nicholas nicola etchings

 ‘Manjustri.’ Bodhivista of Transcendental Wisdom.



 ‘Manjustri.’ Bodhivista of Transcendental Wisdom’.

  sepia on cream paper. 6”X4”. copperplate. Tibet.


  Firstly, I would like to state that a bodhivista is an enlightened divine being. A bodhivista serves to lead others to enlightenment in their progression towards nirvana. Manjustri is a bodhivista who is depicted here as a young prince. The flaming sword in the top left hand corner of the etching is used to cut through human illusion. Manjustri holds a flaming double-edged sword   with   his right hand while in his left hand this diety holds a stem which eventually leads to a blooming  lotus of wisdom.

  Manjustri is portrayed as a young man to point out the Buddhist notion that wisdom does not necessarily result from the mere experience of living many years. Wisdom - which is seen in Buddhism as the Mother of all Buddhas - can result from a perceptive intellect which can see right through to the foundations of all reality.

   Why is this mental power known as wisdom so cherished? Because wisdom is seen as the major virtue which can lead a pilgrim to the sort of total freedom needed to emancipate us from human suffering and human desire. These mortal virtues impede us from reaching nirvana. Thus this Buddhist diety is one of the most pre-eminent in the Buddhist cosmos.

  As iconography interests me I was attracted to the idea of portraying an Eastern divinity. It seems appropriate to etch Manjustri for it surely appears to me to be a worthwhile goal in this life - which many times seems like ‘looking through a glass darkly’ - to seek out the wisdom of the gods. This Manjustri is a detail of an eastern Tibetan image possibly painted in the early nineteenth century. It is entitled the ‘Pure Land of Manjustri.' *

 My interest in Tibetan Buddhism comes from experiencing Tibetan New Year in the Tibetan monastery town of Xiahe in Gansu province, western China (in Chinese-occupied Outer Tibet). I was impressed by the many mass rituals which I saw as well as by the admirable defiance of the Tibetan people; they portray an incredible human resilience which defies both the adversities of nature and the harsh political obstacles which are presently being placed before them. Ignorant of much that I saw I am naturally curious to find out the meaning of these new year rituals. Thus, along the way, to discover such a bodhivista as Manjustri has been enriching.


* See WISDOM AND COMPASSION. THE SACRED ART OF TIBET. Published on the occasion of Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet, an exhibition organised by the Asian Art Museum San Fransisco in conjunction with Tibet House. New York. Published 1991. Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated. New York.


'Sunning the Buddha.' 


  The Buddha hovers above a mass of thousands of pilgrims. These two photos* of this impressive ritual were taken on the outskirts of Xiahe - a Tibetan monastery town in the Chinese province of Gansu. (This province is actually a part of Greater Tibet and can be considered as territory occupied by the Chinese). The placing of a large thanka on a mountain side is one of four major events of Tibetan New Year. The thanka (also spelt thangka) was rolled up and carried to the hill by many monks with much fanfare: with the blowing of trumpets and followed by thousands of Tibetan people. It was incredibly cold in the morning when the thanka was unravelled as Tibetan New Year was towards late February 1997 at the tail end of the North Asia winter. However, thousands of Tibetan pilgrims who had streamed into Xiahe from many far flung parts of the surrounding wilderness patiently waited for this ritual to occur. This thanka has a design of a Buddha woven upon it and it was only left out for a couple of hours before it was rolled up again for another year. 

  This event is called ‘Sunning the Buddha’ for the obvious reason that this Buddha is revealed outside at the time of the Tibetan New Year. It is remarkable that this long awaited event only lasts a couple of hours. I assume this image of the Buddha  lingers in the minds of all who view it  for the rest of the year. Certainly, it was a very rare opportunity to see this magnificent presentation of the Buddha.

 *Many other images of the Tibetan New Year can be seen on the following webpage of this website:  Photos for other etchings

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