Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Nairatmya (Buddhist Deity) - (2 hands)

རྡོ་རྗེ་བདག་མེད་མ། 无我佛母(萨迦派本尊)
(item no. 1)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1500 - 1599
Lineages Sakya
Size 60.96x44.45cm (24x17.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1994.1.1
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Semi-Peaceful

Gender: Female

TBRC: W25326

Interpretation / Description

Vajra Nairatmya (Tibetan: dor je dag me ma. English: Selfless One) and Shri Virupa (malformed, [Ugly One]) along with the 'Extensive Lineage' of Indian gurus of the Hevajra Tantra. This painting is the second in a series of paintings depicting the Lamdre Lineage. (See a reconstruction of the first half of this Lamdre set of paintings and a Lamdre Lineage Teacher List).

The central figure at the left is Vajra Nairatmya (consort of Shri Hevajra), female, dark blue in colour with one face and two hands holding a curved knife and skullcup at the heart with a katvanga staff resting against the left shoulder. Adorned with a tiara of skulls, bone ornaments and a skirt of tiger skin, she is in a semi-wrathful appearance, seated on a sun disc, multi-coloured lotus and throne.

Shri Virupa, seated to the right, dark brown, performs a wrathful gesture with the right hand and holds a skullcup with the left. Adorned with flowers, a meditation belt and the Hevajra Tantra text tied in the top-knot of hair on the crown of the head, he has the appearance of an Indian mahasiddha, seated on a leopard skin atop a lotus and throne.

From the Buddhist historical point of view, the Tantric deity Nairatmya directly appeared to Virupa and bestowed the Hevajra empowerment - this is called the 'Near Lineage.' According to the Sakya Tradition, Virupa later appeared to Sachen Kunga Nyingpo in Tibet and again bestowed empowerments for Hevajra and consort and this is called the 'Very Near Lineage.'

Directly above the heads of the two central subjects are three smaller figures. At the far left is a seated mahasiddha and in the center a dancing Vajra Nairatmya, blue, with one face and four hands. Another Vajra Nairatmya is seated at the right, blue, with two hands.

In the top and bottom registers of the painting are depictions of some of the Indian siddhas known as the Eighty-four Mahasiddhas. Virupa is again included, placed third from the right next to one of his main students, Dombi Heruka, riding a tiger. The full group of eighty-four will be continued on the following paintings.

Virupa is included in the set of 84 famous mahasiddhas and all, along with many more not included, have characteristic iconographic forms which can include colour, posture (asana), hand gestures (mudras), objects, and so on. With the less popular figures the characteristics are more static with less artistic or doctrinal variation. For example, Virupa, a popular figure has six general forms with different postures and hand gestures, and can appear in three variations of colour depending on the six forms. The form of Virupa with the right hand raised in a wrathful gesture is called 'the posture holding the sun.' Even though the generic iconographic characteristics are essential to know, by themselves they are not always reliable, a multiplicity of indicators must be looked for in determining a correct identification.

Jeff Watt 5-1998

Front of Painting
Wylie Transliteration of Inscription: bdag med ma.

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Subject: Margapala Lineage Paintings (Sakya)
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery VI
Tradition: Sakya Deity Paintings
Buddhist Deity: Deities (Female)
Buddhist Deity: Vajra Nairatmya Main Page
Subject: Margapala Sets (Two Figures)
Painting Set: Margapala [4]
Subject: Inscriptions Main Page (Painting)
Subject: Greyscale - Figurative & General Composition
Indian Adept: Virupa Main Page
Buddhist Deity: Nairatmya, Lineage Sets
Subject: Painting Inscriptions, Front