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Property from the Collection of Robert H. Ellsworth
A large and important gilt bronze figure of Atisha


A large and important gilt bronze figure of Atisha
Tibet, circa 16th century
Seated in dhyanasana and attached to a separately cast double-lotus base, his hands held before his chest in vitarkamudra, wearing diaphanous robes and a conical monk's cap, both with incised hems, his face slightly tilted to the left in a benevolent expression with downcast eyes, the base with an elaborate inscription at back
19 in. (48.5 cm.) high
Christian Humann, Pan-Asian Collection
M. Rhie and R. Thurman, Wisdom and Compassion, 1998 (Taipei version), cat. no. 169.
Taipei, China Times Culture Center, Wisdom and Compassion, The Sacred Art of Tibet, 1998.

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Anita Mehta
Anita Mehta

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Lot Essay

The Indian master Atisha (982-1054) came to Tibet in 1042 at the invitation of the Western Tibetan kings Yeshe and Jangchup to renew the teaching and practice of Buddhism, initiating the Second Transmission. In 1045 he moved from Western Tibet to the central regions, where he became the spiritual founder of the Kadam Order. His twelve years in Tibet left a profound impact on all orders of Tibetan Buddhism and his main disciple, Drom Tonpa, established the first Kadampa monasteries after Atishas death in 1054.
This sculpture originally contained relics of the sitting mat of the historic Atisha himself, making this an extremely important historical document. While the contents of the consecration have been dispersed, they are described as follows:
Who has expanded his knowledge of the five sciences,
Who came to the Land of Snows as predicted by Tara,
Famed as omniscient in the era of five hundred (years of Dharma-decay) I bow in homage to the glorious Atisha!
Containing (part of) the sitting mat of that Savior (Atisha),
And the hairs and relics of so many
Who were taught directly by that Lord himself,
Master Drom and the other Kadampa Geshes,
And also a Maitreya image precious to Master (Drom) himself,
Life-charms of Gyaltsen Drakzang, father and son,
And his right-twisting conch shell here is the sacred statue,
Blazing with the light and energy of blessings
of many wise sages and adepts of India and Tibet!"

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