Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Padmasambhava - (Main Form)

པད་མ་འབྱུང་གནས། 莲花生大士
(item no. 285)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Nyingma
Size 54.61x43.18cm (21.50x17in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Red Background on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1996.18.1
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: King

Gender: Male

TBRC: bdr:P4956

Interpretation / Description

Padmasambhava (Tibetan: pe ma jung ne, English: Lotus Born): the main founder of Buddhism in Tibet. This painting is circa 1900 and depicts figures associated with the Longchen Nyingtig. Note the image of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-1892) in the top left corner.

Pemasambhava Pema Jungne Biographical Details

With piercing eyes, gazing on all beings, one face adorned with a moustache and goatee, the right hand holds to the side above the knee a gold vajra. The left hand placed in the lap supports a white skullcup filled with nectar and a long-life vase. The ornate katvanga staff of a Vajrayana mendicant decorated with streamers rests against the left shoulder. Adorned with earrings and a necklace, atop the head is a lotus hat topped with a half-vajra and a single feather. Attired in various robes reflecting the disciplines of the Vinaya, Bodhisattva and Mantra Vehicles he sits on a sun and moon disc above a lotus blossom rising from the waters of the Dhanakosha lake.

Standing at the left is Avalokiteshvara with one face and four hands. Holding a wishing jewel at the heart with the first pair of hands and a crystal mala in the second right and a jewel flower in the left; both are held out to the sides. Standing at the right side is Vajrayogini Dechen Gyalmo with one face and two hands. The right hand holds upraised a damaru drum and the left a curved knife turned up and pressed to the hip. She stands with both feet on the ground, the right foot balanced on the heel. These two meditational deities are unique to the Longchen Nyingtig system of practice taught by Jigme Lingpa in the late 18th century. (See the Longchen Nyingtig Outline Page).

At the top center is the primordial buddha Samantabhadra, naked, with the hands in the mudra of meditation and the legs in vajra posture; embraced by the consort Samantabhadri. At the lower left is Longchen Rabjampa, a monk with the pandita hat. The two hands perform the earth witness mudra while holding the stems of two utpala flowers supporting a sword and book. At the upper left is Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, a monk, wearing the pandita hat. The two hands hold a vajra and bell along with the stems of two utpala blossoms supporting a sword and book. At the right is Jigme Lingpa with long hair and dressed as a layman. The right hand performs the mudra of generosity and the left is pressed against the seat while holding a single lotus stem with the flower cradling a sword and book. At the upper right is the King Trisong Detsen, regally attired and seated in the posture of royal ease. The two hands are crossed at the heart while holding a vajra and bell along with the stems of two utpala blossoms supporting a wisdom sword, book and Dharma Wheel.

At the bottom center is the wrathful female protector Ekajati with one face, one eye and one breast. In the right hand she holds a heart and a wild creature in the left; standing surrounded by the flames of pristine awareness. To the right is the avowed protector Dorje Legpa (Sanskrit: Vajra Sadhu) with one face and two hands holding an upraised vajra in the right and a heart and spear in the left. Attired in long flowing garments and a wicker hat he rides a snow lion; surrounded by flames. To the left is the horrific wrathful protector Rahula with nine heads and four hands. The heads are stacked in rows of three and a tenth face decorates the stomach. The first pair of hands hold a bow and arrow, the second right holds a sword aloft and the left holds a victory banner topped with a makara head. The lower body of Rahula is that of a coiled serpent (naga); surrounded by flames.

"Miraculous buddha arising from a lotus, unborn, undying, possessing a vajra body, performing the activity of all buddhas of the three times; homage to Padmasambhava." (Nyingma liturgical verse).

Regarded as principal among the many teachers to bring Buddhism to Tibet in the 8th century, Guru Rinpoche has numerous forms representing outer, inner and secret aspects. Within the Kama (Oral) Tradition of the Nyingmapa School, Padmasambhava was born in Northern India as the son of a king or minister. In the Terma (Treasure) Tradition he was born on a lotus in Dhanakosha lake as an emanation of the Buddha Amitabha.

The style of painting is 'tshal thang,' a red background with fine gold lines forming the shapes of the subject deities. Only the eyes are filled with white and black pigments.

Jeff Watt 10-98

Numbered Image:
1. Padmasambhava
2. Buddha Samantabhadra
3. Longchenpa
4. Jigme Lingpa
5. Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
6. King Trisong Detsen
7. Chaturbhuja Avalokiteshvara
8. Yogini Dechen Gyalmo
9. Proetctor Deity Ekajati
10. Protector Deity Rahula
11. Protector Deity Dorje Legpa

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Padmasambhava Main Page
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 7
Padmasambhava: Main Form (Vajra at the Knee)
Teacher: Jamyang Khyentse (Minor Figure)