Holding the lotus
Avalokiteshvara ("He who [mercifully] looks Down upon the world") is the Bodhisattva of absolute compassion. As the 'Lotus bearer' Padmapani (lots 11-13) he holds a white lotus flower. A lotus grows in muddy waters, but its flowers bloom completely free from the stains of mud. It symbolizes that he has attained enlightenment, is liberated from all obstacles, and has a completely pure body, speech and mind.
In another form he has eleven heads (lot 16). According to legend he made a vow that he would not rest until he had liberated all the beings in all the realms of suffering. After working diligently at this task he looked out and realized the immense number of miserable beings yet to be saved. Realizing this, he became despondent and his head split into thousands of pieces. Amitabha Buddha put the pieces back together as a body with a thousand arms, an eye on each palm to see the suffering in the world and eleven heads, the top of which is Amitabha, allowing Avalokiteshvara to assist the myriad of sentient beings all at the same time.
In contrast to this concrete effigy, India sees this sympathetic savior as a cosmic being who takes countless shapes:
From his eyes come forth the sun and moon; from his brow, Mahesvara, the great god who creates life with a thunderbolt from his third eye; from his shoulders, Brahma and other gods; from his heart, Narayana, the soul of the universe; from his thighs, Sarasvati, the wife of Brahma and the goddess of wisdom, music, and science; from his mouth, the winds; from his feet, the earth; from his stomach, Varuna, an emanation from the sun initiating the cycles of nature and the embodiment of truth. He is a lamp to the blind, a parasol for those devoured by the heat of the sun, and a stream to the thirsty. He takes away all fear from those who are afraid; he is a doctor to the sick, and he is father and mother to the unhappy.
Property from the Collection of Paul E. Manheim
A silver inlaid brass figure of Padmapani
Kashmir, 9th century
Standing over a lotus base upon a stepped plinth with his right hand raised clutching a rosary and his left holding a tall stem of a sixteen petalled lotus issuing from the base, wearing a long dhoti secured with a sash at his waist and a billowing shawl draped around his shoulders, further adorned with bracelets, a necklace, the sacred cord and large floral earrings, his silver inlaid eyes and arched eyebrows centered by a silver urna, surmounted by an elaborate foliate tiara and backed by a flaming arched mandorla
9 7/8 in. (25.1 cm.) high
Mr. and Mrs. Paul E. Manheim Collection, before 1974