Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Teacher (Lama)

བླ་མ། 喇嘛
(item no. 200002)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1900 - 1959
Lineages Bon
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1996.19.23
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Interpretation / Description

Sanggye Lingpa (1705-1735): with a strong mixture of Yungdrung Bon and Buddhist elements found in the symbols and surrounding deities.

Youthful and dignified, the right hand at the heart holds the stem of a lotus flower blossoming over the right shoulder supporting the wisdom sword and book, symbols of the deity Mawe Sengge. The left hand is placed in the lap in the gesture of meditation supporting a symbol of the Wheel of Universal Law. Atop the head he wears a yellow crown with a gold dorje at the peak (a Buddhist symbol) and a yungdrung (svastika) emblazoned on the front. Wearing the red and yellow patchwork robes of a monk, he is covered with a bright yellow meditation cloak. Seated on a mat of green and blue cushions above a richly ornate jeweled throne, an elaborate backrest covered with red and blue brocade stands behind. A green aureole surrounds the head. In front, a low blue table supports a teacup, hand drum, flower vase, flat bell and the like.

At the left side is Kundrol Dragpa wearing the robes of a monk and the hat of a learned scholar. At the right side is Sangngag Dragpa, a yogi with long hair bound in a topknot wearing white robes and a red meditation belt. A Buddhist vajra and bell rest on the table in front. Both sit on cushioned seats.

At the top center within a small sphere of yellow light sits Kuntu Zangpo, black, naked, in meditation posture. Directly below that is the tutelary deity Purba (Peg) Drugse Chempa, blue in colour, with 3 faces and six hands, each holding a three-sided peg. With wings unfurled behind and the lower body in the form of a peg the three blades merge below into a standing point; surrounded by the brightly burning flames of pristine awareness. At the top left is Tamdrin (Horse Neck), wrathful, red, with one face, a green horse head above and two hands holding aloft a sword with the right and a skullcup to the heart in the left, surrounded by orange flames. At the top right Kyung Marpo (the Red Horned Eagle [King of Birds]) has a bird face, a beak, three eyes and horns. The two hands each hold a snake with a human head (Tibetan: lhu). A green jewel and gold crown adorns the head, sharp pointed blue wings extend behind as he stands on a sun disc surrounded by the flames of wisdom fire.

At the upper left is Sanggye (the Enlightened One) in the appearance of a monk holding a karsil staff and a black begging bowl, seated in a relaxed posture with one leg pendant. At the upper right is Kandro Karmo (the White Sky Goer), female and peaceful. With one face and two hands the right extended upward holds a curved knife and the left at the heart a skullcup. In a dancing posture she stands surrounded by spheres of light.

At the bottom center is the wrathful Yeshe Walmo protector of the Bon Dzogchen cycle of teachings. Dark blue, with one face and two hands, she wears a necklace of peacock feathers. The right hand holds upraised a flaming sword and to the heart she clutches a gold long-life vase. Dancing in a wrathful posture with the left leg down, she stands on a sun disc surrounded by flames. At the bottom right is a red Kandroma holding a curved knife and skullcup. At the bottom left is a red 'tsen' daemon, dressed as a warrior and riding a brown goat with long twisted horns, in a lake of blood. Also at the bottom left a kneeling monk offers up with both hands a mandala plate symbolic of the universe. At the right a goddess, in a kneeling posture, offers a golden jewel in upraised hands.

This painting combining elements of the Bon Religion and the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism represents a branch of the Bon religion known as New Bon (Bon Sarma).

Jeff Watt & Lee Hartline 1-2000 [revised 2-2006]

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