When I was living in Florence, Italy, I bought a small picture of a Tibetan Buddha in a silver frame from a gift shop. I thought it was just a picture used to sell the frame. It was a depiction of a Buddha with a consort — popular with Westerners as it seems ‘sexy’. I like Tibetan gods, so I never got rid of picture, even though it was so faded you could hardly see what it was. Instead, I put it on my bedroom window sill.

When I got a Tibetan partner, he immediately removed it from the bedroom (Tibetan’s don’t like Buddhas in the bedroom, a place where you have sex) and placed it on my shrine. He could see that it was authentic and, therefore, likely to be consecrated. When I removed the back of the picture, there, inscribed in red ink, was a mantra – the empowerment.

Tibetans consecrate representations of Buddhas and other deities with mantras. In the case of statues, they are written on paper, inserted into the empty space at the bottom and sealed off. Pictures and paintings have the mantra on the back.

Incidentally, after more than ten years of owning my picture I found out which deity it was — Samayavajra. He purifies broken vows and commitments, and negative karma. So always a good one to have on your side.

Top: A consecrated statue. Bottom: An unconsecrated statue.