Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Teacher (Lama) - Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen

བླ་མ། 喇嘛
(item no. 356)
Origin Location Central Tibet
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Sakya and Gelug
Size 69.85x41.91cm (27.50x16.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1996.20.4
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Monastic

Gender: Male

TBRC: bdr:P1056

Interpretation / Description

Sakya Pandita, Kunga Gyaltsen Pal Zangpo (1182-1251), the sixth throne holder of Sakya, debating with the Indian Tirtika Harinanda. Painted from a famous set of blockprints portraying the lives of the Panchen Lamas. (See all wood block print images of Sakya Pandita from the Panchen Lama incarnation set).

Sa kya pan di ta kun ga gyal tsen Biographical Details

In a vigorous posture of debate, wearing a red pandita hat and attired in the patched robes of a fully ordained monk, Sakya Pandita performs the debating gestures of snapping the fingers of the right hand prior to clapping with the left. The right leg drawn up and the left pendant, supported by a step, he sits atop a yellow cushion seat with an elaborate backrest adorned with dragon heads; draped in ornate brocades. To the right a flowering bush with alternating white and red blossoms forms a symbolic staircase to the guru above. In front to the lower right sits the naked Indian Harinanda, brown, with long twisted hair, seated on an antelope skin, attended by a servant with a white turban.

To the left and back of Sakya Pandita, against a green lush and varied landscape, unfolds a temple scene before a standing image with worshippers offering wicks of flaming butter in golden lamps.

At the top left is the patron deity of Sakya Pandita, the bodhisattva Manjushri, Stirachakra, with one face and two hands holding a wisdom sword and lotus supporting a Prajnaparamita book; seated within a glowing nimbus sphere of emanated light. At the right is the root guru and uncle, Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen (1147-1216), holding a vajra extended in the right hand and a bell turned up at the waist in the left. Attired in the variously coloured garments of a layman, seated on an ornate cushion with a backrest, he resides above gently spreading clouds.

At the bottom left is the protector of the Guhyasamaja Tantra, Chaturmukha Mahakala (the Four Faced Black Lord), wrathful visage of Brahmarupa Mahakala, with four hands and charnel ground vestments of skins and bones, he stands upon a corpse seat amidst the swirling flames of pristine awareness.

Inscription along the bottom front: "With the compassion of the great Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen and the tutelary deity Stirachakra, Sakya Pandita defeated the Tirtikas with the assistance of the wrathful Four-faced One."

Historical Background: After the Sanskrit publication of Sakya Pandita's definitive treatises on Buddhist logic, the Tse ma rig pi ter, his fame spread throughout eastern, western and central India. Wishing to debate with Sapan, six Indian Tirtika pandits with Harinanda at the lead traveled to Kyirong in Western Tibet (circa 1232). After 13 days, unable to win in philosophical debate, Harinanda said, "it is not you I cannot defeat, it is the orange being sitting above your right shoulder." Then, challenging Sapan to a test of miraculous powers he flew into the air. With one clap of the hands by Sapan - Harinanda fell to the ground. Accepting defeat the six Tirtakas took refuge in the Three Jewels and offering their long twisted hair each received the vows of a Buddhist monk. Until 1959, the braid of Harinanda was kept before an image of Manjushri in the Utse Nying Sarma temple in the town of Sakya.

"With wide eyes perceiving all things, and compassionately achieving the good of all beings, having power performing acts beyond thought; Guru Manjunata, to your feet I bow my head." (Sakya liturgical verse to Sapan).

According to Sakya tradition, Sakya Pandita reached complete enlightenment in the realm of buddha Akshobhya and now resides as the buddha Vimalashri in the eastern direction. According to Gelugpa tradition the Panchen Lamas are the lineal incarnations of Sakya Pandita. From the point of view of a buddha's activity and blessings these two beliefs are not contradictory.

Jeff Watt 9-98

Front of Painting
English Translation of Inscription: "With the compassion of the great Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen and the tutelary deity Stirachakra, Sakya Pandita defeated the Tirtikas with the assistance of the wrathful Four-faced One."

Wylie Transliteration of Inscription: rje btsun chen po grags pa rgyal mtshan dang bstan pa'i 'khor lo'i thugs rje las. mu stegs tshar bcad drag po gdong bzhi pas phrin las grogs mdzad sa skya pandita.

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 7
Tradition: Sakya Teachers
Tradition: Sakya Founders
Incarnation Lineage: Panchen Lama, Previous Births (Nartang)
Teacher: Sakya Pandita, Kunga Gyaltsen
Subject: Three Manjushri of Tibet
Subject: Two Red Ones
Subject: Five Superior Lords
Subject: Art Depicted in Art (Sculpture - All Images)
Subject: Art Depicted in Art (Paintings of Known Sculpture)
Teacher: Sakya Pandita (Panchen Incarnation Set)
Incarnation Lineage: Panchen Lama (Nartang Style Composition)
Buddhist Deity: Avalokiteshvara (Pagpa Lokeshvara in Painting)