The red and 24kt gold zigzag kyungbur adorning the frame is the transition of passion into compassion and the resultant Buddha like purity of actions and thoughts. The 24kt gold continuous ‘T’-wave just under the top edge of the of the offering cabinet is also called the thunder wave. This is the thunder of the vajra (diamond scepter, dorje in Tibetan), 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 front doors have leopards, each painted by a different artist, the door on the right has 5 mountains, representing the 5 sacred mountains in Tibet with Mt. Meru in the center. The left door again has Mt. Meru in the center with a lotus blossom coming out of the top of rock cliffs that are arranged in a simularca of an enlightening torma. Flanking each side of the torma are single Cintamani, which in this case would represent the Red Kaustubha gem with 8 properties very similar to the 8 faceted jewel showcased on the sides of this cabinet. 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 quiver. 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 of this delusion. The cosmology of Mt. Meru is definitely out side of the scope of this iconography, in the simplest of explanations it is the center of the universe and within the human body it represents both the spine and the central channel. The highest tier of Mt. Meru is inhabited by the 4 guardian kings of the four directions. The lotus flower represents earth: Tibetan Buddhist mystics imagined the earth floating like a lotus flower on the oceans of the universe. The heart of the flower is the cosmic mountain, the axis of the universe, therefore it is quite fitting that this lotus sit in front of Mt. Meru. 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 rock/cliff formation represents the syllable "E" which appears in the opening stanza of early Buddhist scriptures, ("'thus,' I have heard"). The blue and green cliffs represent the unmoving nature of the mind when enlightenment has been attained. The tops of these cliffs have Kusha grass growing out of them. Kusha grass grows to a height of two feet and is used to purify defilements. Those wishing purification sleep in a field or patch of kusha grass for ritual purification. Placed under a pillow at night before initiation, Kusha grass is believed to produce clear dreams; it is also used to enhance the clarity of visualization and meditation. Kusha is the grass of choice for the manufacture of sacred meditation mats. The clouds surrounding the mountains are cumulus clouds which are quite common in Tibet. One 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 sides are almost identical, the biggest exception is that the left side has a special Chinese character in the gold mounting for the Cintamani. This character historically has meant a good man, or a man with Buddha qualities, in modern times it has come to mean a handsome man, only referring to physical attributes. This character has a dualistic nature in that the sound of this character is the same sound as the first hexagram of the Book of Changes (I Ching) , meaning force, God (of the spirit), creative, strong action. This hexagram is to be interpreted in a dual sense—in terms of its action on the universe and of its action on the world of men. In relation to the universe, the hexagram expresses the strong, creative action of the Deity. In relation to the human world, it denotes the creative action of the holy man or sage, of the ruler or leader of men, who through his power awakens and develops their higher nature. The hexagram is consistently strong in character, and since it is without weakness, its essence is power or energy. To find such a character on a Lama's offering cabinet probably means that this was made for a specific High Lama that was selected for the Imperial Chinese court to counsel and spiritually guide the members of the Imperial Chinese government as a continuation of the Choyon established in 1244 AD by Godan Khan at the beginning of the Ming and renewed by the Qing Dynasty in 1644 AD.
The top panels of the each side are full of color, with multicolored Durva grass in the background supporting camp flowers; below these are an offering of yogurt, with 3 Cintamani accompanied by a flaming 8-faceted jewel and elephant tusks. Next to the offering is another offering of red spotted coral. There is an additional offering of fine cloths draped over a leopard skin with the Precious King's and Queen's heavy earrings. Durva grass is 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 slow process of making yogurt is an appropriate metaphor for transforming the spirit. By faithfully applying the principles of Buddhism, negative behavior is overcome and the clear mind is revealed. In this case an offering is made of both the yogurt and the coral, which is one of the most precious and valuable offerings. 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 8-faceted blue jewel are symbolic of the burning away of false desires and ignorance, giving way to enlightenment. The 8-faceted jewel, the elephant (the tusks represent the entire elephant), the King's and Queen's earrings are among the 7 possessions of the Chakravartin, or Wheel Turner The term 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 King's or Minister'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 his detachment from all things earthly. Like the Buddha, the King represents a wealth of faith, morality, honesty, modesty, learning, renunciation, and wisdom. The King is also referred to as the Precious minister. His intelligence is razor-sharp, with a great ability for patience and listening. He desires to do only good works to promote the Dharma, to protect and benefit all beings. 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.
The lower side panel has a beautiful red, white and blue Ashoka blossom sitting above the 8-faceted Jewel that is in a gold mounting with gold flames. 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 colors, red and blue, generally mean the transmutation of passion into compassion. In this case it has the added meaning with the white ends of the petals of the 3 syllable mantra Om Ah Hum, again the body speech and mind of Buddha as in the acquisition of these properties. While reciting the mantra, one should meditate on the foreground; the blues (the destruction of passion and desires) and white to achieve the background of the red, which is the active compassion expressed by positive actions benefiting others. Eight-faceted jewel, as in having eight magical properties and not 8 beveled faces: 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.