The Cintamani Stone: the Wish Fulfilling Jewel
They all possess(ed) the Cintamani stone, a wish fulfilling jewel. Well, at least the three of these did – the claims of our fourth candidate, the mystical painter Nicholas Roerich, remain open to question, but we’ll get to him…
Let’s start with the stone itself:
The Cintamani stone started as a Hindu concept; it has connections with the Gods Vishnu and Ganesha. It also has connections with the Serpent Lord (the Naga King, who also slithered his way into Buddhist cosmology) as well as the Chimera-like Makara beast.
The Stone enters Tibetan lore by falling from the heavens in a chest with three other treasured objects, bringing the Dharma to Tibet in the process. This has led some to speculate that it might have been a piece of meteoric rock, but I prefer the Tibetan version better – it’s Cintamani, the sacred wish-fulfilling jewel.
So who exactly holds the Cintamani Stone?
Who? What? Where? Why?!
All three names above refer to the Bodhisattva of Compassion, known in Sanskrit as Avalokateshvara, Chenrezik is his Tibetan form, while in China, he underwent a sex change and became Guanyin (there are many more names and forms for this Bodhisattva, or enlightened being, around the world).
in Tibet, in particular, he takes on additional significance, as several lamas, including the Dalai Lama, are considered emanations of Avalokateshvara, whose name translates to One Who Looks Down Mercifully on the World (other names translate this as the One Who Hears the Cries of the World).
Two very prominent mantras are also connected with this Bodhisattva: the Heart Sutra Mantra (Gate Gate, ParaGate, ParaSamGate, Bodhi Svaha!) and the Om Mani Padme Hum mantra (note the word Mani in the mantra – it means jewel: hence, Cinta (wish-granting) Mani (jewel)). The latter mantra can also be found carved on stones, called Mani stones, the largest of which can be seen pictured at the top).
While Avalokateshvara is moved by compassion for all souls, Ksitigarbha is concerned with those trapped in the lowest realm. His oath is similar: not to leave the field of Samsara until all beings trapped in the Hell realm are freed.
To this end, he is often considered a Guardian of the Underworld.
If you’ve ever seen a Tibetan prayer flag, you might have seen the Wind Horse, or Lungta. The horse sits at the center of the four cardinal points, also represented by animals. As such, he is the axis mundi, the central pole of the world; he is the soul.
[Note: When it’s three jewels, it represents the classical three “refuges” of Buddhism: refuge in the Buddha, refuge in the Dharma (the teachings), and refuge in the Sangha (the collective of fellow seekers)]
When H.P. Lovecraft frequently mentions your paintings (At the Mountains of Madness, a key work in Lovecraft’s Cthulu Mythos), you’re doing something right…or very, very wrong.
When your wife is in correspondence with the president of the United States (FDR) while his vice president is referring to you as his Guru, you’re likewise on the right track, or maybe you’re very, very wrong.
When the U.S. Federal government finances your second expedition to Tibet so you can bring back plant specimens, when in reality you’re looking for the mythical kingdom of Shambala – well, you get the picture.
Painter, lawyer, activist, adventurer and occultist Nicholas Roerich was a kind of magically-bent Renaissance man – he made the Nobel prize list more than once, and was able to gain multinational support for the so-called Roerich pact, a resolution to preserve cultural artifacts over military needs. But his primary obsession was being in communion with the hidden masters of Tibet, an idea made popular by M. Blatvasky’s Theosophical society, which he and his wife were members of.
Still, either despite or because of this, he lived a semi-charmed life.
How did this guy get so lucky?
It might have been the Cintamani stone, a piece of which he claimed to possess.
Not that he actually showed it to anyone…
Regardless, he was happy to talk about it…
Which is okay…
Avalokteshvara still smiles down on him.
And even if Roerich lied about having the Cintamani, and was banished to the lower realms, we can all rest assured that Kstigharba, Guardian of the Underworld, is still waiting patiently for him to get out.
All said and done, pretty good luck indeed.