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Image of Mahasthamaprapta
Item No. 16970

17th - 18th Century, Buddhist, China
Wood with Polychrome
0" x 0" x 0"
( 0 x 0 x 0 cm)
(H x W x D)

This beautifully carved image is a rare statue of Mahasthamaprapta (meaning “He who has obtained Great Power” in Sanskrit), a bodhisattva who represents the power of wisdom and is believed to open people's eyes to the need to strive for awakening (Bodhi). This bodhisattva, who can be male or female, but in China is more commonly female, applies her great energy, wisdom and compassion to the salvation of all beings. In most traditions in Asia, Mahasthamaprapta sows the seeds of the mind of wisdom. She is primarily worshipped in the Pure Land form of Mahayana Buddhism practiced in East Asia. In China he is known as Shizhi, and in Japan, Seishi Bosatsu, and is revered for several attributes including

Guardian of Buddha Wisdom
One Whose Wisdom and Power Reaches Everywhere
One Who Has Obtained Great Strength
Bodhisattva of Strength and Vigor
Bodhisattva Who Attained Great Strength
One Who Has Attained the Powers of Wisdom & Compassion

Mahasthamaprapta, along with Guanyin, hold prominent positions in Pure Land Buddhism in which they are the main attendants to the Buddha Amitabha (Amida in Japan). In China and Japan, her importance grew with the spread of the Pure Land sects and their devotion to Amitabha in the Chinese and Japanese courts in the 7th through 12th centuries and reached great prominence in ensuing centuries. Today, Pure Land sects in East Asia, especially Japan, are still the most popular among the Buddhist sects.

Mahasthamaprapta is mentioned in the early Mahayana works such as the Lotus Sutra, the Shurangama Sutra and the Contemplation Sutra. In the Lotus Sutra he is one of the spiritual beings who assembled on Eagle (Vulture) Peak to listen to Shakyamuni's preaching; in the Shurangama Sutra, he relates how he gained enlightenment through Buddha recitation, or continuous pure mindfulness of the Buddha, to obtain samadhi; and in the Contemplation Sutra, he is symbolized by the moon (wisdom) while Avalokitesvara (Guanyin) is symbolized by the sun.
Mahasthamaprapta primarily appears in paintings and sculptures in a trinity with either Buddha Amitabha or Shakyamuni seated in the center, attended by Mahasthamaprapta on Amitabha’s right and Guanyin on his left. It is often depicted on the main altar of Mahayana Buddhist temples.

In Japan, Mahasthamaprapta is part of the Raigo("heavenly decent")Triad depicting Amitabha, Mahasthamaprapta and Guanyin descending from the Pure Land (heaven) on clouds to welcome the faithful into Amitabha's Pure Land of Utmost Bliss. They are part of the 25 Bodhisattvas who join Amitabha in leading the faithful spirits of the departed back to Amitabha's Pure Land.

In China, Mahasthamaprapta is usually portrayed as a beautiful young woman, with a likeness similar to Guanyin. Iconographically, she is depicted with white skin with hands held together in prayer---as in this image--- or holding a lotus flower or an unopened lotus bud in his hand and sometimes has a water jar in her crown --- also as in this image--- or a pagoda in her hair.

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