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Library of Congress Receives Special Gifts from His Holiness the Dalai Lama

July 21, 2010

Bhuchung K Tsering of (ICT)
Central Tibetan Administration (CTA)
July 20, 2010

Washington, DC -- The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
organised an event on Monday (19 July) during which the Librarian,
Dr.James Billington, received three gifts to the Library from His
Holiness the Dalai Lama from his Special Envoy Lodi Gyari.

The three gifts consist of an 18th century Thangka of the Buddha from
the Paksam Trishing collection; a Mandala offering set; and a golden
butter lamp.

Gyari Rinpoche spoke about His Holiness the Dalai Lama's visit to the
Library in February this year, during which he had expressed his
desire to make some gifts to the Library's collection. Rinpoche
described the significance of the Thangka. He referred to these gifts
as strengthening the bond between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the
United States, 102 years William Rockhill had received some gifts
from the 13th Dalai Lama, which later became a part of the Library's

Dr Billington, in his remarks, said he was honoured and humbled to
accept these very special gifts from His Holiness. He said that when
His Holiness visited the Library he had the opportunity to show him
the gifts given by his predecessor, the 13th Dalai Lama, to William
Rockhill in 1908. These included a beautiful thangka and a copy of
the Tibetan text on the perfection of wisdom, both highly symbolic of
the special meeting.

Dr Billington said today's gifts also have special symbolic
significance. He said they reminded him of the Library's core
mission, to offer the light of wisdom and learning to the world
through preserving a universal collection of knowledge and creativity
for future generations. He said this includes the Library's Tibetan
collection consisting of nearly 13,000 volumes.

Librarian Billington requested Gyari Rinpoche to thank His Holiness
for these profound gifts, symbolic also of our friendship, and said
he welcomed His Holiness to visit again and again. Dr Billington
concluded by wishing Gyari Rinpoche Tashi Delek.

Given below are the descriptions (kindly prepared by Dr Thupten
Jinpa) of the special Thangka.


This painting is the central piece of a set of thangkas (Tibetan
painted scrolls) known as Dzegya Paksam Trishing, literally, "the
wish-granting tree of hundred lives," which depict the stories of the
Buddha's former births or Jatakas. This particular Tibetan set of
paintings of the Buddha's birth stories is based on the Sanskrit work
Bodhisattva Avada-na-kalpa-lata- (rtogs brjod dpag bsam 'khri shing)
by the Kashmiri poet Ksemendra and completed by his son Somentra in
1052 CE, which contains 108 stories. Alongside the famed Jatakamala
(Garland of Births) of Aryasura (fourth century CE), Ksemendra's
Avada-na-kalpa-lata- became highly celebrated in Tibet, giving rise
to the tradition of creating thangka paintings based on these texts.
Generally, Avada-na set contains twenty three thangkas with the
historical Buddha and his two principle disciples as the theme of the
central thangka.

In this thangka, the central image is that of the historical Buddha
Shakyamuni, who is flanked by his two principle disciples Shariputra
(on the left) and Maugaliputra (on the right). On the sides of the
two disciples are, respectively, the gods Brahma on the left and
Indra on the right, who, according to the tradition, made the request
to the Buddha to turn the wheel of Dharma. Below, on the left, are
the kings Bimbisara and Utrayana, and on the right are the king
Prasenajit and householder Anathapindika, all of who were important
benefactors of the Buddha and his monastic community.

In the upper part of the thangka, at the top in the middle is a
cluster of four figures. They are, in the uppermost, Aryasura, the
fourth century author of the famed Jatakamala, which presents a
collection of 34 birth stories of the Buddha; on the left, Tsongkapa,
the famed fourteenth century founder of the Geluk School, who
instituted the tradition of the public teaching of the Jatakamala at
the Great Prayer Festival in Lhasa; on the right, Phakpa Lama, the
thirteenth century Sakya ruler who was involved in commissioning the
translation of Ksemendra's poetic work on the 108 birth stories.
Immediately above the Buddha is the Fifth Dalai Lama (seventeenth
century), who supervised the printing of the bilingual edition of
Ksemendra's text, and may have also been responsible for inventing
the tradition of painting the Avada-na stories on thangkas. Now, in
the upper part of the thangka, both on the left and on the right are
clusters of three figures each. In the left, at the top, right and
left, are respectively, Shongton Lotsawa, who, in the thirteenth
century, first translated the Avada-na-kalpa text, the basis of the
set of paintings to which this thangka belongs; Ksemendra, the
Kashmiri poet, the author of the Avada-na text; and the Indian master
Buddhibhadra. In the right cluster are, at the top, Zhalu Lotsawa,
who revised the translation of the Avada-na text and produced a
bi-lingual edition; below him on the left is Somendra, the son of
Ksemendra; and on the right is the Indian master Suryashri. Together,
these figures on the upper part of the thangka narrate the historical
development of the tradition of the Avada-na stories in both in India
and in Tibet.

Original inscriptions on the back of the thangka states that this
thangka was part of a set commissioned by the famed eighteenth
century Geluk master Phurchok Ngawang Jhampa, and painted in the
style of Menri tradition.
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