Figure of the goddess Lhamo

Densatil Buddhist Monastery, Central Tibet. 15th century
Ester R. Portnow Collection of Asian Art, a Gift of the Nathan Rubin-Ida Ladd Family Foundation

Like Durga of the Hindu tradition, also included in this exhibition, Lhamo is one of the most terrifying figures of the Buddhist world. Also like Durga, she was armed by the gods--dice determining the lives of humans; a lion; a hammer; a snake, which is here coiled upon her stomach; a sword, which here she holds in her right arm; and her vehicle, the mule, upon which she is seated. She wears a garland and crown of skulls to symbolize the illusions which she has destroyed. Legend has it that she killed her own son because of her husband's refusal to convert to Buddhism, and fled northward through Tibet, Mongolia, and China, eventually to settle in Siberia. It is important to remember here that Lhamo is terrifying because she is the Great Protectress of the school of Mahayana Buddhism. Her actions are based on the deepest insight and her ferociousness transforms the world. A meditator would focus on Lhamo's ability to change delusional anger into an enlightened power to act. A gift in honor of Anthony G. Hirschel, whose interest, encouragement, and support were vital to the development of the Ester R. Portnow Collection, the galleries in which it is housed, and its integration with University courses.