The top drawer has a 4-petaled flower centered behind the drawer-pull, with multicolored Durva grass meandering out from the flower. The top & bottom border of golden Durva grass are convex & concave, respectively, forming the eye of Buddha with the 4-petaled flower as the iris & cornea. The 4-petaled flower is symbolic of the 4 Noble truths, the middle way & the first teaching of Buddha: 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 & pleasure. 4. The way to the cessation of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path, which aligns with the eight spokes of the Dharma Wheel. Durva grass is a symbol of long life. Because grass is highly resilient, it is believed to be immortal. Therefore, it proclaims the end of samsara, the successive death & rebirth of all beings. It usually takes a long time to overcome samsara, & a longer lifespan will allow greater progress towards enlightenment within a given cycle. The "eye of Buddha " pertains to Adibuddha, the meditating one who sees in all directions. This design is repeated on the left side's top panel & is the principal difference between the left & right sides.
The two doors have twin golden dragons, each clutching blue & green pearls & chasing the elusive flaming golden-pearl. Unlike its demonic European counterpart, the Tibetan dragon is a creature of great creative power, a positive icon representing the strong, male yang-principle of heaven, change, energy, wealth & creativity. Dragons are shape-shifters, able to transform at will, from as small as the silkworm to a giant that fills the entire sky. Dragons are usually depicted in one of two colors, green or brown. The green, or azure, dragon of Buddhism ascends into the sky at the spring equinox; it represents the light's increasing power in springtime & the easterly direction of the sunrise. The brown dragon is the autumn equinox, descending into a deep pool, encasing itself in mud until the next spring, but its spirit is still with the practitioner, bringing wealth & health. In this case, the golden dragon represents the purity of Buddha-like thought that is maintained year-round. The pearls, or jewels, clutched in the claws of the dragon represent wisdom & health. The dragon can control the weather by squeezing the jewels to produce dew, rain, or even downpours when clutched tightly. The dragon is the vehicle of Vairochana, the white Buddha of the center or east.
The top-panel on the right has 3 Cintamani, flanked by elephant tusks. Cintamani are wish-granting jewels & additionally represent wisdom. When depicted in sets of 3, they represent the body, speech & mind of Buddha such as the practitioner may possess. Cintamani are also referred to as the “Thinking Jewel” & symbolize the importance of teaching as well as the enlightened mind. Elephant tusks are symbolic of the whole elephant & are indicative of Chakravartin's Precious Elephant. 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, & analysis. .
Each side's center panel has a frontal view of the golden dragon with Mahamudra instead of clouds. Mahamudra is the billowing clouds or mist which represents the union of compassion & 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, & remedy, so the practitioner will realize purification & enlightenment. A great master who has attained Mahamudra no longer perceives the world as a conceptual, concrete dimension; rather, he now permeates space as mist, also known as the ultimate form of reality. The self now permeates space with luminescence transparency, with nothing solid or any sharp lines of separation. This is also the basic meaning of the "Heart Sutra."
The lower panels on both the right & left sides have a Dharma Wheel set in the Mahamudra, flanked by budding lotus flowers with durva grass for fronds. The Dharma wheel is in three parts: A hub, the center of the world. The 8 spokes denote the 8 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 & complete, like the teachings of the Buddha. The growth of the lotus, its roots in mud, growing through water, & emerging as a wonderful plant above the surface, is seen as an analogy of the soul’s path from the mud of materialism to the air of enlightenment. Just as the lotus blossom rises above the mud & is beautiful, so must you raise your thinking with pure thoughts that are noble & praiseworthy; then, you also will be beautiful. The lotus in mid-blossom represents the present time; a bud represents the past, while the full-bloom represents the future.
The Tibetan name is Chösum for the cabinet presented on this page. They were used as a butter lamp stand and as a butter sculpture stand for offerings and ritual purposes. It also housed the toma, a small sculpture used as an offering, made of tsampa. Tsampa is a staple of the Tibetan diet, composed of barley powder and yak butter. Usually once each year the High Lama will come to the practitioners house with the toma stick (see below), a long 4 sided mold for making different offerings, and make specific offerings for the family. Using the tsampa dough the High Lama would press the required amount into the carved molds on the toma stick for each specific request or need. These then will be kept for the entire year in the cabinet, taken out periodically and placed on the top of the cabinet and a little melted butter will be added for a new offering. Ornate Chösum stands like this one would only be found in a labrang (lama’s home).
The Toma stick has carved molds on all 4 sides, these carvings are the Auspicious symbols, the 12 zodiac symbols, peaceful and wrathful deities and other iconic representations and offerings. The Toma stick pictured here is more than 300 years old, over 27" in length and is a very large one; usually they are about 1/3 to 1/4 this size. It developed a small check or crack that cuts through the Dharma wheel, Parasol and the Victory Banner rendering it unsuitable formaking those molds.