The Vienna Exhibition | The teachings of Buddha


Object Title
Object Description

Bronze container

Container for ceremonial offerings (yang tro), bronze; H: 19,5 cm, diameter 17 cm; loan from the National Museum, Paro
The knob is made in the shape of half a vajra. The central motive at the belly of the container are the eight signs of happiness of Buddhism. Food that is offered in this container is to bring luck.

Ritual dagger

Phurbu, dagger: handle of brass, blade of iron; container: copper; L: 26 cm; loan from a private collection
The ritual weapon is used in monastic Buddhism to destroy obstructive powers and influences on the way to enlightenment. In other rituals it is used to transfix or symbolically kill demons. Special pieces like this one are marked on the back with a sign of the master who made them.

Buddha Shakyamuni

Copper with fire-gilding; 17th century; H: 46 cm.; loan from the Thimphu Dzong
In the state of complete enlightenment, the Buddha's right hand makes the earth-witness gesture, which reminds of the moment of the Buddha's Enlightenment in which he called upon Earth as his witness. His left hand reclines in the gesture of meditation. The clarity of representation mediates the superhuman essence of the Buddha.

The Buddhas life
Arhat Hashang
Statue, bronze with painting; 17th century; H: 24 cm.; loan from the National Museum, Paro
The 16 Arhats* were the Buddha's first disciples who attained Buddhahood. Arhat Hashang is often represented with laughing children.
The Noble Eightfold Path
Arhat Gopaka

Statue, bronze with painting; 17th century; H: 24,5 cm.; loan from the National Museum, Paro
Arhat means »The one who defeated his (inner) enemies«. The Arhat* form the ideal examples for those who walk the path of enlightenment.

The Noble Eightfold Path
Cover of a holy book

Book cover (legshing), wood, gilded, turquois; L: 82 cm., B: 35 cm., H: 4,5 cm.; loan from the National Museums & Galleries on Merseyside, Liverpool
Religious texts are written on single, loose sheets. Wooden book covers keep together the loose heaps of leaves at the top and on the bottom. At the centre of the cover three illustrations have been carved out in the shape of a relief: on the left Buddha Shakyamuni, in the centre the goddess Prajnaparamita*, die embodiment of transcendental wisdom and the personified illustration of the Buddhist teaching , and on the right the bodhisattva* Maitreya*, the Buddha of the coming age. All three of them are seated at a throne, which is framed by mythological animals standing on top of each other. The mythological bird Garuda forms the edge. The »Four Guardians of the World « (gyelchen deshi) are positioned in the four outermost corners.

The Prajnaparamita Sutra
Buddha Maitreya

Bronze, fire-gilding; measurements: 52 cm x 29 cm x 20 cm; loan from the National Museum, Paro
In the aspect of Sambhogakaya Buddha Maitreya also appears as Bodhisattva* and wears the jewelry and clothing of a prince.

The Saddharmapundarika Sutra
The Prajnaparamita

Religious text, cover made of wood with copper sheeting and fire-gilding. Sheets of paper with gold coloured writing, silk cloth for protection; 19th century; H: 24 cm., L: 69 cm., B: 20 cm.; loan from the National Museum, Paro
The Buddha himself proclaimed the text of the Prajnaparamita sutra (»Totality of Wisdom«) to the first bodhisattvas*, who recorded the text in writing. The sutra contains important philosophical treatises of the Mahayana Buddhism on the non-existence of worldly conditions and the True Reality.
Illustrations which are painted next to the text show deities which stand in connection to the explanations.

The Mahayana
Hat of the Nyingmapa

Lama hat, silk damask and silk brocade damask, cotton lining; H: 25 cm, B: 29 cm; loan from the National Museum, Paro
This hat is worn by the lamas of the Nyingmapa school. This »School of the Old« puts its focus on the magical and mystical practices of lamaism.

The schools of the Vajrayana
Processional hat of the Drukpa

Lama hat, silk satin with golden paper decoration, silk damask and silk taffeta, starched cotton cloth; H; 29 cm, B: 42 cm; loan from the National Museum, Paro
Hat of the Drukpa Kagyupa school. This school aims for the practical realisation of the yogic teachings to develop a kind of living in accordance with the laws of the universe.

The schools of the Vajrayana

Diamond sceptre (vajra* in Sanskrit , dorje in Tibetan), brass; L: 14 cm., B: 4,5 cm.; loan from a private collection
Used as a ritual tool in tantric rites, the vajra symbolises the »method« (upaya*), acting selflessly for the good of all living beings. In rituals it is held in the right hand as the male principle. In the left hand, the lama holds a bell (drilbu) as symbol of eh female principle of wisdom. Specific gestures of the hands symbolise the unification of method and wisdom and the lifting of the opposites in the insight of the emptiness of all appearances. This state of lifting the mode of thinking in dualities is visualised in the spherically shaped centre.

The Vajrayana
A stupa
Copper, silver with fire-gilding, set with corals, turquoise, emeralds and rubies; 17th century; H: 77 cm.; loan from the Thimphu Dzong
In many-layered symbolism, stupas represent full perfection, the cosmos as well as the mind of the Buddha. The architecture of stupas stands for the idea of the identity of macro- and microcosms and, in doing so, becomes a cosmological and psychological model. Quite often holy scriptures or relics of important saints or lamas are kept in stupas.
The development of the doctrine

Silver with partial fire-gilding, painted, set in with corals and turquois; 16th century; H: 35,5 cm; loan from the National Museum, Paro
Amitayus* is an emanation of the Buddha Amithaba*. The hand clasped in the gesture of meditation and the vase of long life show that the »clear sighted wisdom « of meditation takes away internal restraints on the path to enlightenment and holds the power to prolong life in the worldly area.

The five tathagatas
The Buddhas crown

The crown of the Buddha (rignge ugyen), textile, papier mâché; L: 26 cm, H: 16 cm; loan from the Museum für Völkerkunde, Wien
The five-leaved crown shows one of the five tathagata* buddhas on each picture. By wearing the crown at specific festive ceremonies, the lama stands in connection with the represented buddhas. The crown, which is given a lama at his initiation, authorises him to perform tantric rites.

The five tathagatas
Adibuddha Vajradhara

  Thangka; H: 116 cm, B: 77 cm; loan from Josette Schulmann
The Adibuddha* Vajradhara rests in tantric union with his female partner Prajnaparamita*. They are surrounded by a great many lamas and yogis. Buddha Shakyamuni is illustrated in the bottom row left; in the centre there is Cakrasamvara*, the embodiment of a tantric path of meditation. He is unified with his red partner of wisdom, Vajravarahi. On the right, we can see Avalokiteshvara*, the Bodhisattva* of loving compassion for all living beings.
The original Buddha
Green tara
Copper with fire-gilding; partially painted, set in with turquois; 19th century; H: 23 cm; loan from Tobgye S. Dorje
All appearances of Tara are embodiments of the protective activity of the enlightened compassion. Seeing that enlightenment ripens on the soil of active compassion, Tara is also known as the »Mother of all Buddhas of the three ages«. Her left leg, which rests on the lotus throne, shows her remaining in meditation; her dangling right foot indicates that she so acts for the benefit of all beings. Her left hand is raised in the »gestures of threefold refuge«; her right hand rests on the knee in the »gesture of granting wishes«. The lotus flowers on both sides show that, due to her kindness, enlightened beings may always come forward.
The bodhisattvas

Thangka, H: 95 cm, B: 70 cm; loan from Michael Rutland
The Bodhisattva Vajrapani is seen as an emanation of the Buddhas Akshobhya. The angry appearance is meant to destroy all obstacles on the the way to enlightenment. In this way he also guards the secretive tantric teachings.

The bodhisattvas
Tools for the fire sacrifice

Ritual tools for the fire-sacrifice ceremony (gangzar ganglu), Blades: burnished iron with copper insets, handles: silver with gold-plating, stems: nielloed iron with silver and gold applications, knobs: silver or copper with gold-plating, box: wood and velvet; L: 94 cm, B: 26,5 cm; loan from the Punakha Dzong
The offering of fire sacrifices pleases the deities who support the believers. In a pragmatic interpretation they should help the humans to attain wisdom or religious merit, or to remove obstacles in life and on the way to enlightenment.

The fire ceremony

Oboes (gyaling), copper, silver, wood; H: 60 cm; loan from the National Museums & Galleries on Merseyside, Liverpool
Oboes are always played in pairs. They are mostly used in combination with long horns.

Musical instruments
A dungkar

Shell horn (dungkar), copper, silver, gilding, semi-precious stones; size: 55 cm x 29 cm x 11,5 cm; loan from the National Museums & Galleries on Merseyside, Liverpool
The horn, made out of the shell of a sea snail, is mainly used to call the monks together for their prayers. The tone is said to be equal to the »pure ocean of wisdom» and to lead the believer to the understanding of the Buddhist teaching. The wing which is attached to the main body is decorated with a pair of dragons and framed by lotus motives. The dragons' eyes are set with lapis lazuli. In their claws they hold further precious stones.

Musical instruments
Butter lamp

Butter lamp (chökong), gold; 19th century; H: 21,5 cm; loan from the Paro Dzong
Following an old Indian tradition, light is offered to the gods and thus religious merit is obtained. Next to plant arabesques, the bowl is decorated with eight Buddhist symbols of happiness, arranged in pairs. The foot is made up of two rows of lotus petals.

Seed container

Seed container (drubhor), silver with fire-gilding; H: 12 cm, diameter 8,5 cm; loan from a private collection
The skulls at the belly and lid of the container point to the eight types of meditation of the yogi. The handle is made out of half a vajra*. In the course of the ceremony the lama strews the seeds to bring blessing and happiness.

Metal torma

Torma (tshetor), silver with partial fire-gilding, corals, turquoise; 19th century; H: 38 cm, L: 19,5 cm; loan from the Paro Dzong
Sacrificial offering, which should give a long life. It is decorated by, amongst others, the eight Buddhist symbols of happiness and in the circular upper part the nuclear syllable hrih, of Amitayus*, is written in Lanza script. By reciting this syllable, Amitayus* takes on shape from the area of shapeless emptiness. On the top, there are the sun and the moon as symbols for wisdom and method.

Ritual dough figures
Buddha Amithaba

Detail from a scroll (Thangka*); 18th century; 133 x 89 centimeters; on loan from the National Museum of Paro
The red Buddha Amithaba belongs to the group of five Tathagatas and embodies the wisdom of essential equality.

The Magical Birth of Guru Rinpoche
Dagger used for ritual purposes

Ritual Dagger, brass handle, iron blade; length 26 centimeters; on loan from a private collection
The magical dagger (phulbu) used to tame or to fixate demons, is also used for symbolic killings, through which the spirit of the demons are released to higher planes.

Melting Glaciers
Vase used for Ritual Purposes

Bumpa, silver, partially fire-gilded, peacock feathers; 19th century; height 46 centimeters; on loan from Paro-Dzong
This type of vases, used for ritual purposes, is filled with perfumed water. The aspergillum runs out into a gold medallion. With this the Lama sprinkles the holy water or he dribbles it into the right hand of the believers.

Battle with Shelging Karpo
A House Altar

Altar, wood; clay statues; 19th century; measurements 270 x 380 x 70 centimeters; on loan from Tobgye S. Dorje
The altar and all the statues originate from the temple room of the Gangtey Palace in Paro.
The statues in the center:
Left: Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the founder of the State of Bhutan
Center: Buddha Shakyamuni, the historistic Buddha
Right: Guru Rinpoche, the mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan
On the right wing:
Upper right: Vajrapani, Bodhisattva in his wrathful appearance
Upper left: Jambhala, a god of wealth
Lower left: Jambhala
On the left wing:
Upper right: Syama-Tara, the embodiment of compassionate love
Upper left: Sita-Tara
Lower right: Sarasvati, the Goddess of Learning, Music and Poetry
Lower left: religious texts
There is also an animated version of the altar.

Buddha Shakyamuni

Buddha Shakyamuni, the historic Buddha, who lived and taught in northern India 500 years before our time.

Virtual Exhibition
The Shabdrung

The Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the founder of the Bhutanese state in the 17th century.

Virtual Exhibition
Guru Rinpoche

Guru Rinpoche, the Buddhifier of the Himalayan region in the eighth century.

Virtual Exhibition

The Vienna Exhibition
.  In the monastery ..
.  Gods and sacred ..
.  The teachings of Buddha
.  The becoming of Bhutan
.  The fortresses - monks ..
.  The way to the throne
.  Modern monarchy
.  Ethnic mosaic
.  The south
.  The midlands
.  The house altar
.  The kitchen
.  The high alpine ..

Top |  Home |  Sitemap |  Search |  Glossary |  The Objects |  Tour |  Help