Cambodian Soapstone Buddha

Soapstone also known as “steatite” or “soaprock” is a stone which is notable for its high degree of resistance to heat. In Cambodia, soapstone, which mostly comes from the province of Pursat (in the western part of the country) has been used to carve religious effigies since the 17th century. Any variation in the color of the stone is inherent to the very nature of the material, its array varies from yellow-green to gray and deep purple.

This Buddha has a distinct Cambodian style. Lord Buddha is in the the ‘earth touching’ gesture or ‘earth witness’ also known as bhumisparsha mudra. He is seated on a separately carved single lotus base. Lord Buddha is depicted with heavy eyelids that evoke a mood of introspection and detachment, enhanced by the hint of a smile on the full lips. The distended earlobes, a legacy of Prince Siddhartha’s discarding his heavy gold jewelry further indicates the Buddha’s enlightened status. A simple yet elegant carving. It is unpolished and thus has a matte finish.

This sculpture is a one of a kind statue, hand carved by the very talented artists of Cambodia. Every piece is truly unique!

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The Lotus Flower, One of the Eight Auspicious Symbols

pinklotusflower.jpgThe Indian lotus (Sanskrit: Padma, Kamala), which grows from the dark watery mire but is unstained by it, is a major Buddhist symbol of purity and renunciation.  It represents the blossoming of wholesome activities, which are performed with complete freedom from the faults of cyclic existence.  The lotus seats upon which deities sit or stand symbolize their divine origin.  They are immaculately conceived, innately perfect, and absolutely pure in their body, speech, and mind.  The deities manifest into cyclic existence, yet they are completely uncontaminated by its defilements, emotional hindrances, and mental obscurations.

As a sacred symbol the lotus was adopted by many of the world’s great civilizations, from Egypt to Japan, and widely incorporated into their arts and architecture.  The lotus opens and closes with the sun, and in ancient Egypt the sun was conceived as of rising from an eastern lotus at dawn, and setting into a western lotus at sunset.  Similarly Surya, the Vedic sun god, holds a lotus in each of his hands, symbolizing the suns path across the heavens.  Brahman, the Vedic god of creation, was born from a golden lotus that grew from the nave of Vishnu, like a lotus growing from an umbilical stem.  Padmasambhava, the ‘lotus born’ tantric master who introduced Buddhism into Tibet, was similarly divinely conceived from a miraculous lotus, which blossomed upon Danakosha Lake in the western Indian kingdom of Uddiyana.  The lotus as a divine womb or vagina is a potent sexual metaphor in both Hindu and Buddhist tantra.  Padma and kamala are synonymous Sanskrit terms for the ‘lotus’ of the female vagina, which is soft, pink, and open.  Likewise the vajra is synonymous with the male penis, which is hard and penetrative.  The union of vajra and padma is a sexual symbol for the union of form and emptiness, or skillful means and wisdom.  On an inner level this union symbolizes the penetration and ascent of the psychic winds into the subtle body’s central channel, which pierces and opens the ‘lotuses’ of the channel-wheels or chakras.

The lotus is the emblem of Amitabha, the red Buddha of the west and the ‘Lord of the Padma or Lotus Family’.  Amitabha’s qualities are indicative of the redness of fire, vital fluids, evening twilight, the summer season, and the transmutation of passion into discriminating awareness.  Amitabha’s consort is Pandara, whose attribute is also a red lotus.  Amitabha’s presiding bodhisattva is Padmapani Avalokiteshvara, the ‘Holder of the Lotus’, and the Bodhisattva of great compassion.

The Buddhist lotus is described as having four, eight, sixteen, twenty-four, thirty-two, sixty-four, a hundred, or a thousand petals.  These numbers symbolically correspond to the internal lotuses or chakras of the subtle body, and to the numerical components of the mandala.  As a hand-held attribute the lotus is usually colored pink or light red, with eight or sixteen petals.  Lotus blossoms may also be colored white, yellow, golden, blue and black.  The white or ‘edible lotus’ (Sanskrit: pundarika) is an attribute of the Buddha Sikhin, and a sixteen-petaled white utpala lotus is held by White Tara. The yellow lotus and the golden lotus are generally known as padma, and the more common red or pink lotus is usually identified as the kamala.  The Sanskrit term utpala is specifically identified with the blue or black ‘night lotus’, but its transliterated Tibetan equivalent (Tib. ut-pa-la) may be applied to any color of lotus.

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Dvarapala, Temple Guardian

dvarapala

Dvarapalas (temple lions) traditionally stand guard outside the gates of shrines, Buddhist temples and porticos of homes.  In Japan, they are referred to as Shishi (or Jishi) and can also refer to a deer or dog with magical properties and the power to repel evil spirits.  In China they are referred to as Foo Dogs and are traditionally depicted in pairs.  In Thailand they are referred to as Singha, the true king of the forest.  His roar echoes to great distances, terrifying all forest animals, great and small, and stand at the entrance of Thai temples, guarding the sacred Buddhist teachings.  In Indonesia and Cambodia they are referred to as ‘Dvarapalas’ and are generally armed with lances and clubs and can often times have a bulky physique, while the Dvarapalas in Thailand are leaner and are portrayed in standing straight position holding the club downward in the center.  Dvarapala sculpture in Thailand is made of a high-fired stoneware clay covered with a pale, almost milky glaze known as celadon. Ceramic sculptures of this type were produced during the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya periods, between the 14th and 16th centuries.  This is process still exist today and the pieces are produced at several kiln complexes located in northern Thailand.  The main function of Dvarapalas is to protect the temples.  Dvarapalas in Cambodia may be seen, for example, at various temples in and around Angkor Wat.

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Buddhist Customs & Traditions: Giving Alms

Buddha Statue Giving AlmsThe act of giving alms to monks has been practiced by Buddhists for thousands of years.  It’s equated with doing good things and the belief is that this will bring about peace and happiness.

There are many ways in which Buddhists can make merit and among them are giving alms, living life according to religious precepts and praying.

Alms giving is very common practice and usually done at the break of dawn when Buddhist monks begin their alms rounds.  Laypeople are required to prepare food and water and wait for the monks to approach them with their alms bowl.

It is important to note that women are prohibited from physical contact with a monk regardless of her age, nationality or religion.  Every female alms donor must take care not to touch a monk when she is offering food to him.

Once food and water have been placed inside the bowl, the monk will place the lid on top of his alms bowl and recite a prayer as a blessing to his donor after which the merit-making will be considered as officially over.

Buddhists give alms for a number of reasons, one example is in honor of deceased loved ones, the belief being that they will not have to suffer from famine in the afterlife.

The common rule when making merit is to ensure that the mind is purified.  Only after that state has been accomplished will the Buddhist proverb of “do good and good will come unto you” ring true.

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Buddhist Alms Bowl, Patra

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Soon after Shakyamuni Buddha attained enlightenment the four great Great Guardian Kings of the four directions each presented him with an alms-bowl, the most beautiful of which was made of precious gems and the simplest from common clay.  Shakyamuni was said to have either chosen the simple clay bowl or to have accepted all four bowls and miraculously convert them into one plain bowl that was sufficient for the needs of a humble mendicant.

The traditional alms bowl of a Buddhist monk or bhikshu is shaped like the inverted head protuberance (Skt. ushnisha) of the Buddha, a symbols of the highest attainment of Buddhahood, as the wisdom the directly realizes emptiness.  The alms bowl is generally held in the left “wisdom” hand of seated Buddhas and their disciples, the sangha.  This left hand often rest upon the lap in the gesture of meditation, with the alms bowl indicating renunciation and the hand gesture meditation upon emptiness.

Three fruits or gems, representing the trinity of Buddha, dharma and sangha, are also commonly depicted in an alms bowl.  The specific attribute of a particular Buddha may also be shown in his alms bowl.

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Tibetan Buddhist Sage, Milarepa Statue 6″

tibetan buddhist milarepa

Milarepa is held in the highest esteem by all Tibetans as the archetypal yogi. His heroic quest for knowledge is legendary. He is renowned for his ecstatic verse and in this image, his parted lips suggest the singing of songs for which he is famed throughout Tibet. His left hand is held up towards his ear, often interpreted as the gesture of listening to the songs of nature or the teachings of the masters. His half-closed eyes suggest a state of reverie. He wears large hoop earrings and a meditation strap over his right shoulder passing beneath his cloak. He is seated on an antelope skin draped over the base of the statue.

Naga Mahakala, Protector of Dharma, Copper Sculpture, 10″

 Naga Mahakala, Protector of Dharma Wax method copper sculpture

Mahakala, Glorious Lord of Pristine Awareness. Fiercely wrathful, staring with three bulging round eyes, mouth gaping with bared fangs and hanging snakes for hair. Holding aloft in the right hand, pointed to the sky, a flaming lance, and in the left a poisoned heart and lasso.

Mahakala is adorned with a crown of five dry skulls, earrings and a skirt of fresh human heads. Tucked into the sash at the waist is a ghandi stick made of sandalwood. He is dressed in boots, with the right leg bent and left straight standing atop two human corpses, thus symbolizing the death of negativities and the complete uprooting of negative patterns to such a point that, like a dead body, they will not come to life. Mahakala stands surrounded by the burning flames of pristine awareness.

Both Hindus and Buddhists worship Mahakala. Buddhists consider him as a manifestation of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. Mahakala is always seen in the entrance of Buddhist monasteries. He is regarded as the protector of the Buddhist doctrine.

This lost wax method copper sculpture is a one of a kind statue, hand cast by the very talented artists of the beautiful country of Nepal. Every piece is truly unique!

Buddha Statue in Dharmachakra Mudra Dark Wood, 20″

Buddha Statue Dharmachakra Mudra Dark wood

Lord Buddha’s hands are in the dharmachakra mudra, the gesture of teaching. Dharma means ‘law’ and chakra means ‘wheel.’ Together they mean “turning the Wheel of Law.” This hand gesture was used by Lord Buddha while preaching his first sermon in Sarnath.
This sculpture was entirely hand carved and hand painted in Bali, Indonesia. Every piece is truly unique!

Cambodian Statue of Aspara, 32″

Mythology of Aspara, Cambodian Statue, 32"

Apsara is a female spirit of the clouds and waters in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. They are beautiful, supernatural women that are youthful, elegant and proficient in the art of dancing. Apsaras are said to be able to change their shapes at will. They are sometimes compared to the muses of ancient Greece. Each of the 26 Apsaras at Indra’s court represents a distinct aspect of the performing arts.
These heavenly beings are not worshiped as Buddhist divinities. Their function is to protect Buddhist law by serving the Deva.

This sculpture was entirely hand-crafted and painted in rural villages in Cambodia. Every piece is truly unique!