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C500-14 Tibetan Buddhist Altar/Reading desk

Antique Tibetan reading desk front view with Tsebum long life elixir, gold offering bowl with Cintamani jewels hand painted
front view left view
Summer dragon clutching jewels on top of a Antique Tibetan reading desk hand painted  
top view  

Click on the thumbnail pictures above to see larger views

A grand Summer dragon with flaming legs moves through the sky clutching jewels on the top of this antique Tibetan furniture used primarily as a reading desk; sometimes they were used as a small altar table. The sides have a jewel toting Zipak done in 24kt gold, while the front sports a stout lotus with plenty of mare's-tailed clouds moving on a red background. It was used by a high lama to read and teach the Tibetan Buddhist scriptures. The end supports pivot underneath the table top, the entire front support then pivots over the top of the two end supports into a cavity that is under the top. The front, sides and apron continuing around to the back side are done in the hallmark kyungbur that originated at the Sange Monasteries in the 13th century. The gold work on the sides and front is 24kt gold. The size of the top is just perfect for reading the loose leaf pages of Tibetan scriptures, while the opening in the back allows for the reader to sit in the diamond position with the top over their legs. Comes with a Certificate of Authenticity brush signed by a monk at the Sange monastery.

Age: circa 1920
Dimensions (overall)    H=12" W=30.5" D=13.5" 

SOLD SHIPPED TO MARYVILLE, IL

item #C500-14 Price $659.00, plus shipping: ~WEST COAST $72.00 MTN STATES 79.00 ~ MID-WEST $85.00 ~ EAST COAST $94.00

Iconography

  The zigzag gold and red design on the apron represents the transmutation of passion in to compassion and the purity of thought and actions that comes from this transformation. 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 addition of a chrysanthemum type flower symbolizes autumn & the gathering of the harvest. In this case, it is a metaphor for achieving the goal of enlightenment & its accompanying peace.

The top dominated by a summer dragon with flaming leg joints, clutching Cintamani jewels while gliding through the sky. The dragon is showcased with in a frame that represents the eye of Buddha; surrounding this frame is durva grass with Ashoka blossoms in the corners. 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 and 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 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 and the easterly direction of the sunrise. The brown dragon is the autumn equinox, when it descends into a deep pool, encasing itself in mud until the next spring, but its spirit is still with the practitioner bringing wealth and health. The pearls, or jewels clutched in the claws of the dragon represent wisdom and 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 the east. Grass, in sanskrit, Durva, is a symbol for long (or Longer) life and is used in life-enriching rituals. grass, being highly resilient, is believed to be immortal and so proclaims the end of samsara, the successive death and rebirth of all beings. 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.

The front support has a gold offering bowl filled with Cintamani, and three of Chakravartin's Precious Possessions: the eight-faceted blue jewel, the Queen's earrings and the elephant, which is represented by the elephant tusks. On the left side of the bowl is the Tsebum, a jar of long-life elixir and 3 bilva fruit; on the right is a lotus blossom. Behind the bowl is a leopard skin draped with offerings of fine cloth; just above this are rays of subtle energy. Last at the upper corners are the Mahamudra Mists. Cintamani are wish-granting jewels and additionally represent wisdom.   Cintamani are also referred to as the “Thinking Jewel” and symbolize the importance of teaching and as well as the enlightened mind. The top Cintamani with the gold flames surrounding it is Chakravartin's Precious eight-faceted jewel. Eight-faceted jewel, as in having 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 term Chakravartin, or 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. 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.  When elephant tusks are depicted, they are symbolic of the whole elephant. The pointed 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." 

Both end supports have a Zipak holding strings of jewels or Cintamani. Zeeba or Zipak (Tibetan) The Zipak originates in a Shaivite legend from the Shandha Purana.  Shiva created a demon called Jalandhara from the blaze of his third eye.  Jalandhara assumed great power and desired an incestuous relationship with Parvati, the consort of Shiva and Jalandhara's adoptive mother.  Jalandhara persuaded Rahu, one of his demonic friends, to demand Parvati's favor.  When Shiva got wind of this, he was understandably outraged, so his third eye blazed again, thereby creating the Zeeba, who made a beeline to devour Rahu.  Rahu decided that Zeeba was going to eat him bones and all and begged Shiva for mercy; whereupon, Shiva offered forgiveness and called off Zeeba.  Because Zeeba had not had anything to eat since coming into the world and had been deprived of his only prey, he turned on himself and devoured his own body until only the head and hands remained.  Shiva was very pleased with his handiwork and invited Zeeba to remain as the guardian to his door.   Since then, he has become a reminder of the consequences of gluttony and greed and also stands as a guardian of practitioners.  Zeeba's fingers point to his missing body to show what can happen when someone is overcome by avarice.

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