Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Teacher (Lama) - Karmapa 9, Wangchug Dorje

བླ་མ། 喇嘛
(item no. 163)
Origin Location Eastern Tibet
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Karma (Kagyu)
Size 124.46x82.55cm (49x32.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line on Cotton
Collection Shelley & Donald Rubin
Catalogue # acc.# P1994.27.1
Painting School Karma Gardri
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Monastic

Gender: Male

TBRC: bdr:P889

Interpretation / Description

Wangchug Dorje, the 9th Karmapa, (1555-1603): a great traveler, scholar and practitioner. This composition is dated mid to late 17th century based on the other compositions in the set.

Video: Karmapa: HAR #163

Kar ma pa Biographical Details

Gazing to the side, he holds the right hand up to the heart in a gesture of Dharma explication and the left in the lap holds a folio religious text wrapped in a white and green cloth cover. The head is adorned with the black vajra crown, a synthesis of the gift of the dakinis and the offering of Emperor Yung Lo. Attired in the orange and yellow garb of a monk, he is wrapped in a red meditation cloak, seated above a monk's mat and a blue cushion atop an ornate throne with a green cushion backrest. In front on a red table is a gold pitcher filled with flowers, a Dharma wheel ornament and an ornate bowl giving rise to a stream of vapour becoming a great mass of white billowing clouds supporting a heavenly scene with palaces, teachers and gods of various colour.

Standing at the left side an elderly monk respectfully covers his mouth with a fold of his yellow patchwork robe as he listens to the instructions from the emanation of Avalokiteshvara - Karmapa. At the lower front two seated monks engaged in the moment gesture dramatically.

At the top left is Vajra Amitayus, slightly peaceful and slightly wrathful, red in colour, with three faces, the right white and left blue. With six hands the first pair holds a long-life vase in the lap. The second pair holds a flower lasso on the right and with the left resting against the thigh holds the stem of a white lotus flower blossoming above the shoulder. The third pair holds in the right an upraised curved knife and a white skullcup in the left. Adorned with gold, jewels and blue and green silks, he is seated atop a white moon disc and pink lotus flower, surrounded by a green-blue nimbus and a jade green areola; drifting on a bank of white cloud.

At the bottom right is the wrathful protector Yama Dharmaraja, blue in colour, with a buffalo head. With three eyes, a gaping mouth and two horns, his yellow hair flows upward like flames. The right hand holds aloft a red stick with a white skull at the top, decorated with a red ribbon. The left hand holds out to the side a lasso. Adorned with a crown of five skulls, a green scarf, snakes and necklace of freshly severed heads, he stands atop a black buffalo, sun disc and white lotus seat surrounded by dark billowing smoke.

Recognized by Situ Rinpoche and enthroned by Shamar Rinpoche, this Karmapa spent most of his life living in a tent city travelling back and forth across the wilds of Tibet. Well educated and a moderately prolific writer, two of his more important compositions on mahamudra were the 'Ocean of Certainty' and 'Eliminating the Darkness of Ignorance.' One of his more famous students was Jonang Taranatha. (The names of the three main figures are written in fine gold lettering beneath each).

Jeff Watt 9-99

Front of Painting
Wylie Transliteration of Inscription: tse dpag me ba dzra ... , rje dbang phug do ... , 'jig phed ...

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