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Tibetan Buddhist Altar Table C401-16 "Wisdom beyond the Dharma"

Tibetan Buddhist altar table with dharma wheel on front and back Tibetan Buddhist side view of altar 4 Noble Truths
Front left end
Tibetan furniture Buddhist altar with Dharma Wheel side view of Tibetan Buddhist altar with nectar of immortality tse bum
Back right end
Tibetan Buddhist altar top with painted pheasant  
top  

click on the thumbnail pictures above to see larger views

The Tibetan Buddhist altars iconic theme is wisdom beyond the Dharma, evidenced by the Dharma Wheel on the front and back and the pheasant on top. It speaks to Mahasiddha masters in the line of Padmasambhava. The top with the grand pheasant is bordered with mat like floral decorations in the same style as the windows of some of the monk's residences at the Senge Monastery. The front and back show a Dharma Wheel floating in ether with mare's tail cumulus clouds and rock cliffs to complete the philosophical theme. The art work is clean and masterfully done, the kyungbur (the raised outlining) is excellent. There is an iconography available as a meditation aid for this altar, see below. This beautiful altar table was made for use in a Labrang (lama's residence) in central Tibet. When altars are painted on all 4 sides they are made to be placed in the center of a room with sufficient space to walk around. They were always circumambulated in a clockwise direction. This item is painted on front, top,  back, & both the right & left ends. This altar was never used and has been stored for decades.   The only metal hardware on this piece are the brass Silk Road transit tax coins and round pull on the drawer-fronts at each end. The Tibetan Buddhist altar comes with a Certificate of Authenticity, an iconography explaining the theme and meanings of the various icons along with images of the lama that blessed this altar.

Dimensions: H=19.75" x W=31.5" x D=15.75"   
Age: circa 1900
Materials: Juniper and pine

ON LAYAWAY

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Price $1795.00, plus shipping & crating
Shipping: West Coast $255,

Iconography

The red and 24kt gold zigzag kyungbur adorning the frame is the transition of passion into compassion and the resultant Buddha like purity of actions and thoughts. The 24kt gold continuous ‘T’-wave just under the top edge of the of the offering cabinet is also called the thunder wave. This is the thunder of the vajra (diamond scepter, dorje in Tibetan), symbolizing skilful means, compassion, samsara. This compassion is an active quality rather than mere sympathetic feelings not transformed into action. Compassion refers to action that is exactly consonant with whatever is occurring and that is not self-referential.

The top has at its center a beautiful pheasant on a Champaka blossom surrounded by colorful durva (grass) with the Mahamudra Mists beyond the outlining motif. This is then set over some gold trimmed mats with floral designs over a variation of the Mahamudra mists. The pheasant shows the way to verbalize forgiveness and compassion. The pheasant also teaches the art of concealment and the powers of perseverance and confidence. It is associated with movement through ego; this association is made clear through the beautiful plumage of the bird as the trappings of ego. It is important to note, though, that this attribute is tempered by a balancing act of sorts, and the pheasant’s environment tells us how: He is a riot of glamorous color, but ever-ready to disappear into the tall grasses or sheltering shrubbery when the need arises. In other words, the pheasant can be brilliant, but he is always ready to retract his wiles when the time calls for it. This is a powerful metaphor; we can show our bright colors of creativity and influence in the world – but we must know the proper time in which to do so. The pheasant reminds us that no matter how vibrant and original we may be, if we carelessly throw our gifts out at inappropriate times or to unlistening audiences our efforts are in vain. The symbolism embodied by the pheasant also speaks to us about the value of balance in areas of spirituality. The pheasant deals with thought, dreams, aspiration, spirituality, and things that lift us into higher states of consciousness. The billowing clouds or mist are Mahamudra: the union of compassion and wisdom -- the ultimate realization of one’s true nature.  They are represented as the transformation of our vices into the 4 powers of regret, vow, reliance, and remedy, so the practitioner will realize purification and enlightenment.  This is also the basic meaning of the "Heart Sutra." Last of the top's icons, is the champaka blossom the pheasant is perched upon. The Champaka is the 3rd flower of the holy trinity of flowers in Buddhist symbology, the 1st is the Lotus and the 2nd is the Ashoka. The Champaka is also called the camp flower. The Champaka is a white blossom from the wish-fulfilling tree & is an attribute of Maitreya Buddha, conferring love, compassion & beauty.

The drawers on the ends are each different. The left drawer has an eight petaled flower, with four of the petals being dominate. These four petals represent the Four Noble Truths: 1. Life is suffering. 2. Ignorance is the cause of suffering.  3. The cessation of suffering is the goal of life because it transcends pains and pleasure.  4. The way to the cessation of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path, which aligns with the eight spokes of the Dharma Wheel and this is where those 4 smaller flower petals take on their meaning. The right drawer has a beautiful Tse Bum, which holds the nectar of immortality, and radiating out from it is subtle energy. The subtle energy is the conscious will of the practitioner that influences events through the cosmic mind-stream. This is a Mahasiddhic practice that the masters employ on behalf of other sentient beings. Regarding the Tse Bum, housing the nectar of immortality; it is a reality that we never die, we only change containers, being reincarnated again in a different container.

The front and back feature a Dharma Wheel with mare's tail cumulus clouds above and rock cliffs below. In three parts, the Dharma Wheel exists as a hub, the center of the world.  The eight spokes denote the Eight paths to enlightenment. These 8 steps work together, not separately.  1. right understanding . 2. right attitude  3. right speech  4. right action  5. right work    6. right effort  7. right mindfulness  8. right meditation  The rim represents the attribute of limitation.  All are contained within a circle, which is perceived to be perfect and complete, like the teachings of the Buddha. The center of the Dharma Wheel is the yin-yang. Yin is the female, the passive, the receptive, the dark and the soft. Yang is the masculine, the active, the light and the stern. The joining of the two created from the One is the source of creative energy in the Universe. Mare's tail cumulus clouds are quite common in Tibet. One significance of these fast moving clouds and the pure clarity of the sky is metaphorically an illustration of the Buddha Mind. Clouds may come and go across the heavens, like the transitory thoughts or delusions which appear to obscure the mind's true nature, yet the nature of the sky remains unchanged. The rock/cliff formation represents the syllable "E" which appears in the opening stanza of early Buddhist scriptures, ("'thus,' I have heard"). The blue and green cliffs represent the unmoving nature of the mind when enlightenment has been attained. The tops of these cliffs have Kusha grass growing out of them. Kusha grass grows to a height of two feet and is used to purify defilements.  Those wishing purification sleep in a field or patch of kusha grass for ritual purification.  Placed under a pillow at night before initiation, Kusha grass is believed to produce clear dreams; it is also used to enhance the clarity of visualization and meditation.  Kusha is the grass of choice for the manufacture of sacred meditation mats.

I have called this Tibetan altar table "Wisdom Beyond the Dharma" for the following reason: the table speaks to a Mahasiddhic Master that keeps a low profile, yet has access to a beautiful power. The master does not seek disciples, or followers and does not seek to stand out; yet he has this ability to generate subtle energy to use on behalf of others on any scale he/she so chooses; whether it be for an individual, a group or all of humanity. To get to this point the Four Noble truths must be understood, and the Eight Fold Path must be followed. There are additional steps that must be taken, a realization of the cosmos and the mind-stream and how to connect and use that connection for the benefit of others.

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