A Ninth Century Scroll of the Vajradhatu Mandala

Lokesh Chandra, IAIC & Aditya, 1997, Reprint of 1986, 350 p, illustrated, ISBN : 9788186471135, $95.00 (Includes free airmail shipping)

Contents: Introduction. 1. Chinese translations of the STTS. 2. Quaternary structure of the STTS. 3. The samaya system. 4. Six mandalas of each samaya. 5. Six mandalas represent two kramas. 6. Vajradhatu-mahamandala (I.1) is the prototype of other mandalas in the STTS. 7. The Gobu-shinkan : the earliest graphic representation of the STTs. 8. Gobu=Vajradhatu. 9. Commentary on the Gobu-shinkan. 10. Extant copies of the Gobu-shinkan. 11. Analysis of the Gobu-shinkan. 12. Interrelationship of the Gobu-shinkan and the Genzu. 13. Variations in STTs, Gobu-shinkan, Genzu and Tib. version: number of mandalas. 14. Number of mandalas in the Tibetan and Genzu versions. 15. Nomenclature of mandalas. 16. Nomenclature of the 37 deities. 17. Nomenclature of the groupings of 37 deities. 18. Twenty Devas. 19a. Vajradhatu-mahamandala. b. Guhya-dharani-mandala. c. Suksma-mandala. d. Karma-puja-mandala. e. Naya-mandala. f. Catur-mudra-mandala. g. Ekamudra-mandala. 20. Literature cited. Plates: 1. Vajradhatu-mahamandala (37 deities). 2. Guhya-dharani-mandala (34 deities). 3. Suksma-mandala (32 deities). 4. Karma-puja-mandala (32 deities). 5. Naya-mandala. 6. Caturmudra-mandala. 7. Ekamudra-mandala. 8. Subhakarasimha (the author). Index.

"This ninth century scroll of the Vajradhatu mandala is the earliest known scroll of Buddhist iconography and thus it is of inestimable value for the history of Buddhist art. It is the first known sketch book for a mandala, which represents the philosophic dimensions of the tantric vision in pictorial constellations. It illustrates the six mandalas of the Vajradhatu system in confirmity with the Sanskrit text. Its illustrations were done by Subhakarasimha who lived from 637 to 735. He used these sketches for the drawing of the mandala for ritual and meditation. The scroll bears his picture and signatures. The full title of the scroll is Rita-sogyara go-bu shin-kan or meditation on the essence of the five families of the Rita-samhara or Tattva-sangraha. It is a complete collection of the six mandalas in accordance with the first samaya of the Tattva-sangraha. The six mandalas represent two kramas. The first four mandalas are the process of emanation of deities (utpatti-krama). The last two represent their gradual reintegration into the central deity Mahavairocana. Thus, they are the reabsorption (sampanna-krama) into the primordial unity of Mahavairocana. The first is the manifestation of the forms of divinities, while in the second they are consubstantiated with the essence itself. They are the manifestation and reabsorption of phenomenal existence. By bhavana or thought-creation the yogi produces the divinities of the mandala. The first mandala is the prototype representation of the other three, the second has the consort goddesses, the third suksma-mandalas is the esoteric representation symbolised by the addorsed vajra, and the fourth is the mandala for ritual where Vairocana is nirmanakaya that is in the robes of a monk.

"The scroll of the Gobu-shinkan was brought from China to Japan by Chisho Daishi in AD 855. He got it from his teacher Fa-ch'uan in the monastery of Ch'ing-lung-ssu. Its colophon reads : "This is a text kept by Rev. Fa-ch'uan, the Acarya who kept Buddhist discipline in heart. This text was given to Jnanavajra, his disciple. This is the Buddhist title of Enchin. This text includes 6 mandalas completely. The ninth year of Tai-chung" (855). It adds further: "Rta-samhara Gobu-shinkan (meditation on five families) in one scroll. This is the real text kept by the Acarya in the monastery Ch'ing-lung-ssu. This was given to Enchin." When Enchin sent to Ch'ang-an in the 9th year of Tai-chung, he received abhiseka from Fa-ch'uan in the monastery of Ch'ing-lung-ssu. Fa-ch'uan gave the text to Enchin. At the back of the text there is an inscription: "This is a real portrait of Subhakarasimha. But it is different from the coloured text. One should depend on the original text." The portrait figure of Subhakarasimha is drawn squatted with an incense-burner. It is surmised that the original Gobu-shinkan was drawn by Subhakarasimha in colours. A monochrome copy was brought by Chisho Daishi. No doubt it was drawn by a Chinese. We are fortunate that this text is still preserved in the repository of the Onjoji monastery.

"The scroll has 147 illustrations of deities with their hrdaya, names and colophons to indicate the classification. It comprises the following mandalas:

1. Vajradhatu-mahamandala, illustrations 1-37.

2. Guhya-dharani-mandala, illustrations 38-71.

3. Suksma-mandala, illustrations 72-104.

4. Karma-puja-mandala, illustrations 105-137. Naya-mandala; not so indicated by a colophon, illustrations 138, 139.

5. Caturmudra-mandala, illustrations 140-144.

6. Ekamudra-mandala, illustration 145, Subhakarasimha's portrait 146 and Chinese colophon.

"The scroll is of rare significance in being the earliest delineation of the mudras. It illustrates three kinds of mudras of every deity, namely, cihna-mudra, karma-mudra and maha-mudra.

"As an eighth century illustrated pantheon, the scroll is unique material for the history of Indian art, thought and ritual. It has played a crucial role in East Asian lands and has relevance to the eighth and ninth century Southeast Asian sculptures." (jacket)

[Prof. Lokesh Chandra is a renowned scholar of Tibetan, Mongolian and Sino-japanese Buddhism. He has to his credit over 360 works and text editions. Among them are classics like his Tibetan-Sanskrit Dictionary, Materials for a History of Tibetan Literature, Buddhist Iconography of Tibet, and his ongoing Dictionary of Buddhist Art in about 20 volumes. Prof. Lokesh Chandra was nominated by the President of the Republic of India to the Parliament in 1974-80 and again 1980-86. He has been a Vice-President of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, and Chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research. Presently he is Director, International Academy of Indian Culture.]

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