Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Ratnasambhava Buddha - (Sarvadurgati Tantra)

སངས་རྒྱས་རིན་ཆེན་འབྱུང་གནས། 宝生佛
(item no. 15)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1400 - 1499
Lineages Uncertain
Size 76.20x53.34cm (30x21in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Raised Gold, Fine Gold Line on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1994.9.1
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Peaceful

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Ratnasambhava, Buddha (Tibetan: rin chen jung den, sang gye): a principal buddha within Vajrayana Buddhism representing the qualities of enlightenment and residing in the southern quarter of a mandala.

"Arising in the southern direction is Ratnasambhava on a horse, lotus and sun throne; with a body yellow in colour the right hand is placed in the mudra of supreme generosity." (Dragpa Gyaltsen, 1147-1216).

Peaceful in appearance, with one face and two hands, yellow in colour, he sits in the traditional posture of a buddha. The hair is piled on the crown of the head forming a topknot with some falling loose across the shoulders. A gold dot adorns the forehead, the eyes gaze kindly and the mouth is turned upwards in a gentle smile. The right hand is extended across the knee with the palm facing outward in the mudra (gesture) of supreme generosity. The left hand placed in the lap performs the mudra of meditation. The head is adorned with a crown of gold and jewels with orange ribbons fluttering at the sides. Flowers adorn the tops of the ears and decorative rings hang from the lobes. The body is adorned with chokers, necklaces, bracelets and bangles - all of gold and jewels. The shoulders are covered with a purple robe and an orange scarf is wrapped about the breast. A red, purple and violet skirt covers the lower body. With the legs folded in vajra posture he is seated above a multi-coloured lotus and horse supported throne, surrounded by a green nimbus and yellow areola. The backrest of the throne is decorated with two makaras (mythical sea creatures), two small boys and a red Garuda bird perched at the top with the hands and wings outstretched holding the length of a snake.

At each side of the throne stands a youthful bodhisattva, pale in complexion, with the hands at the heart performing the mudra of teaching, adorned with gold, jewels and silks. At the upper left and right edge of the backrest are 6 more seated bodhisattvas holding various objects. Above that at the left is Arya Manjushri in the appearance of Namasangiti, orange in colour, with one face and four hands holding a sword and arrow in the right and a book and bow in the left. At the side is Arya Avalokiteshvara in the appearance of Chaturbhuja, white in colour with one face and four hands. The first pair at the heart is clasped together and the second hold prayer beads - mala, and a lotus flower at the sides. At the top center is another figure of Ratnasambhava in the same appearance and attire as the central figure.

Along the front of the throne are 3 of the 4 female Door Guardians seated between the green and blue horses. In the middle for the southern direction is Vajrapashi holding a lasso. At the left, west, is Vajrasphota holding a chain and at the right, east, Vajrakushi holding a hook. Unseen behind for the north would be Vajraghanta. At the bottom center is a wrathful blue male figure with one face and six hands. At the two sides and above are three wrathful attendants, white, blue and green, each with one face and two hands standing in a wrathful gesture with the right leg bent and the left straight. Although similar in appearance to the usual Shadbhuja Mahakala the hand implements and entourage are different and raise doubt as to the correct identification of the figure.

At the bottom left side is the Direction Guardian of the south, Yama, blue, in the appearance of a heavenly god, riding a brown buffalo. Standing alongside is the Guardian King of the South, Virudhaka, blue in colour, holding a long sword with both hands, wearing a helmet and the garments of a warrior. At the bottom right is the Direction Guardian of the southwest, Rakshasa, yellow, riding on the back of a brown zombie.

Surrounding all of that are 165 buddha Amitabha figures. Red in colour, aligned in rows, each with one face and two hands, they perform the mudra of meditation with the two hands in the lap and hold a begging bowl, wearing red robes and seated in vajra posture, surrounded by circles of light. The structure of a lion supported throne extends along the length of the bottom. (See painting #270 for an almost identical composition and structure).

Occupying a central role in Vajrayana Buddhism, Ratnasambhava, is the Lord of the 4th of the Five Buddha Families of tantra and found throughout all 4 tantra sets most notably in the anuttarayoga class.

Jeff Watt 9-99

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Subject: Five Buddhas Main Page (Directions, Tantric, Symbolic)
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 6
Buddhist Deity: Ratnasambhava (Sarvadurgati)
Subject: Torana, Ratnasambhava Buddha (Early Animal Depictions)
Buddhist Deity: Ratnasambhava (Charya & Yoga Tantras)
Buddhist Deity: Ratnasambhava (Buddha)