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Cover of a Prajnaparamita Manuscript

Cover of a Prajnaparamita Manuscript, 12th century

Tibet, 1100-1199
Painted and gilded wood
10-5/8 x 28-1/8 in. (27.0 x 71.4 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation, from the Estate of Jennifer Jones Simon
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

The Prajnaparamita or Perfection of Wisdom Sutra expounds the doctrine of “emptiness,” which refers to the insubstantial and illusory nature of life’s experiences. The concept became a principle accepted by Mahayana and Tantric Buddhists. Prajnaparamita literature introduced two striking innovations to Buddhist thought. One was to advocate that the text itself should be an object of ritual worship. The second was to personify the wisdom that the text contains as a female divinity named Prajnaparamita.

This wooden book cover was once part of a Prajnaparamita manuscript, which is indicated by the depiction of the goddess at the center. She is flanked on either side by Paramita deities who personify her virtues. The figure on the right represents charity while the figure on the left represents contemplation.

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