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Tibetan Buddhist Art furniture & Antiques from the monasteries of the Ser Shong (Golden Valley)
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Tibetan Buddhist Lama's Offering cabinet C020-30

Tibetan hand painted furniture with double dorje Buddhist symbol
click on above image to see larger view

 

Cheerful and bright is the best way to describe this high Lama's offering cabinet. The flower used on the doors and panels is the Champaka flower and looks like 4th of July fireworks. The double dorjes on the upper doors are striking in their detail in 24kt gold on the red background; for an explanation see the iconography below.  The art work is clean and the kyungbur is delicate and even. The hinges of the doors are wood-pegs in the doors that fit into a hole in the underside of the top and slide into a groove on the horizontal frame. The door-pull is the vertical kyungbur-trim in the center of the two doors. The front trim is done in the zigzag kyungbur (raised gesso).  The only metal hardware on this piece are the round loops with silk road transit tax coins as the escutcheon for the drawer pulls on the drawer fronts (the coins are circa 1700 AD).  The sides, back and top are a natural wood with an oil and wax finish. The wood is predominately juniper, which is the aromatic wood used during prayer, with some pine and spruce thrown into the mix. Comes with a Certificate Of Authenticity. This cabinet has not been used, it was stored in one of the empty residences inside of the monastery for decades until we transported it to Shanghai in 2006. It was originally made to be sold to a lama and was in storage during the turbulent years of the occupation's forced re-education and ensuing Cultural Revolution. Please note that there is some damage to the paint only on the lower section, this has been discounted with this damage in mind.

Age: circa 1940-50

Dimensions: H=32" W=41" D=16"

SOLD

Iconography

Just under the top edge on the front is the continuous “T” or thunder-wave.  This is symbolic of an epiphany, carrying the same meaning as the single dorje, 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 zigzag gold and red design on the frame represents the transmutation of passion in to compassion and the purity of thought and actions that comes from this transformation.

The two upper panels adjacent to the upper doors have a stylized Champaka blossom; the stem of the Champaka is made of Durva grass and this is all set in the Mahamudra mists. The Champaka, the 3rd of the trinity of holy flowers, is a white blossom from the wish-fulfilling tree and an attribute of Maitreya Buddha, conferring love, compassion & beauty.  The Durva grass is also 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 life span 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 upper doors have magnificent double Dorjes on a red back ground with a border that is a take off of the Infinite knot. The Double Dorje is an epiphany, a sudden realization;  Dorje (Tibetan) thunderbolt, or double diamond, ("visvavajra" in sanskrit). Its four heads represent the four Dhyani Buddha. Of these, it is associated primarily with Amoghasiddhi, lord of the north, the Karma Family Buddha, whose name means "Unfailing Accomplishment."  The double Dorje represents the indestructibility of all phenomenal essence.  It serves as a symbol of harmony, immutability, and all -knowingness. The Eternal, or Infinite, Knot (Sanskrit, "Srivastsa"), is the classic icon for the concept of reality. The interwoven lines are graphic representations of the concept that everything in the world is interconnected, and therefore, dependent origination is the underlying reality of existence.  The knot also reflects the endless cycle of death and rebirth, mirroring infinity and the wisdom of the Buddha. It also symbolizes the Buddha's endless wisdom and compassion. The sanskrit term means 'beloved of the goddess Shri.' Shri refers to Lakshmi, the consort of Vishnu, wherein the shrivatsa term in particular is the curl of hair in a 8 looped knot on the breast of Vishnu (just to further complicate the origins).

The lower panels next to the two doors have a wonderful 24kt gold offering bowl sitting upon a double champaka throne; the offering bowl is filled with a stack of Cintamani, the top jewel is Chakravartin's Precious Jewel. Stuffed into the bowl beside the Cintamani are sets of elephant tusks, representing the entire elephant and a set of the Queen's earrings. 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 flames around the border of the Cintamani are symbolic of the burning away of false desires and ignorance, giving way to enlightenment. The top Cintamani as stated before is Chakravartin's Precious Jewel, one of is seven precious possessions: the elephant and the queen's earrings are also part of his seven precious possessions. Chakravartin, or AKA 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 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.  Elephant tusks are sometimes depicted and are symbolic of the whole elephant. 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. Lastly the eight faceted blue jewel of Chakravartin: eight-faceted, 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 lower doors again ave the infinite knot border that surrounds a very cheerful display; central is the Auspicious Treasure jar with flaming Cintamani at the top with Champaka flowers in a more typical depiction looking like fireworks, with durva grass and Mahamudra Mists in the background.The treasure vase ~ Sanskrit nidhana kumbha ~ Tibetan gter gy bum pa or urn (kalasa) promises the good fortune of spiritual and material fulfillment, symbolizing the treasure of spiritual wealth.  Among those treasures is the jewel of enlightenment. It also extends to the material side and it is characteristic of the deities that symbolize prosperity.

 

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