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The thirty-five Buddhas of Confession
Place of Origin: Tibet
Date: 1700-1800
Object Name: Thangka
Materials: Color on cotton
Dimensions: H. 27 1/8 in x W. 17 3/4 in, H. 68.9 cm x W. 45.1 cm (image); H. 56 1/8 in x W. 29 1/2 in, H. 142.6 cm x W. 74.9 cm (overall)
Credit Line: The Avery Brundage Collection
Department: Himalayan Art
Collection: Painting
Object Number: B60D27
On Display: No

Description

Label: In gold and colors against a black background, this painting depicts the “Thirty-Five Buddhas of Confession.” Since invocation of these thirty-five Buddhas purifies negative karma, their propitiation must precede advanced visualization in Himalayan Buddhism; otherwise, the presence of negative karma could prevent meditative success.

The central image depicts the historical Buddha Shakyamuni himself, while the Buddha Nageshvararaja appears overhead with his characteristic serpent hood. The other thirty-four Buddhas, however, are visually quite similar. Despite this fact, accompanying inscriptions make it possible to identify each one by name. Why might it be desirable to inscribe the painting in this manner?

The likely reason involves the physical requirements of the confession ritual. During these rites, Buddhists reveal their misdeeds through simultaneous verbal invocation of each Buddha, and physical prostration to that same Buddha. During such practices, reading is obviously not possible. For this reason, the names of the thirty-five Buddhas must be memorized, and it is likely that this painting was created in order to facilitate such memorization.

More Information

Exhibition History: "One Billion Buddhas: The Awakened Cosmos of Himalayan Buddhism", Asian Art Museum, 8/9/2016-4/9/2017
Label: In gold and colors against a black background, this painting depicts the “Thirty-Five Buddhas of Confession.” Since invocation of these thirty-five Buddhas purifies negative karma, their propitiation must precede advanced visualization in Himalayan Buddhism; otherwise, the presence of negative karma could prevent meditative success.

The central image depicts the historical Buddha Shakyamuni himself, while the Buddha Nageshvararaja appears overhead with his characteristic serpent hood. The other thirty-four Buddhas, however, are visually quite similar. Despite this fact, accompanying inscriptions make it possible to identify each one by name. Why might it be desirable to inscribe the painting in this manner?

The likely reason involves the physical requirements of the confession ritual. During these rites, Buddhists reveal their misdeeds through simultaneous verbal invocation of each Buddha, and physical prostration to that same Buddha. During such practices, reading is obviously not possible. For this reason, the names of the thirty-five Buddhas must be memorized, and it is likely that this painting was created in order to facilitate such memorization.
Exhibition History: "One Billion Buddhas: The Awakened Cosmos of Himalayan Buddhism", Asian Art Museum, 8/9/2016-4/9/2017