About the Artwork

Prajnaparamita (Tib. Shes-rab phar-phyin), meaning the 'Perfection of Wisdom', is an important female deity who symbolically embodies the perfection (paramita) of the Buddha's transcendental wisdom or discriminating awareness (prajna). From its inception Buddhism has always equated wisdom as a feminine principal or concept, and the term prajna is likewise applied to the consort or female counterpart of any male deity.

This monochromatic composition shows four-armed Prajnaparamita seated in vajra-posture upon a white moon disc, an immaculate lotus, and a lion throne. The steps of this throne are decorated with pearl, lotus-petal and scrolling floral motifs, while its main upper step is ornamented with scrolls containing deer and swan motifs. At the center of her throne's main façade is the emblem of a longevity vase filled with the nectar of immortal wisdom, which is sealed with the flowers, leaves and tendrils of two wish-granting trees. On either side of this emblem are two vertical pillars that show the symmetrical forms of two offering goddesses. These goddesses similarly appear on the outer pillars of her throne's main façade, where two stylized lions stand as guardians.

With her two principal hands held before her heart she makes the 'wheel-turning' dharmachakra-mudra of explaining the Buddhadharma: with her left 'wisdom' hand facing inward to indicate she has fully realized these teachings within herself, and her right 'method' hand facing outward to indicate her ability to skillfully transmit these teachings to others. With her second right hand she holds aloft a rosary, with its equal-sized beads representing her perfect equanimity; while her constant turning of its beads represents her ceaseless vigilance and compassion. With her second left hand she holds aloft a text on the 'Perfection of Wisdom' (Prajnaparamita-sutra), representing the full maturation of her prajna or discriminating awareness.

Her outer aura is composed of the symmetrical frame of two scrolling and jeweled crest-bars, which are entwined by a profusion of climbing lotus stems, leaves, tendrils, flowers and buds. Clouds, mountains, trees, rocks and water appear in the dark background landscape of this lovely sepia painting by Devendra Man Sinkhwal.

© text by Robert Beer

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