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Antique Tibetan hand painted Torma Trunk C100-A14

Know the Truth; Follow the Path: Attain Victory

Antique Tibetan chest with 4 Noble Truths symbol on front
Tibetan chest with victory banner buddhst symbol on side
left side
top of Tibetan chest dragon symbol
Antique Tibetan chest with Auspicious symbol victory banner
right side

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All painted surfaces of this antique Tibetan Buddhist torma trunk are striking, with excellent fine line detail complimenting the stunning renderings of Tibetan Buddhist symbols. The border of flowers is comprised of blue and red Chrysanthemums, it surrounds the front's idiosyncratically stunning 4 Nobel Truths synchronizing with the 8 Fold Noble Path. This rendering is nontraditional, yet still captures the essence of the symbolism in a fresh, original way. The sides have an Auspicious Victory Banner, one of the 8 Auspicious symbols. The top has a summer dragon holding a Cintamani in his right front foot as the other feet are ready to grasp the blue Cintamani. There is great symbolisms on this trunk, while it is presented in uncharacteristic style on the front. Please take time to read the iconography to get an understanding of the richness of karmic thought that comes with this trunk. The handles on the sides and the lid's closure are brass. The copper cladding on the corners is a late 20th century addition. The back has brass hinges that have propensity to break if the trunk is not opened with care. There is some damage to the dragon depiction at his left shoulder going into the dragon's flame-ribbon. The trunk has been cleaned as it had a layer of soot and wax on it which obscured the painting detail, after cleaning the painted parts were coated with a clear acrylic enamel to protect the painted surfaces. This trunk comes with a brush-signed Certificate of Authenticity signed by one of the monks at the Senge Monastery. There is also a map of the area, along with images of the lama that blessed it.

Material: JUNIPER
Dimensions: W=19.75" H=15.5" D=9.9"
Age: mid 1800s

If you have questions contact David via email david@baronet4tibet.com


Torma Trunk C100-A14 Price $889.00 plus crating and shipping = WEST COAST $88 ~ MTN $97 ~ MIDWEST = $102 ~ EAST COAST= $113. Contact David for a quote to other destinations.


The front is bordered with red and blue Chrysanthemums. The chrysanthemum symbolizes autumn and the gathering of the harvest. In this case, it is a metaphor for achieving the goal of enlightenment and its accompanying peace. The blue represents compassion. Red is the transmutation of passion into compassion.

The center of the front has a uniquely designed four petaled flower in a circular motif that is decorated by Ashoka blossoms with eight tangents of four petaled flowers around it. The corners are quarter circles with partial Ashoka blossoms, mahamudra wisps, and small torma offerings. This is a surreal design that is definitely idiosyncratic in its composition, while the symbolism is plainly clear. The 4 petals refer to the Four Noble Truths which leads to the Eight Fold Noble Path to enlightenment.

Four Noble truths is the middle way and the first teaching of Buddha.

  1. The first of the Four Noble Truths is that life is suffering (Dukkha). Dukkha is a multi-faceted word. Its literal meaning is "that which is difficult to bear". Dukkha can be intense or very subtle, from extreme physical and mental pain and torment to less obvious inner conflicts and existential malaise. This requires understanding.

  2. The second Truth holds that ignorance is the cause of suffering. Dukkha has a causal arising; the cause is grasping and clinging – or conversely, aversion.  Seeking to define who we are by temporal thinking, relating to this present life or world in this time. This thinking is to be abandoned.

  3. The cessation of suffering (nirvana) is the goal of life because it transcends both pain and pleasure. Nirvana literally means "unbound", as in a mind like fire unbound. Imagine a flame without a source, such as a piece of wood or the wick of an oil lamp or wax candle. The flame "burns" and gives light but is no longer attached to or caused by any combustible material.  This is to be actualized.

  4. This brings us to the Fourth Noble Truth: the way to the cessation of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path that leads to awakening. The path aligns with the eight spokes of the dharma wheel.

Awakening, your true nature is already always present. We are just not awake to this reality. Clinging to limitation and attempting to control the ceaseless flow of phenomena and process obscures our true nature.The path is a different process, one meant to help you abandon the conditioned responses and conceptions that obscure your true nature. In this sense the path is ultimately about casting out, unlearning rather than learning. We assimilate the path so we can abandon/unlearn and uncover. This casting out is represented by the tormas in the quarter circles.

Buddha called his teaching a raft. To cross a turbulent river we build a raft. When built, with focus and effort we make our way to the opposite bank. Once across we don't need to cart the raft around with us. In other words, don't cling to anything, including the teachings. Make sure you use them before you let them go. It's no use knowing everything about the raft and not using it to cross the river. The teachings are tools, not dogma. The teachings are Upaya, which means skillful means or expedient method.

The Noble Eightfold Path, which aligns with the eight spokes of the Dharma Wheel and in this case the eight tangent four petaled flowers. The  Dharma Wheel ~~Sanskrit chakra ~ Tibetan `khor lo, which is in three parts, the wheel 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 and complete, like the teachings of the Buddha. 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 Victory Banner, as depicted on the sides of this torma trunk, in Tibetan Buddhism symbolizes the eleven methods for overcoming the defilements presented by Mara. These include the development of knowledge, wisdom, compassion, meditation, ethical vows, taking refuge in the Buddha, abandoning false views, generating spiritual goals, skilful means and selflessness; and finally the unity of the three samadhis: emptiness, formlessness, and desirelessness.  There is a multi-layered parasol that many times adorns the exact middle of the prayer or assembly hall and is called “yellow central parasol” by the monks. This assembly hall parasol has many tiers of multiple parasols of honor, and by many is equated with the victory banner.

The top has a summer dragon.  Unlike its demonic European counterpart, the Tibetan dragon is a creature of great creative power; a positive icon, representing the strong male yang principle of heaven, change, energy, wealth and creativity. Dragons are shape shifters, able to transform at will, from as small as the silkworm to a giant that fills the entire sky. Dragons are depicted in one of two colors, green or brown.  The green, or azure dragon of Buddhism ascends into the sky at the spring equinox; it represents the light's increasing power in springtime and the easterly direction of the sunrise. The brown dragon is the autumn equinox, when it descends into a deep pool, encasing itself in mud until the next spring, but its spirit is still with the practitioner bringing wealth and health. The pearls, or jewels clutched in the claws of the dragon represent wisdom and health. The dragon can control the weather by squeezing the jewels to produce dew, rain or even downpours when clutched tightly. The dragon is the vehicle of Vairochana, the white Buddha of the center or the east.

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