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Among the many forms of Avalokiteshvara, this two-armed, single-faced form called Padmapani is probably the oldest. Avalokiteshvara is the embodiment of all the buddhas� infinite compassion. During the Buddha Shakyamuni�s life, he manifested as one of the Buddha�s major bodhisattva disciples and played an important role in many of the Buddha�s discourses, including the Heart Sutra in which he explains how a bodhisattva gains direct insight into the ultimate nature of reality. Avalokiteshvara in the form of Padmapani is often seen in thangkas of Buddha Shakyamuni, flanking the Buddha�s throne opposite another boddhisattva, either Manjushri or Vajrapani. This figure is also often depicted in sculptures. Rarely is it seen alone in a thangka like this one.
Padmapani means lotus-in-hand, and his left hand holds the stalk of the lotus. The right hand, opening outward, is lowered in a gesture of granting favors, which also indicates his readiness to help. Draped over his left shoulder is the skin of a wild deer renowned for its compassionate nature.
January 23rd, 2008
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