Dictionary of Buddhist Iconography - Volume 4

Dictionary of Buddhist Iconography - Volume 4

Product ID: 80044

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Author: Lokesh Chandra
Publisher: Aditya Prakashan
Year: 2002
Language: English
Pages: 333
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8177420429


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 araise 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.


Symbol and form are embodied in the vast pantheon of Buddhism as a panorama of transience, transcendence, appearance and spiritual flow. Forms, shapes and images become a pilgrimage of the eyes and the beyond: Paragate para-sangate bodhi svaha. The phenomenal world of the icon becomes the energy of meditation, and the aniconic of non-being. Borne on this dram of form, the human spirit evolves into the evanescence of immensity. A calm of the eyes dissolving into the vision and fury of intense depths, the Dhyana-paramita, who begins this fourth volume.

The several forms of a single deity due to varying contexts, different centuries and several geographic regions add to the multiple expressions of a single theonym. Their symbolic representation, hand postures or mudras, hierograms or bijas, and mantras evidence ever-going evolution.

The Derge edition of the Kanjur and Tanjur picture several hundred Tathagatas / Buddhas inscribed with their name, which are not from the Thousand Buddhas. Their source has to be investigated.

The names of Tibetan masters are at times prefixed by a geographical location, e.g. Dnul.chu Dharmabhadra. They have been entered under the geographic habitat, and cross-reference under the proper name. Thus Dnul.chu Dharmabhadra is entered under Dnul.chu, with a reference under Darmabhadra.

Some of the bon deities, like Gsas.rnam.pa on page 1298, have been illustrated for the first time (?) in line drawings by Venerable Lopon Tenzin Namdak.

These divine gods and goddesses live close to the life of Asia in a combination of the profound and the naïve, of the simple and the whole, the worship of the poet and the peasant, the subtle and sublime mystically dripping in an evanescent tinge.


Dictionary (Dhyana-paramita-Gzuns.las.byun.bahi lha.mo Nor.rgyun.ma)