Jun 2, 2024
Martin Goodson

Bust of Padmapani 'Holder of the Lotus'

Images of Truth

The immovable lotus on which the Buddha sits can restore peace to any situation.


John Eskenazi 

Bust of Padmapani (from a seated figure)

Eastern India or Bangladesh

Late 11th/early 12th century


Height 100cm

Padmapani is a representation of Avalokiteśvara. His name translates as ‘Holder of the Lotus’.


An Old Silk Road story tells of a magical battle between two of the Buddha’s most senior disciples, Sariputra and Maudgalyayana.

The Buddha had summoned all his arhats to a meeting but Sariputra was nowhere to be seen. Maudgalyayana volunteered to find him and flew off in search. He found Sariputra sitting on a mountain side sewing his belt which had become frayed on one side. Maudgalyayana scolded him, telling him he was late for a meeting with the Buddha. However, Sariputra calmly said that it would be improper for him to appear before the Lord with a frayed belt and so he had to repair it first.

Impatiently, Maudgalyayana asked Sariputra to hand the belt over to him saying that he would repair it more quickly. Sariputra obeyed and gave him the belt. Maudgalyayana transformed his fingers into needles and thread and in a trice repaired it perfectly. He then placed it onto a rock in front of Sariputra. 

“There” he said, “Now put it on; we must go since the Lord is waiting for us.”

“Would you mind passing the belt to me please, Maudgalyayana?” said Sariputra. 

Muadgalyayana, with a sigh, grasped the belt and found he could not lift it. With his supernormal powers he realised that Sariputra had, in the interim, attached the belt to the mountain. Not wanting to lose face, Maudgalyayana used his supernormal strength and began to lift the belt shaking the mountain. Great pieces of rock began to cascade down the mountainside and Sariputra realised that his friend would soon shake the whole mountain to pieces if he did not do something. So, he detached the belt from the mountain and attached it to the centre of the Earth. Maudgalyayana detected the change and re-doubled his efforts. Now the Earth shook and great waves arose on the seas. Not far away, the Buddha was sitting on a golden lotus in a lake surrounded by the other arhats who also sat on their lotuses. As the waves rocked them all back and forth, they became afraid but the Buddha reassured them saying that the two would be along presently and not to be afraid. 

Sariputra make one last attempt to foil his friend and attached the belt magically to the stem of the Buddha’s Golden Lotus. Simultaneously, Maudgalyayana felt the change and in that moment let go of the belt since he knew that there was no power equal to that of the Immovable Lotus on which the Buddha sat.

“Oh, do stop messing about Sariputra, we really must go right now!”

“What are you complaining about Maudgalyayana? I am already there.” 

Sariputra vanished from the mountainside and reappeared on his lotus on the lake, followed a few moments later by Maudgalyayana, flying through the air to take up his position beside Sariputra.

The Buddha sighed and said: “Now we are all here, let us tell the stories of how we embarked on the path of liberation.”

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