Tantrism in Nepal

Movement from with the Mahayana school appeared in first century AD in fringe areas of India. Hindus and Buddhists came into contact with animistreligions and integrated beliefs and practices. Yoga, physical exercises to control body functions, mantras, repetitive utterances, bijas, magicsyllables, use of designs and objects such as mandala and dorjee. Transformed into Lamaism which penetrated also into Nepal. Purpose was to shorten the road to enlightenment with such practices.

Prayer Flags and Prayer Wheels take prayers to the sky, to the divinities. Idea that movement creates power. Prayer wheels rotated clockwise to send mantra to the divinities. Usually brass cylinder with pre-Sanskrit script, ranja, writing. The wheel contains parchment like paper upon which the Tibetan incantation OM MANI PADME HUM (image top) is repeatedly printed. Some rough translations of this mantra are

Oh, the jewel (mani) concealed in the lotus (padma) ah. One specific interpretation of this incantation is that of a prayer the Boddhisatva Padmapani who controls reincarnation

Oh, Padmapani, give me the jewel in the lotus, which is the blessing on non-rebirth or attainment of Nirvana through the acceptance of the Buddhist doctrine. A more general interpretation is Oh, may the jewel remain in the lotus, meaning may Buddha’s teachings remain pure in our minds and souls.

Vajra or Dorje looks like two crowns with bases attached by a metal ball. Each crown has four outer spokes and one inner spoke to represent the meditation Buddhas, united at the top to convey that they are but one. Means “thunderbolt” symbolic attribute of Hindu god Indra who is the divine power of natural forces, and the “diamond”, the substance that is translucent and unbreakable. The Dorje is primarily a symbol of power but is also a representation of the male.

Ghanta, the bell is bronze and topped with crown shaped handle. The bell symbolizes the female. In a metaphysical sense, male represents knowledge and female represents wisdom. Both important to rituals statues and temples for Buddha or to Bodhisattvas.

Chaitya, a somewhat conical stone structure, shrines for gratitude or worship. Always show four statues representing each of the dhyana-Buddhas or meditation Buddhas.

Facing north, Buddha Amogasiddhi with right hand upward and palms outward to express fearlessness and blessing (associated with green).

Facing east, Buddha Akshobya, right hand outstretched with fingers touching earth calling Earth-goddess to witness that Buddha resisted temptations put forth by demon Mara who was trying to lure him away from his meditations. Also thought of as calling to witness Buddha’s deserving supreme enlightenment. (blue)

Facing south, Buddha Ratnasambhawa with right hand palm outward to express compassion. yellow

Facing west, Buddha Amithaba, two hands folded, resting on lap in meditation red.

Some chaityas or scrolls show a fifth central figure, the Buddha Vairocana who is above or in the middle of the previously mentioned four. Hands folded in front of chest he is perfect sovereignty as “turning the wheel of the Buddhist doctrine.” white.

Another common Buddhist statue is that of the Tara, either white or green Tara. Were the two wives of Srong Tsam Gampo, King of Tibet that they converted to their faith, Buddhism. Deified.

Bodhisattvas honored often are Padmapani, holds a lotus flower and is master or reincarnations. Manjushri is honored as bearer of wisdom by Buddhists and Hindus. Holds book of knowledge in left hand and a sword to strike ignorance with right.

A historical look demonstrates that artistic expression reflects the religious and ethnic diversity within the valley. Nepalese art became prominent in the 13th century through the work of Balbahu, also known as Arniko, an architect for the king of Tibet and possibly the Emperor of China. Nepalese art is recognized for its candour, simplicity and harmony balanced with intricacy and decoration. The Malla dynasty promoted all forms of artistic expression from the 14th to the 19th centuries. Tibetan forms of expression influenced art in the valley beginning in the 17th century. Tantric and Buddhist themes introduced greater differentiation between Nepalese and Indian art.

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