The tiger is a symbol of strength, military prowess. Tantric Buddhism offers a more subtle meaning. Here, the tiger skin represents the transmutation of anger into wisdom & insight, also offering protection to the meditator from outside harm or spiritual interference. Consequently, tiger skins were favored as meditational mats for Tantric sages. Tigers were indigenous to eastern Tibet, where the Sange (Wutun in Chinese) monastery is located. Tiger icons in Tibetan Buddhism are more prevalent in eastern Tibet & appear on more furniture & rugs here than elsewhere in Tibet.
On the cabinet, below the tiger is an offering bowl. (Offering bowls have a base, while alms bowls do not.) Inside the offering bowl are 3 flaming Cintamani, flanked by 2 sets of 3 stylized yogurt offerings. Cintamani are wish-granting jewels & additionally represent wisdom. When depicted in sets of 3, they represent the body, speech & mind of Buddha, such as the practitioner may possess. Cintamani are also referred to as the “Thinking Jewel” & symbolize the importance of teaching as well as the enlightened mind. The slow process of making yogurt is an appropriate metaphor for spiritual transformation because it is by consistently applying the principles of Buddhism that negative behavior (karma) is gradually overcome & the clear nature of the mind is revealed.
The two drawers below the tigers have a Dharma Wheel set in the Mahamudra mists. Mahamudra is the union of compassion & wisdom - - the ultimate realization of one’s true nature. This wave is also featured with the lotus throughout the art on this piece. The combinations of colors used represent the elements & thoughts that come into play. The Dharma Wheel, in three parts, exists as a hub, the center of the world. The 8 spokes denote the 8 paths to enlightenment. These 8 steps work together, not separately. 1. right understanding . 2. right attitude 3. right speech 4. right action 5. right work 6. right effort 7. right mindfulness 8. right meditation The rim represents the attribute of limitation. All are contained within a circle, which is perceived to be perfect & complete, like the teachings of the Buddha.
The panels flanking the doors feature a Zipak over Cintamani. From the top of the Cintamani is Kusha grass. Growing to to a height of two feet, Kusha is used to purify defilements. Those wishing purification will sleep in a field or patch of kusha grass to acquire ritual purification. Kusha grass under a pillow at night before initiation is used to produce clear dreams; it is also used in Buddhism to enhance the clarity of visualization & meditation. Kusha is the grass of choice for the manufacture sacred meditation mats. The Zeeba or Zipak (Tibetan) 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 & desired an incestuous relationship with Parvati, the consort of Shiva & 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 & all & begged Shiva for mercy; whereupon, Shiva offered forgiveness & called off Zeeba. Because Zeeba had not had anything to eat since coming into the world & had been deprived of his only prey, he turned on himself & devoured his own body until only the head & hands remained. Shiva was very pleased with his handiwork & invited Zeeba to remain as the guardian to his door. Since then, he has become a reminder of the consequences of gluttony & greed & 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.