Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Guhyasamaja (Buddhist Deity) - Akshobhyavajra

གསང་བ་འདུས་པ། ནང་ལྷ། 密集金刚(佛教本尊)
(item no. 347)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Gelug
Size 68.58x49.53cm (27x19.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1997.26.3
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Semi-Peaceful

Gender: Male

TBRC: bdr:W25350

Interpretation / Description

Akshobhyavajra, Guhyasamaja (Tibetan: mi kyo dor je, sang wa du pa. English: the Unshakable Vajra Scepter, Secret Assembly): principle deity of the Father (Method) classification of Anuttarayoga Tantra.

This composition is a single painting that does not belong to a set of paintings. It is known as a personal or 'desire' painting (tangka). The specific deities and figures that fill the composition are the choice of the commissioner of the work. The deities are typically Tantric practices, longevity and protector deities that the donor/commissioner has a special affinity towards. Desire paintings make for a large category of compositions within the total body of Himalayan paintings found in museum and private collections. After the death of the commissioning individual the composition might remain in the family, be given away, or sold.

Peaceful in appearance, with a stern expression, Guhyasamaja is blue in colour, with three faces and six hands, embracing the consort Mamaki.

The composition is essentially filled with the principal large central deity and then many secondary figures. There is no unifying iconographic program and no relationship between the various deities. All of the major iconographic, Tantric activities and functions are represented.

Close to the top center just slightly below Vajradhara on the viewer's left is a small monastic figure wearing a yellow hat characteristic of the 1st Panchen Lama. To the left of that is a rainbow circle containing the figures known as the Three Omniscient Brothers: Atisha, Dromton and Putowa. On the far right side in another rainbow sphere are the three known as the Father and Sons: Je Tsongkapa, Gyaltsab and Khedrub. These are the only historical figures of teachers in the composition. All of the other figures are Buddhas, deities, and worldly protectors.

Guhyasamaja (Secret Assembly) is a Buddhist meditational deity that arises from the Guhyasamaja root text Sarva Tathagata Kaya Vag Chitta Rahasya Guhyasamaja Nama Maha Kalpa Raja Tantra (4th-5th century C.E.). There are three principal forms of the deity; Akshobhyavajra (Unshakable Vajra), Manjuvajra (Melodious Speech Vajra) and Lokeshvara (Lord of the World). The Manjuvajra form arises from a separate text, Shri Vajra Hridaya Lamkara Tantra-nama, related to the root tantra. The first two forms, Akshobhya and Manjuvajra, come down primarily through the three lineages of Acharya Abhayakaragupta, Nyen Lotsawa and Marpa Lotsawa. The red Lokeshvara form was popularized by Atisha Dipamkara. View a 3-dimensional paper model of the Guhyasamaja mandala. Some glosses on the Guhyasamaja by Giuseppe Tucci from Melanges Chinois et Bouddhiques, Vol.3. 1934-35, P.339-353.

Jeff Watt 9-2000 [updated 5-2010]

Numbered List & Greyscale:
1. Akshobhyavajra Guhyasamaja (Meditational Deity)
2. Shakyamuni Buddha
3. Vajradhara (Buddha)
4. Amitayus Buddha (Long-life Deity)
5. Heruka Vajrasattva (Buddha)
6. Ushnishavijaya (Long-life Deity)
7. White Tara (Long-life Deity)
8. Gelugpa Teacher - unidentified
9. Vajradharma (Buddha)
10. Vira Vajradharma (Buddha)
11. Atisha: Indian teacher, founder of Kadam Tradition
12. Dromton: student of Atisha
13. Putowa: student of Atisha
14. Tsongkapa: Tibetan teacher, founder of Gelug Tradition.
15. Gyaltsab: student of Tsongkapa
16. Kedrub: student of Tsongkapa.
17. Dipamkara Buddha
18. Maitreya Bodisattva
19. Chakrasamvara (Meditational Deity)
20. Sita Chakrasamvara (Long-life Deity)
21. Vajrayogini (Meditational Deity)
22. Vajrapani-Hayagriva-Garuda (Meditational Deity)
23. Amaravajradevi (Long-life Deity)
24. Vajrabhairava (Meditational Deity)
25. Hayagriva 'Secret Accomplishment' (Meditational Deity)
26. Chaturmukha Mahakala (Protector)
27. Panjarnata Mahakala (Protector)
28. Shadbhuja Mahakala (Protector)
29. Shmashana Adhipati (Chitipati) (Protector)
30. Yama Dharmaraja (Protector)
31. Begtse Chen (Protector)
32. Magzor Gyalmo Shri Devi (Protector)
33. Syama Shadbhuja Mahakala (Protector)
34. Vaishravana Riding a Lion (Worldly Protector)
35. Pehar - King of Mind: At the bottom right riding a white elephant is the 'King of Mind - Gya Jin,' blue in colour, with one face and two hands holding a knife and lasso. (Worldly Protector)
36. Damchen Garwa Nagpo (Worldly Protector)

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Tradition: Gelug Deity Paintings
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 2
Buddhist Deity: Guhyasamaja Main Page
Buddhist Deity: Guhyasamaja, Akshobhyavajra
Iconography: Iconographic Programs
Subject: Composition - Floating Figure
Buddhist Deity: Guhyasamaja, Akshobhyavajra (Personal Painting)