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 altar 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 drawers have a gold zig-zag with Kusha grass sprouting out with 4-petaled flowers in the center. This is reminiscent of the Choyon fabrics of the 17th century that influenced Tibetan Buddhist art. Kusha grass grows to a height of two feet and is used to purify defilement. 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 4-petaled flower is symbolic of the 4 Noble truths, the middle way and 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 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.
The doors feature a beautiful lotus flower surrounded by durva grass that gives way to the Mahamudra Mists, all the while being urged on by blue and green rock cliffs with kusha grass growing out of the tops. The lotus flower is another natural symbol and represents earth. 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 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. 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 and rebirth of all beings It usually takes a long time to overcome samsara, and a longer lifespan will allow greater progress in moving towards enlightenment within a given cycle. 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." 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 sides have Cintamani with detailed flames in kyungbur sitting on a Ashoka throne, with 4-petaled flowers, the Queen's earrings and precious red coral along with more cintamani that float in the red ether. 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 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). This flower sprouted when Amitabha heard of Ashoka, a great warrior, that lead his people to freedom, overcoming and defeating overwhelming forces of the enemy. The Queen's Earrings are one of seven precious possessions of Chakravartin. The 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 his detachment from all things earthly. The Queen speaks the truth, using no frivolous words and holding no false vices. the Chakravartin, or Wheel Turner
The term 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."
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.