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Tibetan Buddhist High Lama's Offering Altar B005-05

Tibetan Buddhist shrine or offering cabinet with Buddhist symbols tantric
Tibetan Buddhist abinet side view unpainted
front view
left side

click on above images to see larger images *also click on blue links in text for additional images

~The mantric tantric bodhisattva~

Cabinets with tigers typically were made for high lamas, geshes, or occasionally village chiefs.  The tiger is a symbol of strength and military prowess and additionally tigers represent method as in the method implemented to achieve enlightenment. The tigers are above sets of three Cintamani; two of which are on top of bolts of fine cloth draped over leopard and tiger skins making this a rather tantric cabinet.  Tigers were indigenous to eastern Tibet, where the Senge (Wutun) Monastery is located, and tigers are depicted on furniture from eastern Tibet more often than in other regions.  On this piece, tigers are painted on each door. The door-pull is the vertical center-divider. The two drawers below the doors have an old brass coin and a leather strap as the pull on tghe right hand drawer. The panels with the Zipac, stack of 6 Cintamani flanked by elephant tusks next to the doors are fixed. Access to the space behind the tall panel is through the front doors: while access to the space behind the  panels with the red lotus  is accomplished by removing the drawer, so this space would make a good secret hiding place. The painting of the lower panels and the drawers are of a style that was popular at the beginning of the 19th century. The top, back & both sides are natural wood. This cabinet is very well done, the kyungbur is thinner than most and the hand was quite steady that applied it. The art work is very clean and crisp, of exceptional quality. Please note the yin and yang spiral that is on the top of the tiger's head. The cabinet has been cleaned * (view prior to cleaning) and treated with preservatives, both the painted surfaces and the unpainted wood sides and interior. The art work is excellent along with the kyungbur which is smooth and well applied.

This cabinet comes with a brush-signed Certificate of Authenticity (which will be mailed from Reunion Island): the iconography/meditational aid (which will arrive as a PDF via email).

AGE: circa 1820    
Dimensions:   Height=32"  W=40.5" D=15.5" 


B005-05 Price $2195.00, plus crating and shipping: West Coast $295, Mtn. States $310, Mid West $325, Atlantic coast $350  other destinations, contact us  for a quote.  


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 altar 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 tiger is a symbol of strength and military prowess.  Tantric Buddhism offers a more subtle meaning.    Here, the tiger on the doors represents the transmutation of anger into wisdom and 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 Senge (Wutun in Chinese) monastery is located.  Tiger icons in Tibetan Buddhism are more prevalent in eastern Tibet and appear on more furniture & rugs here than elsewhere in Tibet. The top of the tiger's head and his two jowls have a yin-yang symbol that morphs into the tiger's stripes. The yin-yang, shaped like spiraled tear drops, constitute a circle that is divided in two by an S. The dot, not represented on this tiger, in the middle of each half symbolizes that each element at its highest point carries within itself the seed of its polar opposite, that it can change and cross over into the other. Yin is the female, the passive, the receptive, the dark and the soft. Yang is the masculine, the active, the light and the stern. The joining of the two created from the One is the source of creative energy in the Universe. Below the tiger are three stacks of Cintamani; two of which are over bolts of fine cloth draped over a leopard skin and a tiger skin. This leopard and tiger combination represents the male and the female, the union of method and wisdom respectively, and is tantric in its very nature. The center set of Cintamani is surrounded by elephant tusks, representing the entire elephant and orange coral; all sitting on top of an Ashoka throne. 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 top Cintamani are symbolic of the burning away of false desires and ignorance, giving way to enlightenment.

The top Cintamani in each stack is Chakravartin's Eight-Faceted Precious Jewel. The term Chakravartin 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 Eight-faceted jewel, as in having eight magical properties; 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 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 elephant is always depicted as an albino elephant, which are considered the hardest to tame and train.

The two drawers have at their center the trefoil design. The frefoil is a cloud design that signifies the body, speech and mind of Buddha that the practitioner will possess and is directly linked to the manta OM AH HUM which is a seed syllable mantra denoting the body, speech and mind of Buddha. Surrounding the trefoil is durva grass forming the shape of the eye of Buddha.

 The panels flanking the doors are adorned at the top with three strings of Cintamani, each with a torma center. These are among the Mahamudra Mists and all are supported by subtle energy that emanates from an Ashoka Blossom. The torma is a 'casting out' of ignorance, poisons, and defilements, so that the wisdom of the Cintamani can enter. The subtle energy is that which the Bodhisattva generates through mantric/tantric practice; it influences the events in the cosmos as the practitioner directs. 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. These things are inner related, a person needs to be pure of thought and deed to gain access to the cosmic stream represented by the subtle energy, while enlightened thought understands Mahamudra, which is where the cosmic mindstream exists. Below this is a Zipak pointing to two more strings of Cintamani and tormas, this then is above durva grass and a stack of Cintamani adorned with flames and kusha grass. The stack of Cintamani is flanked by two sets of elephant tusks symbolizing Chakravartin's Precious Elephant. 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.


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