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Nyoirin Kannon (Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara in the form of Chintamanichakra)
Japan; Kamakura period (1185-1333), early 14th century
Cypress wood with pigment, gold powder, and cut gold leaf
H. 19 1/2 in. (49.5 cm)
Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection of Asian Art
This bodhisattva's posture of royal ease and six arms help identify it as an image of Nyoirin Kannon (Sanskrit Chintamanichakra Avalokiteshvara), one of the six principal forms of Kannon worshiped in Japanese Esoteric (Vajrayana) Buddhism. He would originally have held a flaming jewel in his middle right hand and a wheel would have been balanced on the index finger of his upper left hand; the name of this form of the bodhisattva, in both Japanese and Sanskrit, derives from these two attributes. The wheel symbolizes the Buddhist doctrine while the jewel represents the bodhisattva's ability to grant any wish. By the 10th century, Nyoirin achieved special status among Esoteric imagery, often becoming a temple's principal icon of worship. Nyoirin's pose must have been appealing to devotees: his relaxed pose is inviting and the hand raised against his leaning head, which signifies a meditative state, adds a human touch. The bodhisattva's pose, in fact, indicates that he is resting in his personal paradise on Mt. Potalaka, which traditionally is said to be located in the sea south of India.
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