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Tibetan Buddhist Art furniture & Antiques from the monasteries of the Ser Shong (Golden Valley)
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C500-16 Tibetan Buddhist Altar/Reading desk

Antique Tibetan furniture, reading desk hand painted circa 1900 Antique Tibetan Buddhist furniture side view with Tibetan zipak painted
front view left side view
antique Tibetan reading desk with summer dragon on top view hand painted  
top view  

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Exceptional art work on this lama's reading desk; the painting is very clean, the shading is perfect. The top features a grand Winter dragon with flaming legs moves through the sky clutching jewels on the top of this antique Tibetan furniture used primarily as a reading desk. The sides have a jewel toting Zipak done in a most unusual style; additionally this Zipak has some very muscular arms which most Zipaks do not have. The front has an ornate 24kt gold offering bowl filled with Cintamani and the Queen's earrings along with two jars of Tsebum, a lotus and bilva fruit. 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 apron continuing around to the back side is 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. There is a chip in the clay on the right side and a small portion of the art work is missing. Comes with a Certificate of Authenticity brush signed by a monk at the Sange monastery.

Age: circa 1900
Dimensions (overall)    H=12" W=30.3" D=13.5" 

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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 winter 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 are multiple 4 petaled flowers alternating in red and blue with minor petals symbolizing the Dharma. 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. 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 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 sides of the bowl are Tsebum, a jar of long-life elixir: 3 bilva fruit on the right and a lotus blossom on the left. 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." 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.  

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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