Turtles (and elephants) all the way down?
Tenzin Bob Thurman
tbt7 at COLUMBIA.EDU
Sat Apr 3 22:00:56 UTC 2010
There's a famous golden turtle in Tibetan astrology and divination.
Manjushri out of his concern for the Chinese, who are interested in
time, astronomy, and divination, emanates himself as a golden turtle,
then slays hisemanates turtle self and his shell comes up with the eight
trigrams [same as those of the I Ching] for divination, and perhaps
other geometrical patterns. In the same series of actions, he creates
his earthly pure land at Wu Tai Shan in Shansi province
John C. Huntington wrote:
> In Buddhist Art, especially early, elephants play a major role in
> "supporting" structural establishments Buddhist worlds, presumably
> paradises, although the early literature does not mention that as part
> of of the Buddhist architectural considerations. Pitalkhora and Karle
> in the western caves have elephant plinths, and the Maha-stupa at
> Anuradhapura has a spectacular one all around it. In all cases the
> elephants face the viewer and support the structure on their backs.
> In later Buddhist art, (ca, 11th century and on) in India, Nepal and
> Tibet the elephant commonly figures as either throne supports under
> the seat of a Buddhist figure (often a Buddha) or as part of the side
> throne-back supports, in which they often support other, often mythic,
> animals. From the existence of these I would suggest that elephants
> were an early (as early as we have sculpture of them) marker of the
> division between the mundane and the attained worlds.
> As for turtles, offhand, I cannot think of a one in Buddhism. Maybe
> somebody else knows of some.
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