Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Padmasambhava - (Main Form)

པད་མ་འབྱུང་གནས། 莲花生大士
(item no. 1093)
Origin Location Bhutan
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Buddhist
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: King

Gender: Male

TBRC: P4956

Interpretation / Description

Padmasambhava, Guru Rinpoche (Tibetan: pe ma jung ne. English: Lotus Born) the principal founder, along with Shantarakshita and King Trisong Detsen, of Buddhism in Tibet. (See detail images).

Pemasambhava Pema Jungne Biographical Details

This unique painting depicts Padmasambhava surrounded by narrative vignettes of his life-story, according to the Treasure (Terma) Tradition of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism. Single compositions of the life story are rare. It is more typical to find paintings that depict Padmasambhava surrounded by his principal Eight Forms in a non-chronological order. Even though this painting has the Eight Forms in the non-chronological sequence, none the less the life story of Padmasambahava is woven around the eight manifestations. The eight different visual forms are used to highlight the important life events in the biographies of Padmasambhava. [Padmasambhava Outline Page].

The painting has three themes. The first and most important based on size of figures is the central depiction of Padmasambhava and the two principal consorts, Mandarava and Yeshe Tsogyal. The second theme is the surrounding group of Eight Manifestations of Padmasambhava. The Third theme is the Life Story of Padmasambhava found in all of the small narrative vignettes in between the larger figures of the Eight Manifestations.

At the top center of the painting are five figures each seated in the middle of a rainbow sphere. At the center is Amitabha with Chaturbhuja Avalokiteshvara on the left and a human teacher very much in the appearance of Shabdrung Ngagwang Namgyal on the right. Two more teachers are placed at the right and left of that for a total of five.

The Life Story begins at the upper left of the composition directly above the image of Nyima Oser (#2). There can be seen the small form of Padmasambhava being born atop a lotus blossom in the middle of a lake. At the bottom center is a scene depicting Padmasambhava defeating tirtakas at Bodhgaya (Vajrasana). Slightly above at the right is Padmasambhava in the cave of Yanglesho, Nepal. On the left side is Padmasambhava emerging from the fire pit and lake at Tsopema (Rewalser), India. The story progresses from top to bottom and side to side highlighting the important and memorable stories according to the most popular biography of the 'Revealed Treasure' Tradition.

On the back of the painting is a lengthy inscription naming the donor along with a set of very faint hand prints located above the writing. At first it is not easy to see the two prints however they are mentioned in the inscription as being part of the blessing for the painting. Gangteng Ngagwang Jigme Dorje had the painting made and then consecrated the back with an inscription and then placed his own hand prints above.

Jeff Watt 4-2012

Numbered Image:
A. Padmasambhava
B. Mandarava
C. Yeshe Tsogyal
1. Orgyan Dorj Chang
2. Nyima Oser
3. Shakya Sengge
4. Pema Gyalpo
5. Loden Chogse
6. Pema Jungne
7. Sengge Dradog
8. Dorje Drolo

Reverse of Painting
Special Features: (Cursive script (Umay), handprints, includes "Om Ah Hum" inscription)

Secondary Images
Related Items
Exhibition Appearances
Exhibition: Padmasambhava, the Second Buddha

Thematic Sets
Padmasambhava Main Page
Padmasambhava: Eight Forms & Life Story (Single Painting)
Collection: Private 21
Collection of Shelley & Donald Rubin (Teachers)
Padmasambhava: Life Story Main Page
Padmasambhava: Eight Forms (Single Painting)
Region: Bhutan: Painting & Textile Masterworks
Subject: Greyscale - Figurative & General Composition
Collection of Shelley & Donald Rubin