Chapter 10

Photographs of Artefacts and Images

Each art object has a meditation above and description below.

Note: Click on photo to see enlarged image (opens in new window).

A small dwelling where the moonlight leaks in through chinks in the roof can be transformed into a place where love can abide, if the mind of its master is pure.

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1.      Stupa. Cast bronze. Plain metal patina. Also known as a Chorten or Caitya. 13th/14th century. 40 cm. (Private collection, London)

It is wrong to think that misfortunes come from the East or the West; they originate in one’s own mind.

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2.      Prayer Wheel . Hammered sheet-silver barrel with chain and weight supported on a wooden shaft. 19th century. 24 cm. (Private collection, London)

One must please oneself by seeking the teachings of Buddha in spite of the conflagration that fills all the world.

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3.      Two Phurbas . A polychromed carved wooden Phurba, 19th century. 25 cm. and a combination bronze  and copper  necromancers phurba with a meteoric iron blade. 13th/14th century. 35 cm. (Private collection,  London)

It is foolish to guard against misfortunes from the external world and leave the inner mind uncontrolled.

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4.      Rare cast bronze  Thokde . See  Tibet and its history section and Terms. 4 x 5 cm. Pre-Buddhist period. (Private collection,  London)

If a man lives a pure life nothing can destroy him; If he has conquered ignorance nothing can limit his freedom.

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5.      Scribe's elaborately pierced and cast gilded iron pen-case. From  Derge , Tibet where iron casting was perfected to an art. 35 cm. with accompanying large pierced iron seal and two quill pens. 15th century. (Private collection,  London)

On life’s journey faith is nourishment.

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6.      Mala. Human-bone skull discs with two pairs of silver counters and a gold miniature Phurba  with a huge ivory finial Citipati bead. The skull-discs are dated approximately as 17th/18th century, the Phurba as pre-10th century and the silver counters as 19th century. The Citipati-bead is 18th century, and a superbly cast bronze  Khatvangha . Most likely to have come from a fine bronze  cast figure of Padmasambhava . 15th century. 17 cm. (Private collection,  London )

To enter into Buddha’s room means to share his all-embracing great compassion and to have sympathy for every living creature.

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7.      Collection of 12 small to tiny Vajras or Dorjes. Bronze, varying in age from 8th to 18th centuries, the tiniest being dated as the earliest. 2 cm to 15 cm. A large circular horoscopic Mandala plaque-box containing large amounts of prayers, bone relics, seeds and fragments of cloth from holy people and sights. All permanently sealed behind a copper plate. Hammered sheet brass. 19th century. 35 cm in diameter. (Private collection, London)

To wear Buddha’s clothes means to be humble and practise endurance; to sit on Buddha’s throne means to see matter as non-substantial and to have no attachments.

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8.      Superbly carved wooden head-dress crown. As worn by a Priest or a Necromancer. Each of the five sections depicting an image of the five Dhyani-Buddhas. Traces of gilding. 11th/12th century. Each plaque 10 x 24 cm. (Private collection, London)

Living beings in a dark solitude suddenly find a great relief as they look about and recognise one another.

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9.      Two amulet boxes or gahu. The smaller circular box contains prayers and a black hematite magic  stone with a curious natural eye marking, said to have belonged to an ancient Saint and given to the author by the late Abbot of the Jokhang Temple in  Lhasa in 1997. [See photo no. 9a] Large silver and gold amulet box containing an early terracotta and human-ash pressed plaque of two pacific deities. The larger box, 19th century. 2l x l5 cm. (Private collection, Sussex, England)


 9a. Photograph of the late Abbot of the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa. Holding the prehistoric "Magic Stone” in 1987. (Private collection, Sussex, England) 

To live a pure unselfish life one must count nothing as one’s own in the midst of abundance.

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10.  Damaru of two human skulls. Pre-18th century. A Karttrka cast and forged in iron with silver and gold inlay. 15th century or earlier. 20 cm high. Most likely made in the iron-casting city of Derge. (Private collection, London)

When one has the feeling for the dislike of evil, when one has this feeling and appreciates it, one is free from fear.

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11.  Priest's apron. Intricately carved human bones and beads. Each plaque has a carving of a deity with its accompanying acolytes. Mounted on a fabric sash to be worn during various ceremonies. Pre-18th century. Worn around the waist as a skirt and tied behind with a leather cord. (Private collection, London)

Sorrow, fear and bondage come from one’s likes and dislikes.

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12.  Plaque from an apron of carved human bones. Exquisite plaque, possibly from a split half of femur. The detail and quality of the carver's art is, as with the previous illustration, a stunning example of the little known craft of human-bone carving. A Tantric deity and a smaller Dakini. Pre-19th century. 4 x l5 cm. (Private collection, London)

Every article entrusted to us must be used with good care, because it is not “ours” but it only entrusted to us.

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13.  Large copper teapot with separate removable lid. Part gilded and decorated with plaques of dragons and Buddhist symbols. 19th century. 40 cm high. (Private collection, London)

In the world of learning there is boundless light and everlasting life. Those who reach this haven will never return to the world of delusion.

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14.  Deeply carved wooden book cover. From one of the sacred Buddhist texts. The carvings are of the many manifestations of the Buddha. Pre-12th century. 75 x 25 cm. A page of text with paintings of two historical deities. Pre-15th century. [See section on wood in this book] (Private collection, London)

As the light of a small candle will spread from one to another in succession, so the light of Buddha’s compassion will pass on from one mind to another endlessly.

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15.  Gold Amulet box with inlaid turquoises and rubies. 19th century. 10 x 10 cm. Private collection, London)

Bloodstains cannot be removed by more blood.

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16.  Human-bone skull cup. Mounted with copper band and lining, with its beaten copper, Vajra-topped lid. Both resting on a Dakini-headed triangular base. (Private collection, London)

“I am Buddha, touch my words as you begin your journey.”

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17.  Woven horse blanket/rug. Decorated with Snow Lions playing with their young amid the flyings of Dragons and Phoenixes. 19th century. 134 x 62 cm. (Private collection, Brighton, England)

Follow the sound until it disappears and follow until the ends of time.

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18.  So-called "Singing Bowl." [See section on Musical Instruments for explanation.] A pair of fine 16th century Dingsha with their fitted silver box. Two ancient human thigh-bone trumpets used by Lamas and Magicians. (Private collection, London)

The only thing that protects and brings to lasting peace is enlightenment.

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19.  Rare hardstone carved miniature Stele. Of the Tantric deity Vajrakilaya with his Sakti. Note the Phurba in the deity's right hand. 13th century or earlier. Originally to have been kept in an Amulet box. 10 x 7 cm. Two fine miniature cast silver figures of previous Dalai Lamas. 18th century. 4 cm high. (Private collection, London)

“My lord, as I gain enlightenment I will not violate the sacred precepts; I will not become angry with anyone.”

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20.  Sacred silver reliquary amulet box. Containing ancient (9th to 10th century A.D.) copper figure of Vajrapani, wrapped in rolls of prayers, ancient fragments of cloth and other consecrated bits and pieces. The box 18th/19th century and is l4 x 9 cm. (Private collection, London)

Each day is precious,

Each moment divine.

The healing horse,

Heals our damaged souls.


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21.  Unusual Tibetan Healing Horse. Cast bronze with plain metal patina. Wearing a Prayer-collar. Healing horses were more prevalent in China, and were used to indicate the source of pain in both the human and animal patient. They were used (by rubbing) by childless couples hoping to ensure a pregnancy. Baby horse sculptures are also used in the healing of sick children. 15th/16th century. l2 x 15 cm. (Private collection, London)

I have suffered only what was my due

I only wait for my time to come,

But you must step forth towards the Noble Path and sing.


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22.  Tshog-Shing Thangka. This brightly painted wall size hanging, has Tsong Khapa as its central deity. He is surrounded by an assemblage of many Tibetan Buddhist divinities in hierarchical order. Late 19th century. (Private collection, London)

Pure silence is often pure honesty.

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23.  Thangka of Yamantaka . A quite rare example of the much more normal multi-coloured Thangkas, in that the entire area is black with gold line drawing and only the heads are punctuated by colour. 75 x l20 cm. 19th century. (Private collection, London)

The time of delusion and suffering seems long to a man who does not know the right teaching.

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24.  Crowned Buddha. His hands are in dhyani-mudra. This light metal cast-bronze figure with its amused expression and half aura behind the shoulders, is typical of the later Western Tibetan style of bronze sculpture. 15th/16th century. 35 cm high. (Private collection, London)

Faith softens our hard and selfish minds and gives us a loving spirit and a mind of understanding compassion.

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25.  Green Tara. Cast bronze, cold gilded. Hands in Vitarka and Varada mudras. Right foot is resting on small single lotus plinth. 16th century. 12 cm. (Private collection, London)

Just hearing the Buddha’s name, the sunlight by day, the twinkling stars by night; the traveller constantly refreshes his spirit.

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26.  Amoghasidhi, Crowned. Cast and gilded bronze. Right hand in abhaya mudra, left hand in dhyani mudra. A small bowl is missing from the left hand. In front of this seated figure on the ledge beneath the feet, is the impressed monogram of the crossed Vajras (the Visvavajra) a symbol of the above deity. 15th/16th century. 16 cm. (Private collection, London)

Everything changes, everything appears and disappears. There is perfect tranquility.

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27.  Green Tara. A Sino-Tibetan example of a cast bronze, highly gilt and excessively decorative with many inlaid turquoise stones. 18th century. 15 cm. (Private collection, London)


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28.  Green Tara . A side view of this beautiful figure.

I awake as a child from the dark and reach for the diamond sceptre.

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29.  Vajrasattva . Cast bronze . Natural metal patina. Right hand at breast level, holds an upright Vajra , while the left hand holds an ghanta by his hip. 15th century 8 cm. (Private collection, London )

Make of yourself a light,

And light the darkness in your own mind.

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30.  Close up of Vajrasattva , showing the sensitive features of this charming sculpture. This is truly an image bestowed with a timeless beauty.

We spend our lives reaching for stars and forget that we stand upon a star.

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31.  Usnisavijaya . An independent member of the group of feminine Bodhissatvas . Cast and gilded bronze . Three heads, eight arms hold the following symbols; Capa, Sara, Kalasa , Visvavajra , a Mala  and a Buddha  image. 16th century. 13 cm. (Private collection, London)

Nothing can part us now, friend. We are as we were.

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32.  Amoghapasa , possibly a rare form. Due to some missing symbols from the hands, identification is not certain. Cast, and brightly gilded bronze . Three heads and six arms. 15th century. 14 cm. (Private collection, London)

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33.  Side view of Amoghapasa.

I tie heartaches and float without grief into a thousand years of water.

I light thousands of candles from a single candle and the life of the candle will not be shortened.

Happiness never decreases by being shared.


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34.  Manjusri . Cast bronze  with natural metal patina. Showing a typical early Western Tibetan  style of sculpture. Base missing. 11th/12th century. 15cm. (Private collection, London)

Before you were born

Who were you?

Were you made from everyone?

Were you the echo before the sound?

Were you the water’s mouth of the rain?

Were you the air eyes of the wind?

Were you the light of all the days?

Oh yes, you were.


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35.  Padmapani  Cast bronze  with natural metal patina. Another example of early Western Tibetan  bronze  sculpture. The main figure stands between two Stupas 11th/12th century. 13 cm. (Private collection, London)

The lama with a bowl and stick wished me a safe journey in a prayer of dust.

I was there, touched the sky and came home.


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36.  Padmasambhava . Cast bronze  with natural metal patina Holds a Vajra  in his right hand against his breast, and a skull bowl in his 1eft hand on his lap, a Katvangha  rests against his left shoulder. 15th/16th century. 17 cm. (Private collection, London)

Keep your mind from greed and you will keep your behaviour right, your mind pure and your words faithful.

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37.  Unidentified deified smiling Abbot. Cast bronze , bright natural metal patina with inlaid copper  strap on robe. Right hand in Abhaya  mudra, left hand in Varada mudra. 15th century. 15 cm. (Private collection, London)

“My dear students, this is the end. In a moment I shall be passing into Nirvana.”

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38.  Great Fifth Dalai-Lama . 1615-1680 A.D. Cast bronze  and part gilded. This representation of the visionary leader was most likely made soon after his death  in 1680 A.D. Seated in Abbot’s robes on a splendid cushion, his wisdom and compassion  still seems able to communicate. Late 17th century. 20 cm. (Private collection, London)

“After my death, the Dharma shall be your teacher.”

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39.  Deified Personage. Possibly Asvaghosa, the fifth century A.D. teacher, thought by many to be the father of Mahayanist Buddhism . He wrote a much revered book on the Buddha 's life. Cast bronze  with gilding . 15th century or later. 15 cm. (Private collection, London)

For it in the nature of Buddhahood to be compassionate.

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40.  Mahasiddha. Possibly Goraksa (protector of the herd). Cast bronze  and gilded. Seated on a base of lost souls. His hands are joined in Dhyani mudra. 13th/14th century. 12 cm. (Private collection, London)

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41.  Mahasiddha. A side view of this magnificent natural sculpture.

The seeker trains himself to avoid anger and wishes that all people might love another.

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42.  Unidentified historical personage. Cast bronze . Natural metal patina. Engraved round the base with Tibetan  script, “Hail to the victorious banner, Parjong Tsultim”. Inlaid silver eyes. Holds right hand in Abhaya  mudra at breast while left hand holds a Kalasa . 14th century. 13 cm. (Private collection, London)

Just as rain falls on all vegetation so compassion extends equally to all people. Enlightenment appears as the light of wisdom that awakens people into the newness of life.

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43.  Mahasiddha. Possibly Virupa. Cast bronze. Dark metal patina. Right hand raised in Vitarka mudra, while left hand resting on his knee, holds a lotus flower in a bowl. 15th century. 13 cm. (Private collection, London)

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44.  Side view of this jovial Mahasiddha.

Create an opportunity to turn poison into nectar and violence into sweetness.

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45.  Acala . A saviour of knowledge. A form of Vajrapani . This superb figure is a cast bronze  with natural metal patina. His outstretched right hand holds a Khadga, while his left hand holds a Lotus  stem. 11th century Tibet , with influences from North East India . 11 cm. (Private collection, London)

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46.  Acala. A rear view showing the flowing movement of this sculpture.

All self-centred life is suffering. Hatreds never cease by hatreds in this world, by love alone they cease. This is an ancient law.

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47.   Vajrapani. Massive looking cast bronze  with a natural dark patina. A provincial piece. This Vajrapani is also iconographically unusual, in that a standing Garuda  bird rests with outstretched wings between the legs of the main deity. Vajrapani and the Garuda are both standing on coiled snake monsters. His right hand holds a Vajra , his left hand is held in Vitarka mudra. 14th/15th century. 16 cm. (Private collection, London )

Does one ever dare to see what one is? One has become what one wants to be.

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48.  Samvara . A protective deity, one of the Yi-dam. In Yab-Yam with his Sakti . Cast and gilded bronze  with separately affixed carved wooden mandorla. A variety of symbols and attributes are held; a Damaru, a Karttrka , a Vajra , a Ghanta  and a Danda . 14th century or later. 12 cm overall. (Private collection London)

Nirvana is not a state of being of an entity, but a moment of experiencing. In that moment there is no memory and no desire, no past and no future.

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49.  Mahakala . One of the Dharmapala . A cast and part gilded painted bronze . A magnificent example of the Tibetan  sculptural tradition. The four faced ferocious god guardian has four arms that hold a Khadga, a Karttrka , a skull bowl, a Kalasa  and a spear-banner. He stands on a vanquished demon. 16th century. 16 cm. (Private collection, London)

Fear travels on a structure, on a dream, from soul to soul, a descending star, lonely and immense, blown towards us from an unknown space, on a dark wind, subdued and gradual.

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50.  Mahakala . A powerful provincial example of this guardian figure. Cast bronze  and dark metal patina. Attributes are missing, but the threat of this brooding, six legged monster is still potent. 15th century. Including its carved rosewood base the figure is 18 cm. (Private collection, London)

Nirvana is the only deliverance; the only freedom surpassing all understanding.

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51.  Huge and angry Gurgyi-Gompo. Guardian and protector of the tent, also recognised as another aspect of Mahakala . A cast bronze  with dark metal patina. Some attributes, and its base are missing. 15th century. 30 cm. (Private collection, London )

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52.  Gurgyi-Gompo. A rear view of this malevolent figure revealing his jewelled and skull adorned robes.

The moon is often hidden by clouds, but it is not moved by them and its purity remains untarnished.

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53.   Hayagriva . One of the Dharmapala . Cast bronze  dark metal patina, but painted with part gilded faces. Three heads, six arms with eight legs, holding various Tantric attributes. Note the horse's head on top of the deity's head-dress. He stands on snakes. 16th century. 15 cm. (Private collection, London )

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54.  Hayagriva . A side view of this aggressive figure's eight legs, corpulent posture and horse's top-knot.

Though wicked men should be born beasts or hungry demons or fall into hell, they never lose their Buddha-nature.

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55.   Yamantaka . Also called Bhairava . One of the Dharmapala . Cast gilded bronze  in two pieces. The main figure and the bull-base are separate. This is a sculpture full of joy, a deity relishing his powers of threat and terror. He holds a Danda  in his right uplifted hand, and stands on a subjugated bull, who is copulating with a demon-corpse. 17th century. Sino-Tibet . 18 cm. (Private collection, London )

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56.   Yamantaka . A rear view of this imposing sculpture.

Of all the worldly passions, lust is the most intense. Lust is like a demon that eats up all the good deeds of the world.

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57.   Simhavaktra . A Dakini . A lion-headed fierce manifestation of this female deity. Cast bronze  and gilded. This Sino-Tibetan  example is missing its original Lotus  base. 17th century. The figure, without the wood  base is 17 cm. high. (Private collection, London )

Dance with me and proclaim the words of the Buddha’s song in full voice.

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58.  Dakini. Possibly Vajrayogini. Cast copper  and gilded. This Tibetan  figure was most likely made by a Nepalese craftsman. The clues are the copper  metal, the softer gilding  and the less ferocious and more gentle demeanour of this deity. Her right hand holds a Vajra , her left hand holds a skull bowl. She stands on a dead demon. 15th century. 18 cm. (Private collection, London)