A VERY RARE AND FINE THANGKA OF MANJUSHRI
40.000 € - 60.000 €
Description:Central Tibet, Tsang area, 1425 -1450
100 x 86 cm
The icon in the centre of this extraordinary meditation picture shows the "Bodhisattva of Wisdom" - Manjushri. He is named as gentle, glorious and melodious, and appears in his iconographic colour: golden orange. Manjushri is considered the embodiment of the infinite wisdoms of the Buddha. A story from Buddha Shakyamuni's life tells of Manjushri's encounter with a group of Buddha disciples who wanted to achieve self-liberation in Nirvana through Arhatship. He tried to make it clear to them that attaining Buddhahood, as opposed to preferring their own salvation, would be much more desirable. He taught them compassionate bodhicitta motivation, for the benefit of others. The disciples were disappointed to see their real goal diminished and resented Manjushri, resisting Manjushri's bodhisattva path. As a result, they forfeited their previous spiritual achievements and failed to attain arhatship, even being reborn in a lower form of being. Bodhisattva Vajrapani, who witnessed Manjushri's teaching and was amazed by it, turned to Gautama Buddha, the "All-Knowing", and asked him to explain Manjushri's procedure. Buddha replied, "What you have seen is an example of Manjushri's great compassionate wisdom. If these disciples had attained nirvana, it would have taken eons to awaken them from the bliss of their own liberation so that they could work for the benefit of others. But through Manjushri's intervention, when these disciples have suffered their sorrowful rebirth and thereby purged the harmful effects of their resentment and narrow-mindedness, the impression of the Bodhisattva Way will arise in their minds with great force. In following this path, they will rapidly attain full enlightenment, and thus render the highest benefit not only to themselves, but also to countless others." Powerful and highly impressive in its moving posture, this meditation and worship image shows the "Bodhisattva of Wisdom" - Manjushri. His attributes are sword and book. The flaming sword cuts through the veils of false ideas. It distinguishes between absolute and relative truth, how things seem to exist in a dependent way to us, and how they actually exist in an independent way. Manjushri's sword offers protection from the fears that emanate from the karmic cycle of existence of the six realms of the wheel of life, and lead to unhappy states due to actions, according to cause and effect. The sword of knowledge also offers protection against complacency and indifference towards others, which are contrary to the motivation to achieve the welfare of others through compassion (bodhicitta). The book he holds on the lotus branch in his left hand - with the tips of his thumb and ring finger simultaneously touching the branch, forming a circle (emptiness) - represents Prajnaparamita, the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra. It contains the Buddha's most profound explanation of the ultimate nature of reality. To meditate on Manjushri is to engage with the all-pervading insight as gained by the Buddha. The "wisdom bodhisattva" is enthroned in the diamond seat - with legs crossed - on an altar-like table above a moonlit cushion, symbol of relative truth. As he appears as a Bodhisattva - according to the Trikaya teachings - in the Samboghkaya, he is clothed in fine gold-interwoven silken garments, and wears the picturesquely carefully designed fivefold crown of the "Wisdoms of the Tathagatas", as well as the precious sixfold jewellery of the virtues: Rings on arms and legs signify: Devotion, belt - morality, ear jewellery - patience, necklace - strength, crown - immersion, ash and brahma string - insight (prajña). Manjushri appears in this worship image in the trinity of protectors of the teaching, along with the bodhisattvas Vajrapani and Padmapani Lokeshvara. Vajrapani, in his blue colour, embodies: Strength; and Padmapani in white: Compassion. Wisdom, compassion and strength are indispensable virtues on the path to Buddhahood - the guiding theme of this meditation picture. The goal to strive for is given in the icon of Buddha Shakyamuni, in the upper left corner of this picture. On the right, the "Buddha of the Future" - Maitreya, appears in his tushita heaven. He is the embodiment of goodness. Two other Bodhisattvas accompany the meditator on his path of salvation to Buddhahood. On the left appears a Bodhisattva of blue colour, and the Attibutes: sword and book on lotus branches, another emanation of Manjushri (black Manjugosha?). Opposite, the "Goddess of Knowledge and Music" - Sarasvati, is shown holding a "kink-necked lute" in her hands. In the lower area, powerful protectors are placed to remove obstacles and ward off negative forces on the meditator's path. On the left, on top of two obstacle spirits in human form, the powerful Yidam Hayagriva emerges, with three faces and six arms. Three green-coloured horse heads shine from the hair. This is followed by an emanation of the vajra vidarana, a bell with a vishvavajra handle, and holding the vishvavajra (double vajra) in his hands. In the centre appears the smoke-coloured wrathful king Ucchusma (Tib. Khro-bo'i rgyal-po), three-faced, with the weapons (r): double vajra, five-rayed vajra, vajra hook; (l) vajra club, vajra rope, the lowest hand showing a threatening gesture. To the right follows the blue Kataridhara Mahakala, with one face, the wisdom eye and two hands with sickle knife and skull bowl. The last representation is the all-powerful and fearsome protector Palden Lhamo, riding her mule. She has one face and four arms. In her upper hand (r) she holds a sword, and in her lower hand an arrow (l). At the same time she grasps the edge of an elephant skin with both upper hands, and a peeled human skin hangs down from her shoulders. Above the umbilical cord-like tailed clouds of happiness, in the midst of white, layered cloud formations, hover two sacrificial goddesses who rain down blessed water from golden sacrificial vessels onto the sacred assembly. The ornamentation of the painting, which softens the luminous lapis-coloured background, and the delicate gold-heightened scattered flowers lend the worship picture a festive mood. Tempera and gold on cotton fabric; reverse: drawing of a stupa in red paint, with inscriptions and dedications in black ink a.o. in Tibetan bzod pa dka' thub bzod pa dam ma ni / mya ngan 'das pa mchog ces sangs rgyas gsung / rab tu byung pa gzhan la gnod pa dang / gzhan la 'tshe ba dge sbyong ma yin no / As for enduring and not enduring austerities, the Buddha speaks from supreme nirvana: "If you are not a monk, take the monk's vow regarding doing harm and causing obstruction." and further Sanskrit inscriptions. This painting originally had a trapezoidal border, mounted on the two narrow sides at the top and bottom, in the tradition of the time. The puncture holes on the long sides are the result of a later border.
Former collection Juelemann, acquired by Joachim Baader, Munich in the late 1990s from this collection - German private collection
Literature: The Great Stupa of GYANTSE - A complete Tibetan Pantheon of the 15th Century; Franco Ricca & Erberto Lo Bue; Serindia, London, 1993. Himalayas - An Aesthetic Adventure; Pratapaditya Pal, Amy Heller, Oskar von Hinüber and V. Vajracharya; The Institute of Chicago, University of California, Mapin Publishing; 2003: p. 234-235 David P. Jackson, The Nepalese Legacy in Tibetan Painting, Rubin Museum of Art, New York, 2010: 231ff, 146ff.
Minor wear and a few very minor restorations, slightly soiled