Milarepa (1040-1123) is sometimes thought of as the first ordinary Tibetan to become a perfect Buddha in one lifetime. As a young man he successfully mastered black magic to take revenge on a wicked uncle wrongfully claiming inheritance. He then repented to practice Buddhism with his teacher Marpa, who put him through terrible ordeals of constructing, dismantling and reconstructing a nine-story tower four times over before starting to teach him. Profoundly gifted as a singer and poet, he communicated Buddhism through song and poetry and is credited with numerous popular Tibetan folk songs. His characteristic gesture of holding his right hand to his ear may be interpreted as listening to the 'echoes of nature'.
In its smooth and gracefully swelling planes this bronze displays total sculptural command and technical perfection. The x-radiograph shows the hollow cast with thin metal walls and the location of objects inserted during a consecration ceremony.
Compare a related example on a double-lotus base with similarly delineated folds of the robe and scalloped outline of the wavy hair at the back, but of comparatively cursory treatment, in the Taipei exhibition of Wisdom and Compassion, 1998, cat. 102.