Shakyamuni and the Eight Stupas

  • Бурхан багш / Шагжтүв / Шагжимаан Шажимаан, Бурхан багшийн найман суврагa / Burxan bagš / Šagǰtüw / Šagǰimaan / Šaǰimaan /Sanǰaa, Burxan bagšiin naiman suwraga
  • Sigemüni,naiman suburγan
  • Shākya thub pa,mchod rten brgyad
  • Śākyamuni, aṣṭamahācaitya
  • Thangka
  • 19th century
  • Pigment on cotton
  • Height: 64 cm / Width: 25 cm / Depth: not filled
  • Collection: Hans Leder, Inv. Nr.: 3580
  • Grassi Museum für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig
  • © Grassi Museum für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig/ ÖAW
The theme of this print is Buddha Shakyamuni together with the eight great stupas commemorating the eight main events in his life. A full description of a very similar type of print was already made by Kazuo Kano for a print in the Leder collection in Hamburg. Based on his research and the partly still legible Tibetan inscriptions of this print, one can identify it as follows. As just said, Buddha Shakyamuni resides in the middle of this print. Right above him, Buddha Akshobya sits unmovable in meditation, dispalying with his right hand the gesture of touching the ground and holding a vajra in his left hand. Originally, this type of painting showed all five Buddhas, as it can be inferred from the print discussed by Kazuo Kano but the other four Buddhas were left out on this present print. The first of the eight great stupas is the ‘stupa of heaped lotusses’ (Tib. pad spungs mchod rten), symbolizing the birth of Siddhartha who later would become known as the ‘awakened one’ (Skt. Buddha), depicted to the left side of Buddha Akshobya in the upper row of stupas. To the right side of this Buddha, stands the ‘stupa of enlightenment’ (Tib. byang chub mchod rten), commemorating the event when he ‘fully awakened’ under a tree in Bodh Gaya. Later he gave his first sermon, an event that became known as the ‘turning the wheel of the dharma’ or the ‘opening the doors of the dharma.’ It is remembered by a stupa called the ‘stupa of many doors of bliss’ (Tib. bkra shis sgo mang mchod rten) that is depicted on the left side of the upper row. The stupa on the right side of the same row, however, points out to the subsequent events when his state of realization was questioned by some heretical teachers and Buddha demonstrated the truth of his statements by performing miracles in public. It is represented by a stupa known as the ‘stupa of miracles’ (Tib. cho ’phrul mchod rten). When Mayadevi, Buddha’s mother, passed away, she was reborn in Tushita Heaven. As she died shortly after his birth, she could not hear the teachings her son gave after his enlightenment. Thus, he went to her in the celestial realm, he taught her the four noble truths and the noble eightfold path and returned to earth. It is commemorated by the ‘stupa of the descent from Tushita heaven’ (Tib. lha babs mchod rten) which can be seen on the left side in the middle part of the print. During his life-time, the monastic community of ordained monks grew but at one point there was considerable disagreement among them and the risk of schism arose. Then Buddha successfully reconciled all parties. This main event is symbolized by the ‘stupa of reconciliation’ (Tib. dbyen bsdum mchod rten) that can found opposite to the right side of the print. Later in his life when Buddha’s was about to die, he was begged by his followers to stay and not to pass away. Accordingly, Buddha extended his life-time by three months. The ‘all-victorious stupa’ (Tib. rnam rgyal mchod rten), that can be seen in the lower left corner, embodies this event. Later he passed away, entering nirvana. This last event in his life is marked by a stupa known as ‘parinirvana stupa’ (Tib. myang ’das mchod rten). It is placed in the lower right corner. A four line verse in hommage to Shakyamuni, that unfortunately is illegible, is written in Tibetan below the throne. The upper register of this print is taken by three identical reproductions of a monk who perhaps might be identified as Tsongkhapa.
© Olaf Czaja
Shakyamuni and the Eight Stupas
/ Mongolia / 19th century / Grassi Museum für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig / © Grassi Museum für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig/ ÖAW