Mandala of
Amitabha/Amitayus Buddha
(item no. 720)

Tibet

1400 - 1499

Uncertain Lineage

52.07x44.45cm (20.50x17.50in)

Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton

Collection of Rubin Museum of Art

(acc.# P1998.13.5)

 
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Amitayus Nine Deity Mandala (Tibetan: tse pag me lha gu kyil kor) from the Kriya class of Tantra and the lineage of mahasiddha Jetari.

Amitayus Tibetan: Tse pag me

At the center of the mandala sphere is the buddha Amitayus, red and peaceful. The two hands placed in the lap are in the mudra of meditation holding a golden vase of long-life nectar. Adorned with gold, jewel ornaments and silks he sits in vajra posture atop a lotus seat. Surrounding that, on an 8 petalled lotus, are 8 identical forms of Amitayus. In the east (below) is Vajra Amitayus, south (left) Ratna Amitayus, west (above) Padma Amitayus, north (right) Karma Amitayus. In the northeast is Avaloka Amitayus, southeast Guna Amitayus, southwest Jnana Amitayus and northwest Achala Amitayus.

The floor of the palace is divided into four colours, blue, yellow, red and green, decorated with eight gold vases. The square enclosure is composed of five walls of different colours. The four doors are indicated with 'T' shaped structures topped with four steps, two deer and a Dharma wheel. Various ornaments of banners, vases and standing arrows adorn the roof of the palace. Outside of that are a ring of multi-coloured lotus petals, a ring of gold vajras and the multi-coloured fires of pristine awareness completely surrounding all.

At the top center is the buddha Shakyamuni with Amitabha at the left. Various lineage teachers are seated at the right and left, appearing as mahasiddhas and panditas. At the upper left and right are forms of Amitayus surrounded by lineage teachers. At the lower left and right are forms of Amitayus surrounded by two bodhisattvas like forms, buddhas and the like.

At the bottom left are the two Direction Guardians Virudhaka and Virupaksha. A lama with red robes and a gold meditation cloak sits in front of a table arranged with offerings. Those are followed by another form of Vaishravana, yellow Jambhala, a bodhisattva-like figure wearing full length garments and the hands folded at the heart, black Jambhala, yellow Vasudhara, Chaturbhuja Mahakala and a form of Shri Devi. At the right side are the two Direction Guardians Dritarashtra and Vaishravana.

Lineage: Amitayus, Acharya Garbha, Jetari, Acharya Bodhi Bhadra, Acharya Samadhi Bhadra, Vajrasana the greater and younger, Bari Lotsawa Rinchen Drag, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158), etc.

Jeff Watt 9-99


There are many different Buddhas represented in Buddhist art and aside from the numerous images of the historical buddha Shakyamuni the next most common to appear in art is likely to be Amitabha (immeasurable light). His popularity is based in the Mahayana Sutra literature of which there are many texts devoted to him. In art depictions Amitabha has two appearances and two names that differentiate those appearances. When referred to as Amitabha he has the appearance of a standard buddha form, although red in colour, wearing the traditional patchwork robes of a monk. In his other appearance he has a different name, Amitayus (immeasureable life), and wears the clothing and jeweled adornments of a peaceful heavenly god according to the classical Indian system of divine aesthetics.

From the various traditions of Amitabha/Amitayus, this mandala originates according to Vajrayana Buddhism from the Tantra literature and the Sanskrit text called the Arya-aparimitayurjnana-nama-mahayana-sutra [TOH 674, 676]. The primary goal of this mandala and associated practice is the accomplishment of complete enlightenment. Long-life, life extension, and deathlessness are the metaphors used in the meditation practice focusing on the visualized form of Amitayus. Deathlessness equals enlightenment. The principal Indian Buddhist scholar associated with the popularization of this tradition of the Amitayus Nine Deity mandala is mahasiddha Jetari who lived between the 9th and 10th centuries.

At the center of the mandala is Amitayus, red in colour with one face and two hands placed in the gesture of meditation, holding a golden vase of long-life nectar. Adorned with various ornaments and silks, he sits in vajra posture. Eight identical forms, slightly smaller, surround the central figure. In the east is Vajra Amitayus (directly below the principal form of Amitayus), south Ratna Amitayus, west Padma Amitayus, north Karma Amitayus. In the northeast is Buddha Amitayus, southeast Guna Amitayus, southwest Jnana Amitayus and northwest Achala Amitayus.

Within the dimensions of the square painting only the large circular form and what is contained inside actually constitute the mandala of Amitayus. The top register depicts the line of teachers, specific for this mandala, descending from the historical Buddha Shakyamuni, followed by Amitabha Buddha and then Acharya Garbha, Jetari, Acarya Bodhi Bhadra, Acharya Samadhi Bhadra, Vajrasana the greater and younger (10th century) etc. Surrounding the mandala are various divine and human figures, large and small, each enclosed by an individual sphere filling the available space in the composition.

At the bottom left and right corners of the lower register are the Four Direction Guardians Virudhaka, Virupaksha, Dritarashtra and Vaishravana. At the viewer?s left side a Tibetan religious teacher with red robes and a gold meditation cloak sits in front of a table arranged with offerings. This figure is typically the donor of the work of art at hand. The remaining figures are Vaishravana riding a lion, yellow Jambhala, Aparajita with the hands held to the heart, black Jambhala, yellow Vasudhara, Chaturbhuja Mahakala and Shri Devi.

Mandala paintings such as this, intended for display against a shrine wall, or a ceiling beam inside a temple, were often created in sets with a fixed number. Each canvas would depict a different mandala from a sequence of subjects described in a religious manual.

Title: Amitayus Nine Deity Mandala (Tibetan: tse pag me lha gu kyil kor) according to the lineage of mahasiddha Jetari.

Jeff Watt 10-2008


View other items in:
Thematic Set
Mandala: Main Page
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery VII
Buddhist Deity: Amitayus Buddha (Sambhogakaya)
Buddhist Deity: Amitayus Nine Deity
Buddhist Deity: Amitayus Buddha (Mandala)
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Mandala



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