Mandala of the One-Syllable Golden Wheel
Edo period (1615–1868)
Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk
44 1/4 x 39 1/4 in. (112.4 x 99.7 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. L. W. Steiger, 1967
The Mandala of the One-Syllable Golden Wheel (Japanese: Ichiji Kinrin Mandara) envisions the power of a single Sanskrit syllable, the utterance of which calls forth a personification of the cranial protuberance of the Buddha. It is used in rituals for the prevention of disaster, for the expansion of wealth, and for success in love, as well as for assuring safe delivery of children, career success, and propitious weather. The figural representation of the sound sits at the center of the mandala on a lotus pedestal borne by eight lions. It resembles the Buddha Dainichi (Sanskrit: Vairochana) and holds its hands in a sacred gesture known as the wisdom-fist mudra, which symbolizes the non-duality of perfect wisdom and the deluded nature of unenlightened beings. The surrounding figures and forms represent the seven emblems of sovereignty of supreme rulers and the deity Butsugen Butsumo, literally “Buddha-eye, Buddha-mother,” who crushes ignorance and perceives the essence of all things. Use of costly materials and meticulous craftsmanship, especially in the simulated brocade of the mounting and the intricate cut-gold-leaf-on-azurite of the mountain, reflect a belief in the meritorious nature of image making and the ornamentation of ritual space.
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