Buddha in the Crown: Avalokitesvara in the Buddhist Traditions of Sri Lanka

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Oxford University Press, Jan 31, 1991 - Religion - 304 pages
Historical, anthropological, and philosophical in approach, Buddha in the Crown is a case study in religious and cultural change. It examines the various ways in which Avalokitesvara, the most well known and proliferated bodhisattva of Mahayana Buddhism throughout south, southeast, and east Asia, was assimilated into the transforming religious culture of Sri Lanka, one of the most pluralistic in Asia. Exploring the expressions of the bodhisattva's cult in Sanskrit and Sinhala literature, in iconography, epigraphy, ritual, symbol, and myth, the author develops a provocative thesis regarding the dynamics of religious change. Interdisciplinary in scope, addressing a wide variety of issues relating to Buddhist thought and practice, and providing new and original information on the rich cultural history of Sri Lanka, this book will interest students of Buddhism and South Asia.

From inside the book


The Setting and the Problem
2 The Relevant Historical and Doctrinal Background
The Iconography of Avalokite347vara and N257tha
Avalokite347vara Becomes N257tha Deviyo
N257tha and Pitiye in Kandyan Folklore
Oral Traditions at Rural Kandyan N257tha Dev257layas
Center and Periphery in the Kandyan Kingdom
8 N257tha and the Rock Chief

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Page 193 - Next after the Gods and their Attendance, go some Thousands of Ladies and Gentlewomen, such as are of the best sort of the Inhabitants of the Land, arrayed in the bravest manner that their Ability can afford, and so go hand in hand three in a row : At which time all the Beauties on Zelone in their Bravery do go to attend upon their Gods in their Progress about the City.
Page 35 - ... shine over all things that exist. With these jewel hands he draws and embraces all beings. When he lifts up his feet, the soles of his feet are seen to be marked with a wheel of a thousand spokes (one of the thirty-two signs) which miraculously transform themselves into five hundred million pillars of rays. When he puts his feet down to the ground, the flowers of diamonds and jewels are scattered about, and all things are simply covered by them. All the other signs of his body and the minor marks...
Page 35 - ... it. Those who practise the Samadhi (the supernatural calm) in accordance with this Sutra will be able to see, in the present life, Buddha Amitayus and the two great Bodhisattvas. 'In case of a son or a daughter of a noble family, the mere hearing of the names of the Buddha and the two Bodhisattvas will expiate the sins which would involve them in births and deaths during innumerable kalpas. How much more will the remembrance (of Buddha and the Bodhisattvas)! 'Know that he who remembers that Buddha...
Page 190 - ... metaphor; it is a statement of a controlling political idea- — namely, that by the mere act of providing a model, a paragon, a faultless image of civilized existence, the court shapes the world around it into at least a rough approximation of its own excellence. The ritual life of the court, and in fact the life of the court generally, is thus paradigmatic, not merely reflective, of social order.
Page 114 - Compassion, remove my suffering — he who endeavors, day and night, to deliver beings plunged in the midst of the great sea of samsara. May this Avalokitesvara, who has compassion for the lowly and the poor folk, protect...
Page 178 - ... in his hand, and applied the medicinal juice to his head and body, they thrice exclaimed, " Increase of age to our sovereign of five thousand years ; — increase of age as long as the sun and moon last; — increase of age as long as heaven and earth exist.
Page 35 - Buddha, each transformed Buddha is attended by five hundred transformed Bodhisattvas who are also attended by numberless gods. 'Within the circle of light emanating from his whole body, appear illuminated the various forms and marks of all beings that live in the five paths of existence. 'On the top of his head is a heavenly crown of gems like those that are fastened (on Indra's head), in which crown there is a transformed Buddha standing twenty-five yojanas high. 'The face of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara...
Page 101 - Lord ' and is only a shortened form of the fuller epithet ' LokeSvara Natha'. It is hardly necessary to mention that the epithet LokeSvara is one of the most familiar of the many names of Avalokitesvara and was the one by which he was best known in Cambodia and Java.
Page 35 - The soft hair between the eyebrows has all the colours of the seven jewels, from which eighty-four kinds of rays flow out, each ray has innumerable transformed Buddhas, each of whom is attended by numberless transformed Bodhisattvas ; freely changing their manifestations they fill up the worlds of the ten quarters ; (the appearance) can be compared with the colour of the red lotus-flower. ' (He wears) a garland consisting of eight thousand rays, in which is seen fully reflected a state of perfect...
Page 36 - Whosoever will meditate on Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara should first meditate on the turban of his head, and then on his heavenly crown. 'All the other signs should also be meditated on according to their order, and they should be clear and distinct just as one sees the palms of one's hands.

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