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Tibetan Buddhist Art furniture & Antiques from the monasteries of the Ser Shong (Golden Valley)
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Buddhist Altar Table C401-22

tibetan furniture, a Buddhist altar table hand painted front view with Manjushri's blue sword sitting on a lotus throne with other Buddhist symbols Tibetan altar table with a stack of Cintamani and Chakravartin's precious possessions hand painted
Front left end *
Tibetan furniture back view with Manjushri's blue sword surrounded by Kusha grass in the place of the usual flames of purification and other Buddhist symbols right end view of hand painted Buddhist shrine or altar table with offerings of fine cloths, Cintamani, gold coral and leopard skins
Back * right end *
top view of hand painted Tibetan Buddhist furniture with offering bowl filled with red coral, background with lotus and ashoka flowers 2 of the holy Tibetan Buddhist flower symbols  
top  

click on the thumbnail pictures above to see larger views

The Tibetan Buddhist altars iconic theme is that of gaining victory over delusions, self deception, ignorance and hindrances to enlightenment. the front and back feature Manjushri's blue sword sitting upon a lotus throne; instead of the usual flames that burn away ignorance there are multicolored kusha grass that indicate purification much the same as the flames do. 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, this has taken a small toll on the art work as the large variances in temperatures have had an adverse effect and made effective cleaning very difficult. The top is exquisitely painted, featuring a nice offering bowl with precious red coral as an ultimate offering. This is set in the Mahamudra mists of the pure lands, and is bordered by blue and red chrysanthemums. Several of Chakravartin's Precious possessions are evident on the sides as well as Cintamani, the jewel of wisdom.   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, a map of the Amdo region where the Sange monasteries are located, and pictures and additional information about the monasteries and people of the Golden Valley; there is also pictures of the lama that blessed this altar.

*Please note there is some damage to the kyungbur on the left side front leg and the right side front leg; this is not structural damage, just some water damage to the art work on this particular leg. There is also some damage to the paint on the back panel, mostly to the blue trim surrounding the main art work.

Dimensions: H=19.9" x W=31.4" x D=15.75"   
Age: circa 1930-50
Materials: Juniper and pine

SOLD SHIPPED TO HIGHLAND, NY

Price $1295.00, plus shipping & handling
Shipping: West Coast $195, Mtn. States $219, Mid West $230, Atlantic coast $245  Canadian destinations contact us  for a quote. 

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 of this nicely done altar sets the tone and compliments the theme for the sides and ends. The top is exquisitely painted, with precious red coral sitting in an offering bowl, an offering bowl has a base while an alms bowls does not. The flower to the left of the offering bowl is an Ashoka blossom, the flower to the right is a Lotus blossom and chrysanthemums adorn the border. In the background there are mare's tail cumulus clouds making for a typical Tibetan scene. Red coral is the ultimate in offerings, being very valuable and represents compassion as an action and not a thought. The Ashoka, the second of the  trinity of holy flowers, sprouts from the holy water-font of the Amitayus, one of the forms in which the Buddha Amitabha appeared (symbolizing the transformation from greed to discriminating wisdom).  The sprout materialized from a tear that Buddha Amitabha shed when hearing of the deeds of the great warrior Ashoka that overcame all of his enemies to win freedom for his oppressed people. True spiritual freedom comes from overcoming the sins and lusts that enslave the soul. Tibetan Buddhist mystics imagined the earth floating like a lotus flower on the oceans of the universe. The heart of the flower is the cosmic mountain, the axis of the universe. The lotus also has very deep spiritual meaning as explained later in the iconography. The chrysanthemum symbolizes autumn & the gathering of the harvest. In this case, it is a metaphor for achieving the goal of enlightenment & its accompanying peace. The blue represents compassion. Red is the transmutation of passion into compassion. 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. this is like the mirror, which is always unaffected by the appearances which arise in it, the sky is clear, transparent, infinite and immaculate.  

The drawers on the ends have a stack of Cintamani with three of Chakravartin's seven Precious Possessions sitting on top of leopard skins covered with a fine cloth offering. The top Cintamani is actually Chakravartin's Precious 8-faceted jewel, to the left are his Precious Queens earrings and flanking both sides of the Cintamani are elephant tusks representing his Precious Elepahnt. Cintamani are wish-granting jewels and additionally represent wisdom.  When depicted in sets of 3, they represent the body, speech and mind of Buddha such as the practitioner may possess.  Cintamani are also referred to as the “Thinking Jewel” and symbolize the importance of teaching and as well as the enlightened mind. Pictured here are 6 flaming jewels.  The flames around the border of the top blue jewel of Chakravartin are symbolic of the burning away of false desires and ignorance, giving way to enlightenment. The term Chakravartin, AKA Wheel Turner
in Hinduism refers to an ideal ruler, but in Buddhism, Chakravartin has come to mean a Buddha whose all-encompassing teachings are universally true.  Chakravartin has an army of 4 divisions, infantry, cavalry, elephants, and chariots. Chakravartin is the lineage of 25 Kulika kings or enlightened monarchs, the 25th of which will finally defeat the "non-believers." Chakravartin's Eight-faceted blue jewel, has eight magical properties: it cools when the days are hot, warms when the days are cold, illuminates the darkness of night, causes rain to fall or a spring to appear when one is thirsty, it brings to fruition what ever the bearer desires, it heals emotional afflictions, and cures all of the diseases of those who are in its range of its light and lastly prevents untimely death as in fathers passing on before sons.
The Precious Queen's heavy earrings are taken as a symbol of comprehension of the Buddha’s teachings.  The weight of the earrings would have caused the wearers earlobes to elongate.  The long earlobes of the Buddha are a symbol of her detachment from all things earthly. The Queen speaks the truth, using no frivolous words and holding no false vices. The Precious Elephant is a symbol of the strength of the mind in Buddhism. Exhibiting noble gentleness, the precious elephant serves as a symbol of the calm majesty possessed by one who is on the path. Specifically, it embodies the boundless powers of the Buddha, which are miraculous aspiration, effort, intention, and analysis.  Elephant tusks are sometimes depicted and are always symbolic of the whole elephant.  

The front and back feature Manjushri's blue sword sitting upon a lotus throne, flanked by rock cliffs and lotus buds, all set in the Mahamudra mists. In general a sword in Buddhism represents the victory of enlightenment over the the hosts of Mara, the thundering forces of ignorance . So states Bodhicharyavatara; “As the blade of a sword cannot cut itself, neither does the mind know itself.” In other words our own minds deceive us and we must cut through our own self deception. Manjushri, meaning the Gentle Holy One, is the Bodhisattva personifying dynamic wisdom and transcendental knowledge. Depicted as an eternally young prince, he reflects the Buddhist belief that wisdom does not relate to age or accumulated experience. In Buddhism, wisdom is the result of cultivating the spiritual capacity that is the guide to finding the true heart of reality. His sword, always blue, cuts through ignorance and brings wisdom, the ability to discriminate. The generally acknowledged meaning of the lotus flower is purity of mind or divine creation. From the muck of a pond, where the roots of the lotus reside, an immaculate white flower emerges to rest on the surface of the water as a metaphor for the harmonious unfolding of spirituality. The lotus is an important Buddhist motif.  Images of the Buddha and other important persons often are shown seated on a lotus throne.  The growth of the lotus, with its roots in mud, growing through water, and emerging as a wonderful plant above the water's surface, is seen as an analogy of the soul’s path from the mud of materialism to the purity of enlightenment. The 3 stages of the lotus, bud, utpala (mid-blossom) and the full blossoming throne represent the past present and future respectively. 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. 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."

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