Library of Congress Receives Special Gifts from His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Thursday, July 22 2010 @ 12:41 am BST
|Special Envoy Kasur Lodi Gyari (L) presents His Holiness the Dalai Lama's gifts to Dr James Billington, Librarian of the Library of US Congress|
Washington, DC: The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. organised an event on Monday (19 July) during which the Librarian, Dr James Billington, received three gifts to the Library from His Holiness the Dalai Lama from his Special Envoy Lodi Gyari.
The three gifts consist of an 18th century Thangka of the Buddha from the Paksam Trishing collection; a Mandala offering set; and a golden butter lamp.
Gyari Rinpoche spoke about His Holiness the Dalai Lama's visit to the Library in February this year, during which he had expressed his desire to make some gifts to the Library's collection. Rinpoche described the significance of the Thangka. He referred to these gifts as strengthening the bond between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the United States, 102 years William Rockhill had received some gifts from the 13th Dalai Lama, which later became a part of the Library's collection.
Dr Billington, in his remarks, said he was honoured and humbled to accept these very special gifts from His Holiness. He said that when His Holiness visited the Library he had the opportunity to show him the gifts given by his predecessor, the 13th Dalai Lama, to William Rockhill in 1908. These included a beautiful thangka and a copy of the Tibetan text on the perfection of wisdom, both highly symbolic of the special meeting.
Dr Billington said today's gifts also have special symbolic significance. He said they reminded him of the Library's core mission, to offer the light of wisdom and learning to the world through preserving a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for future generations. He said this includes the Library's Tibetan collection consisting of nearly 13,000 volumes.
Librarian Billington requested Gyari Rinpoche to thank His Holiness for these profound gifts, symbolic also of our friendship, and said he welcomed His Holiness to visit again and again. Dr Billington concluded by wishing Gyari Rinpoche Tashi Delek.
Given below are the descriptions (kindly prepared by Dr Thupten Jinpa) of the special Thangka.
THE BUDDHA FROM THE PAKSAM TRISHING (AVADĀNA STORIES) COLLECTION
This painting is the central piece of a set of thangkas (Tibetan painted scrolls) known as Dzegya Paksam Trishing, literally, “the wish-granting tree of hundred lives,” which depict the stories of the Buddha’s former births or Jatakas. This particular Tibetan set of paintings of the Buddha’s birth stories is based on the Sanskrit work Bodhisattva Avadāna-kalpa-latā (rtogs brjod dpag bsam ‘khri shing) by the Kashmiri poet Ksemendra and completed by his son Somentra in 1052 CE, which contains 108 stories. Alongside the famed Jatakamala (Garland of Births) of Aryasura (fourth century CE), Ksemendra’s Avadāna-kalpa-latā became highly celebrated in Tibet, giving rise to the tradition of creating thangka paintings based on these texts. Generally, Avadāna set contains twenty three thangkas with the historical Buddha and his two principle disciples as the theme of the central thangka.
In this thangka, the central image is that of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni, who is flanked by his two principle disciples Shariputra (on the left) and Maugaliputra (on the right). On the sides of the two disciples are, respectively, the gods Brahma on the left and Indra on the right, who, according to the tradition, made the request to the Buddha to turn the wheel of Dharma. Below, on the left, are the kings Bimbisara and Utrayana, and on the right are the king Prasenajit and householder Anathapindika, all of who were important benefactors of the Buddha and his monastic community.
In the upper part of the thangka, at the top in the middle is a cluster of four figures. They are, in the uppermost, Aryasura, the fourth century author of the famed Jatakamala, which presents a collection of 34 birth stories of the Buddha; on the left, Tsongkapa, the famed fourteenth century founder of the Geluk School, who instituted the tradition of the public teaching of the Jatakamala at the Great Prayer Festival in Lhasa; on the right, Phakpa Lama, the thirteenth century Sakya ruler who was involved in commissioning the translation of Ksemendra’s poetic work on the 108 birth stories. Immediately above the Buddha is the Fifth Dalai Lama (seventeenth century), who supervised the printing of the bilingual edition of Ksemendra’s text, and may have also been responsible for inventing the tradition of painting the Avadāna stories on thangkas. Now, in the upper part of the thangka, both on the left and on the right are clusters of three figures each. In the left, at the top, right and left, are respectively, Shongton Lotsawa, who, in the thirteenth century, first translated the Avadāna-kalpa text, the basis of the set of paintings to which this thangka belongs; Ksemendra, the Kashmiri poet, the author of the Avadāna text; and the Indian master Buddhibhadra. In the right cluster are, at the top, Zhalu Lotsawa, who revised the translation of the Avadāna text and produced a bi-lingual edition; below him on the left is Somendra, the son of Ksemendra; and on the right is the Indian master Suryashri. Together, these figures on the upper part of the thangka narrate the historical development of the tradition of the Avadāna stories in both in India and in Tibet.
Original inscriptions on the back of the thangka states that this thangka was part of a set commissioned by the famed eighteenth century Geluk master Phurchok Ngawang Jhampa, and painted in the style of Menri tradition.