Sacred India Tarot Archive – Buddha Rupa: Creation of Page, Knight, Queen, King of Pentacles

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Concluding the Suit of Disks: the Buddha’s Life and Teaching
by Rohit Arya and Jane Adams.  This post includes Rohit’s essay on Kirtimukha

Sacred India Tarot buddha Kubera Yaksha


A Lens ...

A Lens …

Sacred India Tarot buddha Hariti wife of Kubera

In sanskrit, the rupa is an image of the divine.  Some traditions allow no images.  Other traditions allow that our whole lives are Image-ination.  The rupa may be a portrait, or it may be an impression engraved on the collective subconscious.  This post reflects on some ripened imprints of the Buddha’s teaching, pictorially.  Buddhist meditation is practical, methodical and based on psychology.  We need a working view of our own asuras – the demonic energies in our subconscious – which also drive us to realisation.  Light and shadow work together.

Rohit’s Notes (2003) 

“Page – Rahula, the son and disciple of Buddha … OR Ananda, cousin and closest disciple.

“This is a difficult choice, as both fit well.  The picture we have is of Buddha giving his son his ‘inheritance’ – the begging bowl.  Ananda was inseparable from Buddha while he was alive, and seems to have been a very earnest and slightly stupid young man – the only one in the crowd of monks around Buddha, who did not attain to the final realisation. 

visual reference for Page of disks

visual reference for Page of disks



“Maybe we can cheat a little, drop the wife of Buddha from the composition, make Ananda a young man instead of a boy, but retain the difference in size between him and the Buddha.  

“That was an artistic convention, to depict the immense difference between Buddha and all other mortals, but in Ananda’s case, it was especially true.  By doing this juggling around, we maintain the power of the original image, which is one of the best known from the Ajanta murals – as well as cast Ananda in the role of the page.”




“(from the book with the deck) – In a reading: a young person of great potential.  Whether it will manifest is another matter, but at present the potential is immense.  Dainty and finicky personalities;  sometimes visionary and psychic people, in contrast to the practical, grounded, unimaginative personality.

“Alternatively(shadow) – Unresolved personal issues: chronic bachelors of either sex, and in extreme cases, learning disabilities.   Slow and steady progress should pay off in the long run – diligent and plodding. … The special insight of this card is: ‘the situation you are in will teach you a lot, but experience, not wealth, may be your only gain.'”

Jane’s Notes (2013)

This is one of my favourites of this suit – the teasing expression of the Master, as he holds the bowl a little beyond the disciple’s sight, to enable him to grow.  It makes life the more “interesting”.

Sacred India Tarot, Page of Disks/Pentacles

Sacred India Tarot, Page of Disks/Pentacles


Knight of Disks/Pentacles

In terms of the Buddha-Rupa or Image, the two following images show Rohit’s earlier concept :

Visual reference 1 for Buddha Knight

Visual reference 1 for Buddha Knight

The nobility of the chivalric warrior – the best of the Kshetra caste of Guardians …


Boddhisattva – the Buddha in the making …

Visual reference 2, Buddha Knight

Visual reference 2, Buddha Knight – the Avalokiteswara

“This picture gives some idea of the elegant nature of the concept.  This is the Buddha – there are many Buddhas – who has given up his chance for final liberation, and is working to help all living beings achieve it.  Only then will he enter the final Nirvana.”

Before I began to sketch this out, a Stop Press arrived from Rohit:  “The Knight as Kirtimukha, the Face of Glory! – regard the previous suggestions as cancelled!”

“The important thing to realise, is that Kirtimukha is the Green Man of India, or to be precise, the Green Man as India experienced him.  He is usually found above sculptures of gods forming an arch of vegetation, which erupt from his mouth and flow from his hair, usually from the Crown chakra.

Green man door bell (Wikipedia)

Green man door bell (Wikipedia)

“Even houses have him over the front door, even in the heart of a city like Bombay.  He is tropical vegetation run riot in all his representations;  so ideally his very face should be composed of twigs and leaves and creepers and so on, with no real human flesh tone.

“Kirtimukha is always just a face, with no body and even no neck.  He could be depicted as some sort of ‘vegetation sun’ at high noon, over a fertile and lush landscape.  Alternatively, he could be forming an arch or bower of vegetation over a meditating Buddha.

“That the Knight should be Kirtimukha and not a Bodhisattva, came to me in a dream!” 

fired clay mask by Walter Storey -

fired clay mask by Walter Storey –

Gautam the publisher commented:  “I would substitute the Knight of pentacles with Kirtimukha, for the very good reason that he is the Green Man as viewed in the Indian cultural prism.  That is one of the archetypal planetary energies, and we need them in alignment with us.  The Green Man exists in all cultures so we cannot afford to leave him out of our pack.”


Jane’s Notes, 2013

by Katherine Soutar, dancing cat designs

by Katherine Soutar, dancing cat designs

The Buddha during the throes of his Enlightenment, kept firm contact with Nature:  his hand was held to Earth.  So we depict the Knight centering the Earth energy.  Without a mastery of the telluric pulse, Guardians and Bodhisattva ideals are not much help.  The telluric pulse – the Earth – represents likewise, our subconscious, and the cellular memory within it, of the ancient animal, vegetable and lizard kingdoms – reaching even into the record of the rocks;  the aeons of our planet’s fiery cooling to become a forest grower.  The Knight in this revelation represents aspects of the Buddha’s conscious memory – the Tathagatha who was, is now, and will be.

Kirthimukha, the Green Man, the face of glory, is the threshold guardian on all temples.  Earth is female, vegetation is male, this he is.   He is a luminal being between the edge of ordinary and Awakened consciousness.  He is a filter of negativity, and deflects worldly impulses.

Kirthimukha is a forgiveness koan, forgiveness with the Judgement.

Ivy and Oak

Ivy and Oak at Buckland Filleigh


Rohit’s Notes – (from the book with the deck):

“The Buddha is haloed by Kirthimukha, one of the earliest manifestations of the Divine in nature known to India. 

“The Kirthimukha is a protector deity, a threshold guardian belonging to one of the two oldest groups of Cthonic deities in India:  the Yakshas from the word Yakshamam – we shall protect.  The other group is the Nagas – serpent energies of the earth.  These are easily the oldest and perhaps original gods of India, predating the Vedas.  Even the Buddha was at birth taken to the shrine of his clan’s guardian Yaksha – Sakha Vardhana. Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism had to totally assimilate Yakshas and Nagas before they gained wide acceptance. 

“Kirthimukha is the male aspect of nature, for while the earth is female, vegetation is masculine.  … Europe knew him as Dionysius, then the Green Man or John Barleycorn, while the Sufi mystics still experience him as Khwaja Khidur – a gigantic being, a spiritual initiator and mentor, whose footsteps sprout vegetation…  the special meaning of this card is forgiveness.  Let go of grudges and hate, and let time take care of the rest.” 

(cf Ace of Disks/Pentacles in this series, the Buddha’s birth.  The babe walked at once, spouting lotuses.)


Now comes Rohit’s liberating tale – The Story of Kirtimukha – a fascinating cosmic psychology.  It is timely, because this BUDDHA series will be followed by the Suit of Cups/Lotuses – the Story of Siva and Parvati.   The websites of the asura images, are well worth a visit, also.

“IN MANY INDIAN TEMPLES, you will find over the main gate, or over the door frame of the inner sanctum, a monstrous disembodied head glaring or grinning down at you.  This is the Kirtimukha, face of glory.  Our myth seeks to explain how this seeming incongruity came to occupy this respected position:

AsuraLord from

AsuraLord from https://mythoughtsbornfromfire  – NB, this site contains other good illustrations

“In the Indian mythological system, the asuras (demons) are cousins of the gods, and indeed are created from the same cosmic material.  They are demonic however, because they identify the Self with the body.  All their cosmic power is perverted in finding ever fresher ways to satisfy the material consciousness.  That gets them in self-destructive trouble over the long term, though in the short term they create some trouble of their own.

“This situation actually works for the good of all sentient beings in the universe, as the asuras are infinitely more powerful than the ‘gods’ – a situation that the Norse divinities knew only too well – and if they were more disciplined or wise, they could have taken over heaven on a permanent basis.  As it is, the asuras are always a chaotic force in the evolving universe. 

“One such asura suddenly got it into his mind that since he was the strongest being in the universe, he deserved the most beautiful woman existing.  This sort of logic is typical asura, but for them to think is to act.  He turned up at the abode of Siva the great God himself, and peremptorily demanded possession of Siva’s wife Parvati.  Now Parvati is the Great Goddess, and this was stupidity on a scale that even the asura should have quailed at. 

“Siva being pure consciousness, merely projected back at the asura a crystallization of his own insatiable desires.  This new entity was far worse than anything the asura had seen.  It was the living manifestation of a raw hunger, a world devouring flame that needed more, ever more, and was still left empty.  The immensity of his own endless desire was now in front, and the asura turned and ran.  The new demon chased him, intent on eating him up, devastating and devouring all that was between him and his prey.  Peril breeds perspective, and the asura realised that his only hope was Siva.  According to Indian mythology, you cannot refuse to grant quarter and protection if it is asked for.  So now Siva had one suitably chastened asura on his hands – as well as an enormous problem that seemed determined to eat up the universe.

“The Hunger was accepting of Siva’s mercy, but he had a problem.  ‘What do I eat now?‘  He was brought into being to solve a crisis, and now his own existence was jeopardised – which reflected poorly on the God.  Siva came up with the sort of Trickster solution so beloved of India – ‘Why don’t you eat yourself?’

“A god’s word is worth following, even if it seems senseless and destructive, and with faith in the Lord the demon did just that.  He began to chomp and champ away, beginning with his toes and working upward in a grim straight line that never wavered, never doubted and never ceased to masticate.  Finally he came to the neck and that was it – he could no longer contort himself to provide any room to bite. 

“Siva laughed, the earth shaking peal of pure joy that Kalidasa said was the Himalayas – the frozen laughter of Siva. 

“This episode was a grimly humorous illumination on the nature of life.  Life feeds on life, no matter how monstrous that may seem at first glance.  Desire forms a perfect feedback loop that ends up eating even what is desired.  This concept was known to the Sumerians as Ourobouros, the serpent eating its tail.  Life feeds on Life.  It is wildly exhilerating and liberating to realise and accept this concept, but it seems monstrous to those who have not had the experience.

16 kekuli serpent

“Siva named the Hunger Kirtimukha, the immortal face of glory.  He is seen above the doors of all temples.  Siva who is Constant Awareness, wants you to be aware of the real nature of the universe, to accept it.

“A philosophy of life and spirituality that will not acknowledge the dark side is only a milk and water religion after all, not really nourishing in the long run.  To live in the world, is to be aware of that constant hunger, and as always Siva or god is the only way in which you can transcend it. 

“To recognise Kirtimukha is to grow up, to have an adult understanding and acceptance of the universe, not a child’s fantasy.  In Jungian terms, Kirtimukha is a visibilization, a personification of the Shadow (or some aspects of it).  Kirtimukha is thus a threshold guardian to maturity, to the deepening of experience which is called wisdom.”


Tibetan-Buddhist Wrathful deity Vajrapani


Here is the finished card – Kirtimukha, the Face of Glory

Sacred India Tarot Knight of Disks - Buddha Kartimukha

Sacred India Tarot Knight of Disks – Buddha Kartimukha


We arrive at archetypes of the Buddha which depict his Taurean nature, at home in the physical elements.  He tried the traditional path of starvation, but it had no relevance to the Great Middle Way which is central to his teaching.  Suffering is the result of imbalances and extremes of desire, to either side.   Physically the Buddha must have been well toned, with a beautiful opulence in his skin, in the way he walked, and in his bearing.  The quality is celebrated in the Court cards of this suit.  He was also – as are all great Sages – at home in the feminine side of his nature, as in the male.  There is something of the androgyne, or ardhanariswara in the manifestations of sacred Wisdom and Understanding.

This study is Siva Ardhanariswara, Lord whose half is Woman – with Siva’s vehicle, the white bull Nandi – but it serves as well here:  there are very few depictions in Indian art.

Ardhanariswara, ja 1993

Ardhanariswara, ja 1993


Rohit’s feedback – 18 July 2003

I have no real observation I need to add onto the Page card, as it is very beautiful and astonishingly similar to the Ajanta tempura painting in original – except that I like what Jane has done in giving Rahula a little beard.  At that adolescent age that is exactly what young men do, experiment with fuzz in order to feel more mature. 

The Knight card captures what I had in mind very well.  An interesting point about the Kirtimukha archetype only recently came into my knowledge.  All over India, the Kirtimukha is a threshold guardian placed above the doorway of the shrine.  In the state of Maharashtra however, he is always placed on the central position of the last step before you step into the shrine or on the lower wooden frame of the threshold.  I was not aware of this when I first wrote to Jane, but it is common in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples all over this particular state.  It is an interesting difference, but we shall stick to the larger viewpoint about the Kirthimukha that prevails all over India.”


The Queen of Disks/Pentacles is Hariti, wife of the great Yaksha Kubera.

A Yaksha is a tree spirit, a spiritual organism of nature.  Hariti was Kubera’s Shakti or fertility.  She was taught a lesson by Buddha, for stealing children: she never had enough, it seems.

Rohit’s Notes 2003

“The picture we send should be an adequate reference.  She is certainly slightly thick and stumpy around the waist, to depict the fertile earth energies.  But do not make her too fat.

(from Rohit’s book with the deck:) “Hariti had a superabundance of maternal and nurturing energy.  She had a hundred children of her own, but they were not enough to satisfy these desires.  She began to kidnap children in a peculiar display of avarice.  Popular apprehension held that she was eating them, but actually she kept them entertained in a never never land as companions for her children.  The parents of the lost children appealed to Buddha to intervene.  He concealed Hariti’s youngest child who is her favourite, and waited till she was frantic with fear and worry, to return the child with the old admonishment to do unto others … Hariti was appointed the guardian of small children from that day on, so all ended well. 

“Hariti represents a peculiar strand of malefic-beneficent earth mother deities known to India as the Matrikas.  They are guardians of boundaries of cities or villages, and can still be seen in that role today, in shrines on the outskirts of villages …  The Yakshas and Yakshis of India were both the oldest and its most popular gods, and they have inspired some of its greatest art.  There is always an exuberant feeling to Yaksha energy, which remains in the defining characteristics of the goddesses still worshipped.”


Queen of disks reference

Queen of disks reference


Buddhism at one time spread wider in the world than any other faith.  The Law of Compassion and Deliverance moves harmoniously with the root principles of Hinduism, Japanese Shinto, the Tantras and the Chinese Tao.


Sacred India Tarot Queen of Disks - Buddha Hariti, wife of Kubera

Sacred India Tarot Queen of Disks – Buddha Hariti, wife of Kubera



Peace includes every turbulation of the ocean.    This series on the Buddha began with a blue flower, and flows into the sea.  I saw a TV programme last night about the colour blue – from Picasso’s blue period, through an artist who threw himself into the sky for the love of the Blue, to the “Earth Rise” photograph in 1968, taken from the Moon’s atmosphere.

Earth Rise zr28z

Blue is the colour of the Beyond.  Yet blue is the colour of our Home, and closer than our breath.  In Tarot, blue is the tonal vibration of the feminine-subconscious.  Blue is first sight of the Sea.

For me, the wish fulfilling Blue Jewel is the Buddha’s colour … dive into it.

convolvulus - Version 2



Visual reference, buddha king of disks

Visual reference, buddha king of disks

King of Disks/Pentacles: Rohit’s Notes 2003

“The King is Kubera the Yaksha, again an earth energy.  The two options we send should be adequate.  I prefer the fatter version for it ties in with the Pregnant Male attributes of some deities, proto ardhanariswara so to speak. Kubera is claimed by the Hindus and Buddhists as well as the Jains, and worshipped by all of them, even today!


(From the book with the deck) “Kubera has been the actual god of wealth worshipped in India for over two thousand years, in unbroken continuity.  For most of that time India was a very rich country, so he did well by his people.  Kubera is one of the Lokapalas – world guardians – as well as a Digapala, guardian of the quadrant: in his instance, the North … he is known as Vaishravana in Tibet … The pregnant male is a way of saying that he was a dual concept god, possessing both male and female energies.  Iin Buddhist and Jain representations he normally guards the shrines of Enlightened beings.  At the Ajanta caves, relief sculptures of Kubera and his consort are found outside almost all cave temples to the Buddha.

“Insight of the card:  What can you teach others from your experience?”

Visual reference, buddha king of disks

Visual reference, buddha king of disks



Sacred India Tarot Buddha Kubera Yaksha, King of disks

Sacred India Tarot Buddha Kubera Yaksha, King of disks

The King of Disks by contrast has a fiery red earth tone – the illumined male. This composition suggests a “double decker” mode of life.  The little king inside the wheel is the servant to the greater.  He believes he ‘does it all’.  The Greater King encompassing him, whom he rarely perceives, and who Turns the Wheel, is his Allowance and grace.

Life is like a red double decker bus.  Dealing with persons in the world and in my lower mind, the view is limited to the coffin sides:  to conditioned viewpoints, angles and edges.  But when I am on the upper deck – which is of course open, like a London tourist bus – those ideas are not sufficient for the living Truth perceived.  I see over the roof-tops, I see all the landmarks, I am in the sky and I am amazed.   Both views hold.  They are the way we are embodied.  To perceive from the upper deck, is to experience a life-situation COMPLETELY, with the Buddha’s compass … a “Long Thought” for the journey.  The knack is to become a good bus-conductor, up and down the stairs.  Passengers get on and off.

Wheel rolling King

Discriminate rightly, the personality and the Self – as in the Buddha King.  Such is double decker.  The wheel rolling King is all around the wheel and in its centre.


14 Arcana


Rohit’s Feedback 18 July, 19 August 2003

The Queen is in many ways the most gorgeous card in the entire suit, and there is nothing I can say about it.  The concept is just dazzling in its beauty.  The belly of the Yakshas does not denote fat and flab, but the fact that they are turgid with the creative and generative power of the Prana.  The abdominal cavity is the only place in the body that can accommodate extra prana, hence the swollen belly of yogis who live on about as much food as an ant.

5 Arcana

The King –  like the Queen of Pentacles, this card too is tremendously beautiful and vibrant.  The framing within the body of the Buddha is a wonderful touch, while the elephant looks delightful.  

“In all sculptural representations of the Kubera Yaksha that have survived, there is usually a piece that has been vandalized.  This would be a citron or matulinga fruit, rich in seeds, symbol of  inexhaustible bounty, which would have been broken off or filed away as a talisman.  The famous image of Siva in the Elephanta cave sculptures, described in Stella Kramrisch’s ‘The Presence of Siva’ has a similar fruit.  Looking at the picture I realised Kubera’s hands are empty.  Instead of the fruit, we could place the geometric Kuber Yantra instead, though it would be a six-pointed star, the prime symbol of the Yaksha deities in India.  That would communicate the point of wealth as well as being a breakthrough in his depiction.  

“The visual reference for the Yantra we are sending you.  What we need is merely the central six pointed star, with the concentric circles of lotuses around it, a simple outline practically.  Keeping it as a circular figure would be best, instead of bounding it within the square of the metal of the yantra.   In all other respects, the card is perfect.”


It appears that alas, this addition to the deck got overlooked – except maybe the yantra on the elephant’s head.  However,  I would be disinclined to furnish the Consciousness implied in Buddha’s open hands, with any objects.  His gesture allows space, and all being.

So here is a nice round fruit – a Kuber Yantra for the archive:

kuber yantra


and finally …

Tibetan Dakini

This portrait of a Tibetan Dakini was commissioned in 2003 – my exact copy of someone else’s painting.  I do not remember the name of the original artist.

The next Sacred India Tarot Archive posts will cover the Suit of Cups/Lotuses – the courtship and marriage of Siva and Parvati.




For other Sacred India Tarot posts, look under Recent Posts, or Archive of All Posts in the title bar.

Rohit Arya

Rohit Arya is an Author, Yogi and Polymath. He has written the first book on Vaastu to be published in the West, {translated into five languages} the first book on tarot to be published in India, co-authored a book on fire sacrifice, and is the creator of The Sacred India Tarot {82 card deck and book}. He has also written A Gathering of Gods. He is  a corporate trainer, a mythologist and vibrant speaker as well as an arts critic and cultural commentator. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga. 

Earlier posts about the deck, including the first 15 Major Arcana archives are in   The deck is copyrighted (c) 2011 to the publishers, Yogi Impressions Books pvt, and available also on Amazon and internationally.


Jane Adams

My adventure invites fellow travellers.  I am a poet, an artist and a seer.  I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom.

This blog is  a vehicle to promote also my published work – The Sacred India Tarot (with Rohit Arya, Yogi Impressions Books) and The Dreamer in the Dream – a collection of short stories (0 Books). Watch this space.

All art and creative writing in this blog is copyright © Janeadamsart 2012. May not be used for commercial purposes. May be used and shared for non-commercial means with credit to Jane Adams and a link to the web address

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