General Buddhism => General Buddhism => Topic started by: Jessie Fong on December 15, 2013, 09:16:39 AM

Title: Carved Tibetan Skull
Post by: Jessie Fong on December 15, 2013, 09:16:39 AM

Was reading some articles here and there, and came across this on a Carved Tibetan Skull:


This amazing carved skull is alleged to be 300 years old, and come from a Buddhist monastery in Tibet. The owner posted images of the skull on a forum back in 2011 asking for more information about it:

I got this skull in March 2011 from an antiques shop in Vienna, Austria. Showed it to several experts and organizations, such as the Institute for Tibetan and Buddhistic Studies in Vienna, the Museum of Natural History Vienna and the Völkerkunde Museum. The Tibetan letters and most of the symbols got deciphered, but no one ever heard of a skull like that. Except one Tibetan Khenpo (Monk-Professor), who said such skulls where carved a long time ago to take a curse off a family or to guide the soul of a mislead human being on the right path. The guy who sold it to the auction house where the antiques shop got it from said that one of his ancestors used to be a medical doctor in Vienna. He travelled around Tibet and also gave medical treatment to an abbot of a Buddhist monastery. That abbot gave the skull amongst other relics to that doctor as a reward for his services. Allegedly around 300 years old.

The owner of the skull also pointed out the depiction, on the forehead area, of the Cittipati - the 'Lords of the Graveyard - apparently in a Tantric posture (the "bow and arrow"):


Anybody able to shed more light on this skull? Is it an historical occult artifact, or just a modern tourist trophy?

Go to (
for more images.
Title: Re: Carved Tibetan Skull
Post by: RedLantern on December 15, 2013, 04:11:19 PM
Although Tibetan Buddhism rituals utilize skull kapalas, authentic ones look nothing like this.They are beautiful work of art.Human bones are regularly used in the rituals in all  Tibetan customs,none has attracted more attention than the use of human skulls for practical and religious purposes.A whole decorated skull is a 'yama' while a partial decorated skull is called a 'kapala' or a skull cup,which is made out of he upper half of the human skull.Skull cups are traditionally lined with pewter or thin,decorated with silver,brass and gems, and the bone is ornately carved with Tibetan symbols.To me a skull reminds me of impermanence.
Title: Re: Carved Tibetan Skull
Post by: Manjushri on December 15, 2013, 06:15:02 PM
Pretty cool, but I wouldn't like to own one! Looks so scary!

But I guess in the Tibetan tradition, using skulls to depict something isn't out of the ordinary. Vajrayogini has a necklace around her made of skulls. I think skulls are used to remind us of impermanence and to also destroy our ego! Shows that eventually, we all end up like this. Well, gory, but true.

Never heard of a skull being used to remove curses ..  doesn't sound like what Tibetan Buddhists would do, though I am not sure of the olden days. If anything, I think it would have been used to protect and prevent negative energies from entering a compound. Just guessing.

Isn't Cittipati an emanation of Vajrayogini?
Title: Re: Carved Tibetan Skull
Post by: Manisha Kudo on December 15, 2013, 07:30:02 PM
:o wow! What a majestic piece of artwork. Never knew about Carved Tibetan Skull until now. Thanks for sharing. Could it be part of the Bon practices in Tibet?
Title: Re: Carved Tibetan Skull
Post by: metta girl on December 16, 2013, 01:38:31 AM
The carvings on the skull are beautifully done with all the fine details.Was wondering why skulls are used in rituals ,shouldn't it be buried intact with the body. Is it a reminder to meditate on death.?
Title: Re: Carved Tibetan Skull
Post by: diablo1974 on December 16, 2013, 04:02:18 AM
its not something new. But there are replicas selling in the markets. But the artwork is beautifully and neatly carved. I think we need the expert to explain the meaning behind it as some people might not feel good in even touching it.
Title: Re: Carved Tibetan Skull
Post by: psylotripitaka on December 16, 2013, 05:25:54 AM
'I must practice without delay, my time is almost up'
Title: Re: Carved Tibetan Skull
Post by: Tenzin K on December 16, 2013, 05:43:59 PM
How cool is this?

This is a beautiful example of a Tibetan carved skull. Skulls have long been associated with healing and the energy of ancestors, as well as the seat of the soul and mind in life. Skulls often represent overcoming illness and death, or the detachment from suffering and earthly pain.

In India and Tibet, skulls were made into ritual cups and bowls and filled with food offerings to deities. Many depictions of Tibetan deities show a skull cup in one of the left hands, from which the deity drinks blood. This is especially true of the ‘wrathful’ deities who protect the path to enlightenment and sever our connections to desire and suffering.
Title: Re: Carved Tibetan Skull
Post by: kris on December 21, 2013, 11:07:39 AM
Wow! This is such a piece of art!

Before I learn Buddhism, I always wonder why Buddhism uses a lot of skulls in their drawings, thangka etc, and they look scary too :P After asking listening to teachings, I learn that skulls are used to remind us about impermanence.

I think I should get a skull and keep on my desk to keep reminding myself that life is indeed very impermanent and do not take things for granted...
Title: Re: Carved Tibetan Skull
Post by: lotus1 on December 21, 2013, 06:16:46 PM
Wow, this is such a beautifully crafted skull! A great piece of art!
For skull and citipati, I guessed this is to remind us of impermanence and we should make good use of our precious human lives to practice Dharma, transform ourselves and benefit others before we die. Life is short and once we die, except for our karma and merits, all we have now will not be there any more.
Om Beza Wiki Bitrana Soha!
Title: Re: Carved Tibetan Skull
Post by: psylotripitaka on December 21, 2013, 11:28:57 PM
On the forehead of this skull is the living Kinkara Father and Mother. To you dancing Protector, emanation of Heruka Father and Mother I bow. Thank you for appearing here to bestow your blessings.

Some just see you as art, or as composed of bone, but I know the truth of your living presence and I acknowledge you with deep gratitude for embracing my mind!
Title: Re: Carved Tibetan Skull
Post by: bambi on December 22, 2013, 09:44:44 AM
Wow! What a cool blessed skull! I have seen a bone purba though in Nepal and it was as beautiful as this. I find it amazing that such beautiful carving can be done on the bones. The first thing I thought was, how blessed the bone owner is. Even though, the mind have left the body yet it is still being used for a greater reason.
And of course, the skull is there to remind us of impermanence. A great way to focus.
Title: Re: Carved Tibetan Skull
Post by: OMB on December 22, 2013, 11:57:42 AM
Wow! I amazed on how intricate the designs on the skull are! The Skull in Tibetan Buddhism serves to remind of the impermanence of the body.