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Pindola (ปิณโฑล)

1. Pali-Thai. Name of one of the initial sixteen arahats, as well as one of the later eighteen and who is considered their leader. He is usually depicted with long eyebrows, indicating longevity and signifying seniority, hence, leadership. He is usually shown seated leaning on a staff or holding a book and an alms bowl. The name Pindola is associated with the Sanskrit word pinda and Tibetan Buddhists translate the name as ‘alms-receiver’, but in Sanskrit the word pinda (पिण्ड) literally means ‘ball of rice’ and the name Pindola is in Thai translated as Gon Khao Phu Rab Thaan (ก้อนข้าวผู้รับทาน) which could be translated as ‘Food-Receiver of a Lump (or Ball) of Rice’. According to legend he had been a monk in a previous life, who tried to gain Enlightenment, thus he hung on to life for so long that he finally grew long eyebrows. He is said to have excelled in the mastery of occult and psychic powers and is reputed to have the gift of healing, though he was once rebuked by the Buddha for misusing his powers, solely to impress people. According to the Vinaya, on one occasion, Pindola rose in the air, took a sandalwood bowl off a high pole and floated about with it for a while over the heads of an admiring crowd, in order to show off his powers. This occasion resulted in a rule prohibiting the use of sandalwood bowls and Pindola being announced that he was not to enter nirvana, but was to remain in existence and guard the dhamma until the coming of the future Maitreya Buddha. He was distinguished as a successful disputant and defender of orthodoxy, ‘with a voice like the lion’s roar’, a reference to his readiness to answer the questions of any doubting monks, thus uttering his ‘lion’s roar’. He is also named Pindola Bharadvaja, a name often used to distinguish him from one of the candidates for inclusion as the 17th or 18th arahat, who is also named Pindola (fig.). Popular belief has it that Pindola has been living ever since the Buddha's time on earth and that he may appear to virtuous workers for Buddhism and can even be invited, a custom once occasionally practiced in India, and although the arahat cannot be seen, it could be known by the state of the things reserved for him whether he had been present. Pindola is often switched with Ajita, an arahat who is shown riding or in companion of a deer (fig.). Thus, if Ajita is shown with or on the deer, then Pindola has long eyebrows, and vice versa. In Vietnam, the two are called Tọa Loc La Han (fig.) and Truong Mi La Han (fig.). In Thai, the name is pronounced Pintohn and in Chinese he is known as the luohan Chang Mei (长眉, or in traditional Chinese: 長眉), literally ‘Long Eyebrows’. See also TRAVEL PICTURE.



2. Pali-Thai. Name of one of the candidates for inclusion as the 17th or 18th arahat, often referred to as the second Pindola, to distinguish him from Pindola Bharadvaja (fig.). Since there were initially only sixteen arahats, he is seen as a guest arahat. According to legend, he was a general who once tamed a tiger that had been harassing a town, by feeding it with vegetarian food. He is generally depicted sitting on a tiger, holding up a precious ring with magical powers, in his right hand. The tiger, called viagra in Sanskrit, is a symbol for the passions which the arahat subdues, akin to Shiva (fig.), who killed the ‘tiger of desire’. The ring he is holding might suggest a Zen circle or is possibly a metaphor for the dharmachakra, the Buddhist Wheel of Law, indicating that he tames the desires by following the dhamma. In Thai his name is pronounced Pintohn and in Chinese he is known as the luohan Fu Hu (伏虎), literally ‘Submitting Tiger’, but as a compound it can also be translated as ‘to subdue a tiger’ or figuratively as ‘to prevail over sinister forces’. In English, he is referred to as the Taming Tiger Lohan or the Tiger Taming Arhat. Alternatively, yet only occasionally, this Pindola may be depicted with a kilen-like creature on his side (fig.), i.e. a Chinese mythological animal, with the head of a dragon and a scaled body (fig.). In Vietnam, he is called Phuc Ho La Han (fig.) and is associated with Bodhidharma (fig.), a 5-6th Century Buddhist monk, who lived in China and who is himself reminiscent of another member of the Eighteen Arahats, i.e. Bhadra, who is nicknamed Bodhidurma (fig.).