Avalokita's vase

Narayan S. Raja raja at IFA.HAWAII.EDU
Mon Nov 22 10:50:39 UTC 1999

On Sun, 21 Nov 1999, Stephen Hodge wrote:

>N. Ganesan wrote:
> > Have an art history question:
> > What is the explanation from texts like sAdhanamAlA
> > on the vase held in Avalokita's hand?

> It is commonly understood to be a jar containing the nectar of
> immortality.  Avalokitesvara is linked in Buddhism to the Buddha
> Amitaayus -- Infinite Life.

Further clarification... that jar of nectar
is used to help those in need, i.e., not for
Avalokitesvara to take an occasional sip
on a sultry day...

There are a few incidents in "Journey to
the West" (Hsi Yu Chi) where Kuan yin is
depicted as using the nectar to revive
something that has been destroyed or damaged.

Similarly, in John Blofeld's book "Bodhisattva
of Compassion", the Appendix ("The Principal
Iconographic Forms of the Bodhisattva") states:

"Her principal emblems are a precious vase held
in one hand and a willow spray held in another,
symbolising respectively 'sweet dew' (also known
as amrta) meaning the nectar of wisdom and
compassion, and secondly her willingness to
sprinkle it upon the heads of all who invoke
her aid."



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