Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Teacher (Lama) - Shamarpa

བླ་མ། 喇嘛
(item no. 195)
Origin Location Eastern Tibet
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Karma (Kagyu) and Buddhist
Size 71.12x36.83cm (28x14.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Raised Gold on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1996.1.1
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Monastic

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Shamarpa: red hat lama of the Kamtsangpa School, with Vajravarahi above and Black-Cloak Mahakala below.

Youthful in appearance with the eyes gazing slightly downward, he is light in complexion. The right hand held to the heart is in the mudra (gesture) of blessing and the left placed palm upward in the lap performs the mudra of meditation supporting a small black begging bowl. The head is adorned with the red vajra crown in the same design as the black vajra hat of the Karmapas. Attired in the garb of a monk, across the shoulders is an orange patchwork robe. Covering the upper torso is a monastic vest, originally designed for the Buddhist nuns of India. The lower body is wrapped with a thick red meditation cloak decorated with a gold floral pattern. With the head surrounded by a blue aureola of light, the back supported by a dark blue backrest and the top covered with a white scarf, above a thick cushion seat, spread with a monk's patchwork mat, he sits atop a small throne platform. In front on a plain table a water flask, teacup and a gold plate stacked with fruit are arranged. From the foreground of a plain green hillock, blue clouds rise into a violet sky behind.

Above and below the outline of the hands and feet of the lama have been traced and filled with gold, standing on a pink lotus blossom, each marked on the palm and sole with a faint eight-spoked Dharma wheel.

At the top center is the tutelary deity Vajravarahi, red, with one face and two hands. The right holds upraised a curved knife and the left a white skullcup to the heart. A katvanga staff rests in the crook of the elbow. Adorned with bone, gold and jewel ornaments, with a green scarf about the neck, she stands in a dancing posture atop an orange sun disc, human corpse and pink lotus seat, completely surrounded by the orange flames of pristine awareness.

At the bottom center is the Black Cloak Mahakala (Tibetan: ber nag chen), special protector of the Karmapas, wrathful in appearance with three round eyes and yellow hair flowing upward. The right hand holds aloft a curved knife and the left a skullcup to the heart. Adorned with a crown of five white skulls and attired in a long black cloak with a green garment beneath, he stands with the right leg bent and the left straight atop an orange sun disc and pink lotus seat surrounded by the brightly burning flames of pristine awareness.

Several tulku (incarnate lama) lineages of the Kamtsangpa School are entitled to wear the red vajra crown, most notably the Shamar, Gyaltsap and Situpas.

Jeff Watt 9-99

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