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New Small Collage: Avalokiteshvara in Bloom

29 MARCH 2018

New Small Collage

I've recently finished a new small collage, loosely based on a traditional drawing of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. I've felt an affinity for this enlightened being from first sight. Seeing a depiction of him has always given me a feeling of peace and happiness, even before I knew anything about him.

mixed media collage of Tibetan deity with flowers and golden door

Avalokiteshvara in Bloom, mixed media collage on multi-media board, 6 x 9.5 inches ingredients: vintage ephemera, image transfers, watercolor pencils, acrylic inks, metallic ink, artist pens

Tricycle Magazine describes him/her so much better than I ever could: "Avalokiteshvara is recognized throughout the Mahayana Buddhist world as the bodhisattva of compassion. Having made the vow not to enter nirvana until all beings have attained enlightment, this bodhisattva remains in samsara in order to answer the cries of suffering—hence the name Avalokiteshvara, “Perceiver of the World’s Sounds.”

In Tibet, Avalokiteshvara’s principal manifestation is Chenrezi, the bodhisattva invoked by reciting the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum. In China, the earliest paintings depict Avalokiteshvara as male, but by the seventh century C.E. he had assumed the willowy, feminine form of Kuan yin. This Chinese form was adopted in Japan, where she is called Kannon of Kanzeon, and is generally depicted as female or androgynous in form.

The bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara embodies the virture of compassion and the means of exercising that compassion in the world. For this reasion, Avalokiteshvara assumes thirty-three different forms, one of which, having a thousand arms and hands, is symbolic of the myriad skillful means he/she employs to lead suffering beings to nirvana." - From this article in Tricycle Magazine

detail of new small collage of Tibetan deity

detail of new small collage of Tibetan deity

Avalokiteshvara in Bloom  - details


I love the thousand-armed version of Avalokiteshvara, except when it comes to drawing him/her. For obvious reasons, I left out many of the arms, while still trying to preserve the impression of infinite power. The idea of being helped or protected by someone with a thousand arms is appealing; with that many arms, you could kick some serious butt, right?

The flowers come from my own head, and do not have any traditional symbolic meaning, other than that in Buddhism, flowers are often given as offerings. To me, they symbolize life, and Avalokiteshvara remains in this life until all beings have become enlightened. I also like the fact that in many depictions, the arms form a circle! (For more about my obssession with circles, go here, and here.)

Tibetan proportion diagram of Avalokiteshvara

Tibetan proportion diagram of Avalakiteshvara

You may not be aware that Tibetan depictions of deities and other religious symbols have strict conventions concerning how they're drawn. In the 18th century a series of diagrams, The Tibetan Book of Proportions, was produced. "... As well as the proportions, other aspects of the depiction – such as number of teeth, colour of eyes, direction of hairs – became very important. The Victoria and Albert Museum has produced a good guide to the iconography of the Buddha, including the 32 Lakshanas or special bodily features."

Many Forms

Here's a look at a few of my favorite pieces of Avalokiteshvara art. As you can see, I'm not the only one who didn't bother with all the arms. Or perhaps these are some of the other 32 versions. I aplogize for not having attibutions for all of these images - I searched, but I did not find.

statue of 1000 armed Avalokiteshvara

A Tibetan statue of 1000-Armed Avalokitesvara / Chenrezig, from Penn Museum, Philadelphia PA.

Painting of Avalokiteshvara by Alex Grey

Alex Grey's Avalokitesvara Painting 1982-83, Acrylic on Linen 84 x 46. I'm sure he must have painted all 1000 arms - sheesh!

bright gold statue of 1000 armed Avalokiteshvara

Thousand Arms Chenrezig Bodhisattva of Compassion, 17th-18th century, gilt copper alloy with turquoise inlay, located at the Norbulingka, Lhasa, Tibet

statue of 1000 armed Avalokiteshvara in glass

This one is quite beautiful, but is obviously not the 1000-armed, 11-headed version. It looks like it's made of glass, but I'm not sure.

thangka painting of 1000 armed Avalokiteshvara

1000 hands and 1000 eyes Avalokiteshvara thangka painting

carving of Avalokiteshvara/ Kuan Yin

Kuan Yin, no ID

"Avalokiteshvara/Chenrezig Short Mantra: OM MANI PADME HUM. According to Buddhist teachings, the benefits of chanting this mantra are as vast as the infinite sky. The words of the mantra literally mean “Hail to the Jewel in the Heart of the Lotus” and when chanted, actualize great compassion while simultaneously purifying obscurations, especially those of ignorance and hatred." (source not found)

Namaste, my friends.


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