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Q: Artistic carvings ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: Artistic carvings
Category: Reference, Education and News > Homework Help
Asked by: lumps-ga
List Price: $25.00
Posted: 09 Dec 2002 22:51 PST
Expires: 08 Jan 2003 22:51 PST
Question ID: 122262
I have a wonderful walnut shell with fifty miniture polished Buddhas
carved on it's surface which sits in a small turned mahogany bowl. 
The bottom of the shell (as it's carved) has a lotus flower which is
split by the dividing line of the two halves. If you place the lotus
directly on top of the stand,  so the shell division runs vertical,
Buddhas float above the lotus holding tight to the surface as if
protecting something inside.
What is the spiritual story told by this miniture?  Where is it likely
to have been made?  Is there a myth or proverb attached to it?  Is it
of great financial value?     Lumps,  Seattle

Clarification of Question by lumps-ga on 13 Dec 2002 03:31 PST
Ah...truth is revealed to he who opens his eyes and counts!  I was
told by the friend who gave me the walnut that it was covered with
"50" buddhas.  And, I 'assumed' he knew this because he had counted
them.  But, a close inspection under a magnafying glass revealed only
21 buddhas present.

I wonder where that fits in the 108 buddha story? (perhaps the carver
had not heard the 108 buddha story)
Subject: Re: Artistic carvings
Answered By: kutsavi-ga on 18 Dec 2002 16:13 PST
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Hi Lumps!

Your walnut shell with carved images of the Buddha is similar to
articles like a pin with the Lord’s Prayer carved into the head.  But
there is deeper mythology and belief than just what lies on the
surface.  Walnut shells, traditionally with 108 Buddha images, (or
possibly Bodhisattvas), are widely carried as good luck charms in
China.  Being carved across the margin of the shell, as you describe,
these images represent the interface between luck, protection, and
religion. (You seem to have come up a little short with your 21, but
as you say, “truth is revealed to he who opens his eyes and counts!”)

The walnut shell, usually with the nut-meat still inside, normally
represents 108 bald-headed, sitting Buddhas (or, alternatively,
Bodhisattvas) and is carried as a good luck charm. It comes from
China, a country where such miniaturized carving is a popular craft.
In a sense, the 108 Buddhas on a walnut charm can be said to be an
Asian cultural equivalent to the Western custom of inscribing the
Lord's Prayer on a grain or rice or rolling the Ten Commandments onto
an elongated good luck penny.  (This information comes from such an
unlikely a source as )

“The number 108 is highly auspicious in the Buddhist religion.
Buddhist mallas ("rosaries") have 108 beads; it is a custom among
Japanese Buddhists to ring a large bell 108 times at the beginning of
each year for new year's luck; and among some sects of Buddhism, there
are said to be 108 human beings who could have achieved nirvana or
buddhahood, but have chosen to reincarnate on Earth to serve suffering
humanity. These 108 bodhisattvas are very likely what the carver
intended to depict here, but the name "108 Buddhas" is catchier and
more accurately describes the tiny bald men, each like the other, who
crowd around the surface of the walnut.”
(Also from

Continuing from the same, somewhat odd source, the symbolism is as

“The use of 108 in religious symbology is not unique to Buddhism, and
in fact derives from the earlier Dravidian and Aryan religions of
India, where 108 was tied to the lunar calendar, the computation of
the lengths of the yugas or cosmic ages, and to worship of deities
such as Bhairava/Siva and Kali. Hindu mallas for the worship of Siva
also have 108 beads, as do the Nepalese skull-bead mallas which belong
to the hybrid religion known as Tantric Buddhism. The significance of
the number 108 stretchs back possibly even to ancient Sumer, where
108-plus-252 was a numerical combination associated with the goddess
Inanna's gift of the arts of civilization to humanity. ”
Continuing on with the relation of the walnut to religion, I found
this beautiful quote on the following web site:

Q:  Does not religion take the form of a dogma after it is organized
and defined by symbols and conventions?

A:  “Just as the nut is hidden within the shell, so is true religion
hidden in the distorting dogmatic formalities of religion. But as a
nutshell can be opened by a nutcracker and the meat found inside, so
deep spiritual seekers, by the nutcracker of intuitive meditation on
religious ideals, can break the dogmatic shell and get at the inner
hidden truth. A crow may peck vainly at a hard walnut shell and never
get at the meat; similarly, shallow spiritual seekers bite
unsuccessfully at the dogmatic shell of religion without ever getting
to the kernel of truth.”

During continued searching, I also found this great quote about the
beauty that lies all around us, even in the organic litter of nuts and
leaves that fall from trees.

Throughout the day today we did sessions of group sharing, going
around the room and each of us giving our two-cents about various
things. In one such session, we each contributed temporary items to
"the alter" (a fat smiling Buddha surrounded by candles). In the
process, interesting (and even tragic) tales were told. I took off one
of my copper chain bracelets which I'd made back in 1995 and told
about how the copper used to serve as wiring in a shack full of down
and out rednecks. Now, as I was about to place it on the alter, I
wished the copper wire to experience something new and beautiful in
its new life as jewelry. I'd also contributed a hasty little sculpture
I'd made from a walnut shell, a snail shell and a leaf, all of which
I'd found immediately around Ca$h's house. It was to serve as an
example that "beauty is all around us" and that it exists at all
levels; that the world is literally "littered with beauty."

As far as monetary value of your walnut, It appears that its wealth
lies in its supernatural representations, hidden meanings and the
possibility of finding inner peace, rather than in actual hard

108 Buddhas on a Walnut 
1 1/2", hand-carved walnut with the nutmeat still inside; the number
Buddhas varies and may not actually reach the sacred number 108 on 
any given walnut, but you'll have fun counting them! $9.00

On a more global scale, I found this to be very interesting.  Taking
leave of the walnut shell of our brains is as simple as concentrating
on the images carved on the surface of yours.  Wow!  You hold the
meaning of the cosmos in your hand!  You are truly blessed among all
the Buddhas!

“The great Sufi sage, Ibn Arabi, has explained in his Fusus that Idris
and Noah were both raised to the sphere of the sun. In classical
astronomy, the nine principal spheres denoted a series of nested,
concentric transparent spheres surrounding the earth, on which the
orbit of each heavenly body resided. Before we dismiss these as
fantasies of the ancients, however, we might pause to consider the
possibility that these spheres can also be taken to mean something
quite in accord with modern astronomy- namely, the spheroid shapes of
the heavenly bodies themselves. "The sphere of the sun" can then be
understood as "the sun disk," or simply "the sun." Noah's and Idris's
Ascension and establishment in the sun must have a very profound
meaning in terms of the relationship between man and cosmos, yet its
exact meaning escapes us, and in such a case silence is preferable to
misleading speculation. Still, we should strive to get out of the
walnut-shell of our brains, and take (spiritual) wing to the Milky

As a quasi-Buddhist myself, (however I’m more of a Paiute), I leave
you with the ultimate statement on Life, the Universe, and Everything:
(With apologies to Douglas Adams)

Q:  What did the Buddhist say to the hot dog cart vendor?
A:  “Make me one with everything.”

I hope this answers your question and provides you with at least some
clues on your quest toward enlightenment.  If I can clarify any of the
above information, please don’t hesitate to ask.  Hope all is well, if
wet, in Seattle.



walnut shell significance buddhism

buddha carving walnut shell

buddha story walnut shell

Clarification of Answer by kutsavi-ga on 18 Dec 2002 16:19 PST
Ok, this is really odd, but when I started answering this question,
there was no comment posted from Aceresearcher.  I swear!  That was
one of the reasons I chose to research it.  Unfortunately, the comment
contains much of the same information I found, although I did add some
content.  I will post to the editors to see what might have happened.

lumps-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
The original comment was good.  But the final answer was really 'dug
out' so to speak.  I was unable to find anything as good as the two

Subject: Re: Artistic carvings
From: aceresearcher-ga on 09 Dec 2002 23:56 PST
Hi, lumps!

I could only find one reference of an item similar (but not identical)
to yours, so I am posting it here as a Comment.

From the Lucky Mojo Curio Company's online catalog:
"This unopened walnut shell -- with the nut-meat still inside -- has
been carefully carved with the miniscule representations of 108
bald-headed, sitting Buddhas (or, alternatively, boddhisattvas) and is
carried as a good luck charm. It comes from China, a country where
such miniaturized carving is a popular craft, although Buddhism is not
a dominant religion there and has not been for centuries. In a sense,
the 108 Buddhas on a walnut charm can be said to be an Asian cultural
equivalent to the Western custom of inscribing the Lord's Prayer on a
grain or rice or rolling the Ten Commandments onto an elongated good
luck penny...
the 108 Buddhas charm straddles the interface between luck,
protection, and religion, where many such quasi-sanctified charms can
be found."

Lucky Mojo sells this amulet for $9.00 (under listing for "China").
"1 1/2", hand-carved walnut with the nutmeat still inside; the number
Buddhas varies and may not actually reach the sacred number 108 on 
any given walnut, but you'll have fun counting them! $9.00 each."

Search Strategy

buddhas "walnut shell"

I hope this information is of some assistance to you!

Subject: Re: Artistic carvings
From: lumps-ga on 19 Dec 2002 20:45 PST
The author of the question must confess.   I first planted the
question under subcatigory "misc." and then recieved the 'comment' by
aceresearcher.  As a week or so went by and the question remained
'unanswered' I placed it again, but, this time under subcatigory
"homework assignments" hoping to attract more information.  It worked,
but, I must appologise to anyone who feels 'cheated' out of being
first to post an answer (comment).  Humble appologies,  Lumps.

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