Amoghapasha - Avalokiteshvara (Unfailing Lasso)

15th century

Rubin Museum of Art

Rubin Museum of Art

This diagram explains the Buddhist law of cause and effect. It addresses why we are who we are, why we are born, suffer, and die, and what we can do about it.At the center of the Wheel of Life are representations of the origins of suffering: attachment, represented as a rooster; ignorance, represented as a pig; and anger, represented as a snake. These "poisons" are the cause for birth, death, and, rebirth into the realms of existence, which are shown as the five major wedges of the wheel.The ring around the hub of the wheel, divided into two colors, shows the two directions one can move in the process of rebirth-the white path to a better birth, and the dark path to a worse birth.The realms of existence into which beings are born are divided into the two upper realms and the three lower realms. At the top center is the realm of the Gods, a pleasant but temporary existence that can lead to pride; to the right is the realm of Men, which we know all too well. Included with the Gods is the realm of the Demi-Gods where ambition drives its inhabitants to a constant state of war with the gods.In the lower half of the circle, beginning on the left is the realm of the Hungry Ghosts, insatiable beings who can know no fulfillment. At the bottom are the lowest hells, hot and cold, for those driven by anger and hatred. On the bottom right is the realm of beasts, who are destined to oppression and want.No realm is without hope; in each a Buddha ministers to the particular needs of the inhabitants.The outer ring of twelve cartouches offers examples of actions and their consequences. Clockwise from the top: 1) a blind man representing ignorance wanders aimlessly, 2) a potter shapes his life as well as his pot with his actions, 3) the mind fits from thought to thought, like the monkey from branch to branch, and knows no clarity, 4) two people, representing name and form, wander aimlessly in a boat, 5) a house with five openings, represents the distractions of the senses, 6) a man and a woman embrace, creating attachment; 7) the emotions distort all perceptions like the arrows that stick in the eye of this man; 8) a woman offering a man drink shows the actions of emotions and distorted perceptions, 9) a man plucks fruit from a tree, and desires to possess that which arouses him, 10) a bride is the emblem of procreation, 11) a woman gives birth to a child, 12) a man is carried on a funeral bier, crouched in a fetal position, ready for his rebirth.

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  • Title: Amoghapasha - Avalokiteshvara (Unfailing Lasso)
  • Date: 15th century
  • Date Created: 15th century
  • Physical Dimensions: 12 7/8 x 10 7/8 in.
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Rubin Museum of Art, C2004.15.1
  • Medium: Pigments on cloth
  • Place of Creation: Nepal
  • Exhibition History: Rubin Museum of Art, "Masterworks: Jewels of the Collection" (02/06/13 - 01/13/14), Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, "Mandala: Sacred Circle in Tibetan Buddhism " (01/21/12 - 04/15/12), Rubin Museum of Art, "From the Land of the Gods: Art of the Kathmandu Valley" (03/14/08 - 02/09/09), Rubin Museum of Art, "Perfected Beings, Pure Realms" (10/02/06 - 10/16/06)


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