Explore the Stories of Objects chokyi milarepa gyalpo mahabodhi
Explore the Stories of Objects

Explore the Stories of Objects

Every object on view in the museum has a story about where it has come from and how it has been exhibited. Click one of the four objects from the Casting the Divine exhibition to learn its story.

Explore the Stories of Objects chokyi2
Explore the Stories of Objects

Chokyi Drakpa

Central Tibet; 16th century
Silver alloy and pigment with gilt copper alloy base
Long-term loan from the Nyingjei Lam Collection
L2005.9.54 (HAR 68494)

This sixteenth century sculpture represents the meditation master Chokyi Drakpa (1453 – 1524), the Fourth Shamarpa of the Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. The title “Shamarpa” (“He Who Wears the Red Hat”) signifies his status as one of the Kagyu School’s highest spiritual leaders. The Sharmapa line has a close relationship to the famous Karmapa line of reincarnated lamas. This sculpture is part of a two-sculpture set; the other sculpture represents the Seventh Karmapa Chodrak Gyatso (1454-1506) who was Sharmapa Chokyi Drakpa’s main teacher.

Explore the Stories of Objects chokyi
Explore the Stories of Objects

Chokyi Drakpa

Central Tibet; 16th century
Silver alloy and pigment with gilt copper alloy base
Long-term loan from the Nyingjei Lam Collection
L2005.9.54 (HAR 68494)

The engraved inscription at the bottom of the base of the sculpture honors the Shamarpa, reading in Tibetan: “Veneration of the Holder of the Red Hat Crown, Chokyi Drakpa.”

Explore the Stories of Objects milarepa2
Explore the Stories of Objects

Milarepa

Tibet; 15th–16th century
Silver with gilt bronze base
Long-term loan from the Nyingjei Lam Collection
(HAR 68492)

This is a sixteenth century sculpture depicting Milarepa, one of the most beloved yogis in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, known for his poetry and unique life story. He famously achieved enlightenment in one lifetime, undergoing drastic spiritual transformation from his early years as a black magic sorcerer. His story epitomizes the tantric Buddhist claim that radical transformation is possible within one lifetime.

The scarf crossing Milarepa’s breast and his light cotton garment have been gilded and the patterns have been engraved.

An inscription along the lotus petal base not only identifies the great yogi but also states the reason why the image was made:

“This silver image of Mila[repa], king of the sacred doctrine, was set up at Nyüg Peak by the monk Gagi Wangpo. Through this virtuous act may [all beings] who have been my mother realize the abiding nature of the mind, and may they achieve [the level of] Vajradhara, embodiment of the four Buddha bodies! May good auspices prevail!”

Explore the Stories of Objects milarepa
Explore the Stories of Objects

Milarepa

Tibet; 15th–16th century
Silver with gilt bronze base
Long-term loan from the Nyingjei Lam Collection
(HAR 68492)

Milarepa’s facial details, teeth, and curled hair are painted in gold and black paint.

Explore the Stories of Objects gyalpo2
Explore the Stories of Objects

Tangtong Gyalpo

Tibet; second half of the 15th century
Copper alloy with pigment
Long-term loan from the Nyingjei Lam Collection
(HAR 68496)

This fifteenth century sculpture was likely made by the person it represents: Tangtong Gyalpo. This historical figure was not only a master meditator, but also an extraordinary sculptor and civil engineer. Gyalpo holds a medicine pill and a vase, both symbols of long life and thus indicating that he was made for the master’s well-being. Because of its unusual features, like the figure’s wild hair and incredibly detailed robe, it has been prominently featured in many exhibitions.

Explore the Stories of Objects gyalpo
Explore the Stories of Objects

Tangtong Gyalpo

Tibet; second half of the 15th century
Copper alloy with pigment
Long-term loan from the Nyingjei Lam Collection
(HAR 68496)

The inscription on the figure’s back says that he assisted in its construction.

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Explore the Stories of Objects

Mahabodhi Temple

Eastern India; 11th century
Stone (serpentinite)
Long-term loan from the Nyingjei Lam Collection
(HAR 68417)

This is an eleventh century stone model of the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya, India. The temple sits on the spot where the historical Buddha Shakyamuni obtained enlightenment under the holy Bodhi tree. The temple, which was built approximately two hundred years after the Buddha’s enlightenment, is a popular site for Buddhist pilgrims from all over the world.  This model represents what the original temple looked like before it was renovated by the British in the late nineteenth century.

Explore the Stories of Objects image1 image3 image4
Explore the Stories of Objects

Mahabodhi Temple

Eastern India; 11th century
Stone (serpentinite)
Long-term loan from the Nyingjei Lam Collection
(HAR 68417)

Not everything about this model is exactly like the temple in Bodh Ghaya. The tree on the backside of the structure actually stands on the floor behind the temple. Further, the large image of Shakyamuni calling the earth for witness in the niche underneath the tree likely depicts the main image in the center of the temple itself.

Explore the Stories of Objects image1 image2 image4
Explore the Stories of Objects

Mahabodhi Temple

Eastern India; 11th century
Stone (serpentinite)
Long-term loan from the Nyingjei Lam Collection
(HAR 68417)

The top of the temple is formed by a characteristic high spine, and in the corners around it are four smaller spines. Its structure, with the same architectural element repeated again in smaller sizes is not much different from contemporaneous Indian temples of other faiths.

Explore the Stories of Objects image1 image2 image3
Explore the Stories of Objects

Mahabodhi Temple

Eastern India; 11th century
Stone (serpentinite)
Long-term loan from the Nyingjei Lam Collection
(HAR 68417)

The repeated Buddha images, along the main body of the structure and within the characteristic window niches show this is a Buddhist monument.