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The Handbook of Tibetan Buddhist Symbols Paperback – October 14, 2003


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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

The Handbook of Tibetan Buddhist Symbols is a portal into the rich, multifaceted, and profound symbolism of Tibetan sacred art. Robert Beer provides a deep and encompassing insight into the vast array of symbols and attributes that appear within the complex iconography of Tibetan Buddhism. The succinct descriptions that accompany his detailed line drawings reveal the origins, meanings, and functions of these symbols. Beer unravels the multiple layers of symbolism and meaning contained within the iconography, affording the reader a panoramic vision into the deeper dimensions of this sacred art.
Drawn largely from Beer?s monumental work The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs, the meticulous brush drawings in this book depict all of the major Buddhist symbols and motifs, including the various groups of auspicious symbols; cosmological symbols; natural and mythical animals, such as the dragon, garuda, and makara; the entire assembly of ritual tantric implements and weapons; magical and wrathful symbols; hand-held emblems, attributes, and plants; esoteric Vajrayana offerings; and mudras, or ritual hand gestures.

About the Author

Robert Beer has studied and practiced Tibetan thangka painting for thirty years, including five years of study with master artists Jampa of Dharamsala and Khamtrül Rinpoche of Tashijong. Beer is one of the first Westerners to become actively involved in this art form. Over the last two decades he has concentrated on an extensive series of iconographical drawings depicting the major deities, lineage holders, and symbols that occur in the spectrum of Tibetan art.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala; 1 edition (October 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590301005
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590301005
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #133,410 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Claus Hetting on December 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
This volume took Robert Beer more than 10 years to complete, and one understands why. As far as I know it is the only book on the subject with such superbly crafted illustrations, each meticulously drawn in pencil-thin, lucid detail. There are a huge number of these drawings, and the well-structured text is informative, thorough and scholarly, without being dry. It is an eminent work of very high quality and a joy to read for any Buddhist practitioner, art lover, or just for curiosity. It is surely a classic reference volume. Modesty must have compelled the author and editors to give it the diminutive title 'a handbook' - it is indeed much more. Read it an enjoy.
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on November 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
The Handbook Of Tibetan Buddhist Symbols by Robert Beer (who has studied and practice Tibetan thanga painting for more than thirty years) is a straightforward reference guide to the meaningful symbolism of sacred Tibetan art. Black-and-white illustrations depict all the major Buddhist symbols and motifs, while the text offers depth and interpretation behind the meaning and usage of each. The Handbook Of Tibetan Buddhist Symbols is enthusiastically recommended for inclusion into Buddhist Studies and especially informative for connoisseurs of Tibetan art.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Corder on April 30, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This Handbook is an excellent reference book, handsomely published by Shambhala, and affordable. BUT...do not confuse this with Beer's Encyclopedia of Tibetan Buddhist Symbols and Motifs. This Handbook is NOT a paperback version of the Encyclopedia. The 400-page Encyclopedia goes into more detail, has additional text, and provides the reader with many, many more pages of drawings. I confused the two and thought I would save some money by buying the paperbound. Nope, it's a much abridged version. If you can afford the Encyclopedia, it is well worth Amazon's price.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Amaranth on October 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
Tibetan Buddhist symbolism is extremely complex,yet in this volume artist/Buddhist Robert Beer makes it accessible and understandable. Beer divides the symbolism into identifiable categories such as "Eight Auspicious Symbols","Five Attributes of Sensory Enjoyment","Cosmological Symbols","Main Ritual and Tantric Implements" and "Wrathful Attributes and Offerings." It's a user-friendly handbook.

Beer sheds light on more obscure symbolism-such as the khatvanga (tantric staff),the magical weapons of Shri Devi (the Great Goddess),and the gzi stone. He explains it within the framework of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and practice.

To his credit,Beer doesn't gloss over the more gruesome aspects of Tibetan Buddhism. He explains why wrathful deities are depicted wearing garlands made of skulls and severed heads,or holding intestines in their hands. For some, the wrathful deities are seen as a way of sublimating violent tendencies,while others see them as worshipping ugliness. Beer leaves it to the reader to judge.

"A Handbook of Tibetan Buddhist Symbols" is a perfect guidebook to Tibetan Buddhism. It's written for the layman,the newbie,and is engrossing reading.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Holly Lane on June 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent resource for decoding the complex and concept laden symbolism in Buddhist sacred art. The drawings are clear while having a grace all their own. Robert Beer's text concisely provides the meaning and some background to the evolution of the symbols which are sometimes derived and from Hindu or indigenous Asian cultures. This book will quickly become a well thumbed guide to anyone who is curious about Buddhist art.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Paul Camira on January 10, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Beer is a genius of Tibetan symbolism and a master of the art. If Tibetan art is a passion of yours, or you are an aspiring Buddhist this is a must for you. He also published a larger hardcover volume which this was adapted from. The hardcover book is much more comprehensive, larger and quite beautiful. The quality of printing is excellent. Beers ability to replicate the repetitive images is almost robotic and mind blowing in his precision. Just look at the rolling waves or cloud formations..for pen and ink drawings that are vibrant and alive on the page. The essence of Tibetan Buddhist multiverse perception. It is infinitely enjoyable and informative as he defines all of the images meanings and the essence of what they evoke. Just looking at his drawings evokes a peaceful, meditative and introspective experience. For a student or artist studying Buddhism or just art, this will educate and enthrall. It gives definitive meaning and helps clarify the imagery in one volume unlike any other writings i have found. I do recommend this book as well as the larger comprehensive volume..also available on Amazon. Om mani padme hum.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Aquila on June 21, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While not totally comprehensive, it is like a light encyclopedia of the symbols and tools used in Tibetan Buddhism, excellent for the curious, newcomers and long time Buddhists alike.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By B. Mitchell on December 6, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Awesome book that's enjoyable and informative. As a practitioner it brings new depth and understanding to visualizations and practices as well as bring up lots of "Oh that's what that represents." I wandered why Rinpoche was packing that thing around. Thanka's, ritual items, gestures, art and other mediums come alive vibrant and enriching having gained a fuller understanding of the meaning, intent and purposes. Hat's off to Robert for sharing your wealth of knowledge and skill with us!
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