Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Amitabha/Amitayus Buddha

སངས་རྒྱས་ཚེ་དཔག་མེད། 无量寿佛
(item no. 367)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Nyingma
Size 99.06x62.23cm (39x24.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1996.20.15
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Interpretation / Description

Amitayus, Buddha (Tibetan: tse pag me. English: the Enlightened One of Immeasurable Life) Lord of Limitless Life and Pristine Awareness, the Sambhogakaya aspect (Enjoyment Body) of Buddha Amitabha.

Amitayus Tibetan: Tse pag me

"Bhagavan Lord of Limitless Life and Primordial Wisdom with a body red in colour, one face, two hands and with two long eyes glancing with compassion on beings, gazing on the entirety of migrators; and a smiling face, wearing the complete sambhogakaya vestments. Above the two hands held in meditation is a long-life vase filled with the nectar of immortality; with the hair in tufts, adorned with silks and jewels, seated in vajra posture, the body blazing with the shining light of the [32] marks and [80] examples." (Sakya Tridzin Kunga Tashi, 1656-1711).

Common to all traditions of Tibetan and Himalayan Buddhism Amitayus primarily belongs to the three lower Tantra classifications. In the Nyingma tradition, there are both Kama (Oral) and Terma (Treasure) lineages of practice.

At the top center seated within a rainbow sphere is Amitabha Buddha, white Lokeshvara and blue Vajrapani accompanied by two attendant arhats. At the right and left are the Buddhas of the Ten Directions in two groups of five Buddhas each standing in relaxed postures. Seated slightly below are the Buddhas of the three times.

Descending on the viewers left are the group of the Five Symbolic Buddhas each appearing in their own colour and embracing a consort. Below that is a pandita like figure wearing a red hat and a blue garment. Again below that is wealth deity dispensing precious objects and jewels from a wealth vase. Again below that is a seated Padmasambhava with students arranged in front.

At the bottom left is an unusual scene with four wrathful female protectors of the Revealed Treasure tradition. They surround a white stupa alongside a Buddha within a golden stupa above a blue weapon wheel atop a double vajra surrounded by the five coloured flames of transcendent wisdom.

Descending on the viewers right is a scene depicting a teacher with four emanating rainbows manifesting seven more teachers each in an animated posture. Directly below that one of the emanated teachers blesses a ritual ceremony performed in a temple setting below. These eight figures as a group appear to be the Eight Vidyadharas, the source teachers for the Eight Pronouncement Deities (Heruka) of the Nyingma Tradition. Beneath that is a miniature depiction of the Buddhist world system with Mount Meru in the middle and the four accompanying continents surrounded by a dark blue ocean. At the top of Mount Meru sits Indra (Shakra) the chief of all the gods. He is blue in colour and holds a vajra scepter in the upraised left hand.

At the bottom right is a scene with Padmasambhava conducting a ritual ganachakra ceremony. In front of that are several deities and a pandita-like figure, green in colour. The deities are blue Medicine Buddha, Yellow Jambhala, red Lha Chenpo with his consort and a blue, sword wielding, wrathful figure.

The over-all composition of this painting along with each of the scenes and depictions of deities represents a particular text based spiritual practice within the Revealed Treasure lineage of the Nyingma Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. There are two other paintings of this same subject known to exist in Western art collections. One of these paintings belongs to the Tibet House, New York, Repatriation Collection.

Jeff Watt 9-98, Updated 4-2008

Front of Painting
English Translation of Inscription: To Amitayus the deity of life, I bow.

Wylie Transliteration of Inscription: tshe dpag med tshe yi lha la phyag 'tshal lo

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Buddhist Deity: Long-Life Deities
Buddhist Deity: Amitayus Buddha (Sambhogakaya)
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery V
Buddhist Deity: Amitayus Buddha (Masterworks)