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Buddhist Photo Gallery - Top 10 Deities In Tibet

Top 10 Deities In Tibet

01-1 Shakyamuni Buddha In Jokhang Temple The Chapel of Jowo Shakyamuni in Lhasa’a Jokhang Temple is the most important shrine in Tibet, housing a 1.5m sitting image of Shakyamuni at the age of 12. It is supposedly one of only three made during his lifetime. It was a gift from the Chinese Princess Wencheng to her husband King Songtsen Gampo. The Jowo sits on a majestic massive three-tiered stone platform. Two silver-plated dragons presented by the Chinese emperor entwine the ornate pillars that support an intricate double canopy over the Jowo. An ornate crown of coral, turquoise, diamonds, rubies, and other precious gems, sits on the Jowo’s head. Note the photo of the current 14th Dalai Lama, allowed in Tibet when I took this photo in 1993.

01-1 Shakyamuni Buddha In Jokhang Temple

01-2 Shakyamuni Buddha Shakyamuni is the title of Gautama Buddha, sage of the Shakya tribe. He is usually shown seated on a lotus throne, legs crossed, palm inward with the fingertips of his right hand touching the earth, and his left hand in his lap holding a bowl. His head reveals fixed marks of identity: a bump of wisdom on top of his head, often crowned with a precious jewel; three auspicious lines on his neck; ear lobes elongated and split; and a dot in the centre of the forehead, symbolizing the third eye of spiritual wisdom.

01-2 Shakyamuni Buddha

02 Padmasambhava Padmasambhava (Tib. Guru Rinpoche) was an Indian master who was invited to Tibet in 747 and introduced Tantric Buddhism to Tibet. He founded the Nyingmapa order at Samye monastery, with the first Buddhist monks being ordained around 767. He wears a magical crown-like red hat with a severe expression and curled moustache. In his right hand is a vajra (dorje), in his left is a white skullcap filled with nectar, jewels and a long-life vase, and in the bend in his elbow he supports a flaming trident with skull heads.

02 Padmasambhava

03-1 Avalokiteshvara Four Arms Avalokiteshvara, pronounced Ah-va-low-key-tesh-va-ra, (Tib. Chenrezig) is the patron saint of Tibet and his mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum, is carved on stones and chanted repeatedly. He has many forms, the most common one having one face, four arms, and two legs crossed in the meditation posture. His two front hands are pressed together at the heart, holding the wish-fulfilling jewel. The jewel signifies infinite bodhichitta, the intense desire to bring all suffering beings to enlightenment. Of his back two hands, the right one holds the crystal rosary, symbolizing liberation from samsara, while the left holds a blue utpala flower, symbol of his compassion.

03-1 Avalokiteshvara Four Arms

03-2 Avalokiteshvara 11 Heads 1000 Arms The second form of Avalokiteshvara has 1000 arms and 11 faces. In front of Amitabha, Avalokiteshvara vowed to work unceasingly to end the suffering of all sentient beings, vowing that if he should ever give up, “May my head be cracked into 10 pieces and my body split into 1000 pieces.” Avalokiteshvara then entered into a state of prolonged intense and uninterrupted meditation, but when he finally arose he realized he had succeeded in liberating only a small number of beings from suffering. His heart filled with sorrow, and in frustration, he cried out that he was ready to give up. In that instant of despair, his head cracked into 10 pieces and his body shattered into 1000 pieces. In agony Avalokiteshvara called out to Amitabha, who restored Avalokiteshvara’s broken body, transforming it into 1000 arms, each palm with an all-seeing eye. This increased by 1000 times the mighty Bodhisattva’s capacity to help all sentient beings. In the same way, Amitabha changed the broken head into 10 faces, nine of which were fashioned in a compassionate aspect and one in a wrathful aspect. At the top Amitabha placed his own face, indicating how happy he was with Avalokiteshvara’s bodhichitta motivation.

03-2 Avalokiteshvara 11 Heads 1000 Arms

03-3 Avalokiteshvara, Shakyamuni Buddha, and Padmasambhava Here is an altar with three of the most famous Tibetan deities - Avalokiteshvara, Shakyamuni Buddha, and Padmasambhava.

03-3 Avalokiteshvara, Shakyamuni Buddha, and Padmasambhava

04-1 Maitreya Maitreya (Tib. Jampa), the future Buddha, is often depicted standing or seated on a chair. He will come after the teachings of the current Shakyamuni Buddha are no longer taught and are completely forgotten.

04-1 Maitreya

04-2 Maitreya In Tashilhunpo Here is another statue of Maitreya, the future Buddha, this one from Tashilhunpo in Shigatse. It is 26.2m high and contains 279kg of gold and 150,000kg of copper and brass molded on a wooden frame.

04-2 Maitreya In Tashilhunpo

05-1 Green Tara Tara (Tib. Dolma) was born from the tear of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion, and has the second most popular mantra in Tibet, Om Tare Tuttare Ture Svaha. She is called the Mother of all Buddhas and has 21 forms, with the two most popular being green and white. Green Tara is pictured as a green-skinned girl of 16 with a mischievous or playful nature. She has her right foot extended as if about to rise. Her left hand, in the gesture of granting refuge holds the stem of a blue utpala that waves over her left shoulder while her right hand also holding a flower, offers what we desire. Green Tara is identified with Bhrkuti, Songtsen Gampo’s Nepalese wife.

05-1 Green Tara

05-2 White Tara White Tara is one of the three long life deities, along with Amitayus and Namgyalma. She is represented as a mature woman, full-breasted and wise. She has three eyes on her face and one eye on each palm of her hands and feet. She wears a sparkling tiara on her head, and she is adorned with beautiful jewelry. Her right hand rests across her knee touching the earth palm outward, while her left hand holds near her heart the stem of an uptala flower. White Tara is associated with Wencheng, Songtsen Gampo’s wife from imperial China.

05-2 White Tara

06 Four Guardian Kings The Four Guardian Kings are the protectors of the four cardinal directions and are almost always found at the entrance to monasteries and temples. Yellow Vaisravana (Tib. Namthose, also known as Jambhala) is the guardian of the north, and holds a victory banner in his right hand and a mongoose in his left hand. Blue Virudhaka is the guardian of the south and holds a sword. Red Virupaksa is the guardian of the west and holds a stupa in his left hand and a serpent in his right. White Dhrtarastra is the guardian of the east and holds a stringed musical instrument.

06 Four Guardian Kings

07 Amitabha Amitabha (Tib. Opame) is one of the five Dhyani, or Meditation, Buddhas and is known as the Buddha of Infinite light. He is red and is in a meditation mudra with his hands in his lap, often holding a begging bowl. He is the Buddha of the west, represents the fire element, and the skanda of lust/desire/attachment. His spiritual emanation is Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion. The other four Meditation Buddhas are yellow Ratnasambhava in the south, green Amoghasiddhi (Tib. Dondrub) in the north, blue Akshobhya (Tib. Mitrugpa) in the east, and white Vairochana in the centre.

07 Amitabha

08 Milarepa Milarepa (1052-1135) is Tibet’s most revered poet. He is usually portrayed with his right hand to his ear, wearing a red meditation band over his shoulder. When his well-to-do merchant father died, Milarepa's uncle and aunt took all the family's wealth, suddenly thrusting Milarepa and his mother into a kind of slavery and near-starvation. His mother plots revenge by sending Milarepa away to study sorcery. While his aunt and uncle were having a party, Milarepa took his revenge, killing 35 people. Realizing that his revenge was wrong, Milarepa set out to find a lama and was led to Marpa the translator. Marpa subjected Milarepa to grueling tests before initiating him and giving him responsibility for transmission of the doctrine. Milarepa then spent six years in solitude, meditating in a cave. His only clothing was a light, cotton robe, hence his name Mila-repa, cotton-clad Mila. After returning home to find his mother dead, his home in ruins, and his sister dressed in rags, he decided to lead the life of a hermit and search for final liberation. The rest of his life was spent in the mountains where he achieved his goal. The songs and poetry he left behind, known as the Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa, are revered by Tibetans.

08 Milarepa

09 Manjushri Manjushri (Tib. Jampelyang) represents divine wisdom, one of the three main aspects of enlightenment along with compassion (Avalokiteshvara) and power (Vajrapani). He is usually depicted with a raised flaming sword in his right hand and in his left holding the Prajnaparamita book of wisdom. The sword cuts through the veils of ignorance.

09 Manjushri

10 Vajrapani Vajrapani (Tib. Chana Dorje) represents power and strength, one of the three main aspects of enlightenment along with compassion (Avalokiteshvara) and wisdom (Manjushri). He is usually royal blue or blue-black and is shown standing on a lotus-sun disc surrounded by wisdom fire. Around his neck, he wears a serpent and below a tiger skin. In his right hand he holds a vajra to cut through the darkness of delusion, and in his left hand a loop for catching demons.

10 Vajrapani