in three Gilgit manuscripts of the Bhaisajyaguru-sutra (nos. 10, 31, 34). These corrections are supported by the Tibetan Translations of the names based on folk etymologies (see for instance Mekhila on page 2291).
While this Dictionary presents the vast riches of the ever-evolving Buddhist iconography in several countries, it compares and thereby corrects the nomenclature of the deities, besides bringing forth new explanations of the theonyms. While a definitive treatment may have to wait, herein are shadings of the inexhaustibility of the entire mindscape:
The flowers whirl away
In the wind like snow.
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