Author: Lokesh Chandra
Publisher: Aditya Prakashan
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8177420518
The Dictionary of Buddhist Iconography is an endeavour of half a century to identify, classify, describe and delineated the bewildering variation in Buddhist icons. It spans the last twenty centuries, and it is a comparative study of unprecedented geographic variations, besides the ever-evolving visualizations of great masters who introduced extraordinary plurality of divine forms in the dharanis and sadhanas.
The multiple forms of a theonym arise in varying contexts. For example, Hevajra of the Hevajra-tantra holds crania in his hands, while the Hevajra of the Samputa-tantra has weapons. Both are subdivided into four each on the planes of Kaya, vak, citta and hrdaya, with two, four, eight and sixteen arms. The Dictionary classifies several such types of a deity and places each in its theogonic structure, specifies the earliest date of its occurrence (e. g. Amoghapasa appears in Chinese in AD 587), the earliest image, the direction in which it is placed in the specific quarter of the mandala, its classification, colour, crown or hairdo, ferocious or serene appearance, number of eyes and heads, hair standing up and / or flaming, number of arms and attributes held in them, consort, lord of the family (kulesa), and so on. The esoteric name, symbolic form (samaya), bija (hierogram), mantra, mudra and mandala are given in this Dictionary for the first time and on an extensive scale. The Sanskrit, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Tibetan, Mongolian, Manchu and other names are given under the main entry, as well as cross-referenced in their own alphabetic order.
The Dictionary details the characteristic attributes, chronology and symbolism of over twelve thousand main and minor deities. It reflects the extraordinary cultural, literary, aesthetic and spiritual achievements of several nations of Asia over two millennia.
It will help to identify the masterpieces along with the profusion of masters and divine beings around them. The last few decades have seen an exuberant flourishing of the study and popularisation of the patrimony of Buddhist art for its aesthetic magnificence. This Dictionary will add a dimension of precision and depth of perception to the visual tradition of paintings and sculptures.
The flowing theogonic manifestations of dhyana are a dialogue with The Search Within, a visit to the interior spaces of life. A continuing journey into the depths. Here we are at the bridge between the human and the divine, in a no-place (eutopia) of meditation, in the rupa of the arupa-dhatu, symbolized as deities. Form is an upaya to lead to the formless divine element within the individual. Now, some specifics of this volume.
Mahabala is one of the Sixteen Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas in the main temple of Tabo. The attribute in his hands has escaped identification. He has also been delineated in the Japanese work shish-goma, zuzo as early as AD 821. This work enables us to identify the mountain held in his hands. It means that he is a sailendra lord of the mountains. The Tabo Mahabala sanctified the dominion of the Guge kings over their sprawling kingdom in the Himalayas.
Heruka is a generic term for a number of deities, among them is Mahamya-Heruka. Te Tibetan transcription Ma.ha.maya and the corresponding translation Sgyu.ma.chen.po (with the masculine suffix po) raised doubts about the correct orthography. The other Tibetan translation Sgyu.ma.chen.mo with the feminine suffix mo clearly indicates that it is a feminine form. SM 248 elaborates that this Heruka is from the Mahamaya-tantra, and hence his name Mahamaya-Heruka.
This volume includes all the five protective goddesses known as Pancaraksa- Mahapratisara in the centre, Mahasahasra-pramardani in the east, Mahamantr-anudharani in the south, Mahasitavati (or ni) in the west, and Mahamayuri in the north. The Pancaraksa authority Prof Gerd J R Mevissen of the Freie Universitat Berlin has gone through the entries on the five goddeses and obliged me by his valuable suggestions.
Mahesvara is represented in the Buddhist traditions with two, four, six eight, eighteen and thousand arms, as well as in subordinate positions (as being crushed under the feet of some deity). He has twenty-seven types in this Dictionary.
Maitreya the Buddha-to-be appear extensively in the art of Gandhara, with his long-necked kundika. As the Future Buddha he became so popular that he was owned in the later Pali Tradition. The Three Buddhas (Dipankara, Sakyamuni, Maitreya) of the three times (past, present and future) were the eternal dimension of Buddhism. As many as forty-five forms of Maitreya are registered herein.
The letter M which forms this volume will be continued in the next eighth volume. It is a continuing pilgrimage to the realm of shapes, with the gods in caravan constantly assuming different aspects in their great flux.
Literature Cited (supplementary list 2)