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Tibetan Buddhist Art furniture & Antiques from the monasteries of the Ser Shong (Golden Valley)
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C500-20 Tibetan Buddhist Reading Desk ~~pheasant

Tibetan buddhist reading desk front view circa 1930 painted with buddhist symbols Side view of Tibetan antique reading desk with precious Buddhist symbols painted
front view left side view
To[ view of Tibetan reading desk with pheasant painted tibetan furniture side view of reading desk circa 1930
top view right side view

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Good art work on this Tibetan lama's reading desk. The sides feature a stack of Cintamani wrapped in kusha grass representing flames that burn away ignorance. The top has a pheasant which is a wonderfully complex icon (see iconography below). The front has an Ashoka blossom, the second of the holy trinity of Tibetan Buddhist flowers, it is surrounded by mare's tail cumulus clouds, durva grass and is flanked by rock cliffs representing the scriptures. 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 (image not of this reading desk) that is under the top. this made the reading desk highly portable. 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 conventional loose leaf pages of Tibetan scriptures. These scriptures are printed using wood blocks. Ghomar Monastery, just acrooss the valley has a print house and a vast repository of the woodblocks used for printing. The opening in the back allows for the reader to sit in the diamond position with the top over their legs. More information is available in our recently published book that is available here and on Amazon.com. Comes with a Certificate of Authenticity brush signed by a monk at the Sange monastery, a PDF of the iconography with images and a PDF of the lama that blessed the table.

Age: circa 1930-40
Dimensions (overall)    H=12.25" W=30.25" D=13.5" 

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item #C500-20 Price $745.00, plus crating and shipping: ~WEST COAST $90.00 MTN STATES $105.00 ~ MID-WEST $115.00 ~ EAST COAST $125.00

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 colorful pheasant sitting on a lotus and is surrounded by durva grass in an eye-shaped frame: around that frame are cumulus clouds. The pheasant shows the way to verbalize forgiveness and compassion. The pheasant also teaches the art of concealment and the powers of perseverance and confidence. It is associated with movement through ego; this association is made clear through the beautiful plumage of the bird as the trappings of ego. It is important to note, though, that this attribute is tempered by a balancing act of sorts, and the pheasant’s environment tells us how: He is a riot of glamorous color, but ever-ready to disappear into the tall grasses or sheltering shrubbery when the need arises. In other words, the pheasant can be a show off, but he is always ready to retract his wiles when the time calls for it. This is a powerful metaphor; we can show our bright colors of creativity and influence in the world – but we must know the proper time in which to do so. The pheasant reminds us that no matter how vibrant and original we may be, if we carelessly throw our gifts out at inappropriate times or to unlistening audiences our efforts are in vain. The symbolism embodied by the pheasant also speaks to us about the value of balance in areas of spirituality. The pheasant deals with thought, dreams, aspiration, spirituality, and things that lift us into higher states of consciousness. 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.

Cumulus clouds are quite common in Tibet and move quickly across the sky at Tibet's elevation. The 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 front is anchored by an Ashoka blossom; mare's tail cumulus clouds fill the background along with durva grass. Hardly noticeable above the Ashoka blossom are rays of subtle energy fanning out into the cosmos. flanking the Ashoka Blossom are blue and green rock cliffs with kusha grass growing out of their tops. 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. Ashoka ruled a vast empire 2200 years ago and put his peoples welfare and interests above his own, he supported Buddhism, however he was insistent upon religious tolerance and open dialog. The subtle energy is quite important, it is a result of the practitioners good works and meditative thought process the influences the course of events. The greater the compassionate heart the greater the influence of that subtle energy and the Ashoka blossom speaks to this.

The sides each have a stack of Cintamani flanked by elephant tusks all the while sitting over an offering of fine cloths draped over leopard skins. 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. The flames around the border of the Cintamani are symbolic of the burning away of false desires and ignorance, giving way to enlightenment. In this depiction those flames are represented as kusha grass. There are gold flames surrounding the top Cintamani, which is blue and that makes this jewel the Precious Eight-Faceted Jewel of Chakravartin. 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. The  Leopard's spots  resemble (according to Tibetans) the female vagina, consequently the flayed skin of the leopard is more commonly worn by dakinis or wrathful goddesses as a skirt or apron.  The large cat skins are most frequently associated with the wrathful deities, Mahakala is usually seen with the tiger skin wrapped around his waist.  Victory banners and the asama or meditational seats are also adorned with leopard skins, as are bow quivers. The leopard is also the messenger of the wrathful deities and additionally represents the death of pride, one of the 5 delusions and ultimate emptiness of this delusion. 

 

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