Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Teacher (Lama) - Dalai Lama VII, Kalzang Gyatso

བླ་མ། 喇嘛
(item no. 380)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Gelug and Buddhist
Size 83.82x60.96cm (33x24in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1997.30.1
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Monastic

Gender: Male

TBRC: bdr:P179

Interpretation / Description

Dalai Lama VII, Kalzang Gyatso (1708-1757) along with a selection of the previous incarnations according to the Kadam Legbam.

The Seventh Dalai Lama, Kalzang Gyatso was born in Litang, Kham, in 1708. He restrained himself from participating in the political affairs of Tibet and instead chose to focus on religious matters. During his time, the post of Desi was eliminated as it placed too much power in one man's hands. In its place, a system of Kashag, a council of ministers was established. The newly formed Kashag was responsible for the administration and governing of Tibet.

This painting illustrates many of the previous incarnations of the Dalai Lamas, including his famous rebirth as a rabbit depicted in the upper right corner of the image above. Stories with rabbits are common in the famous Jataka and Avadana tales recalling the previous lives of the Buddha and his students. Once, the Buddha, as a forest hermit, remained true to his spiritual path because of his close friendship with a wise and generous rabbit. At another time in a Tale of Generosity the rabbit was honored by the great god Shakra (Indra).

Tenzin Dharlo 3-2005

The 7th Dalai Lama and the Arrangement of the Figures:

The painting is a depiction of a Dalai Lama with numerous previous incarnations according to the text of the Kadam Legbam as taught to Dromton by Jowo Atisha. (See a block print set of all of the characters of the Kadam Legbam).

The iconographic composition of this work is somewhat unusual because of the layout of the figures. At the center is a large depiction of a Dalai Lama identified not by inscription but rather through process of elimination and probability. The Dalai Lama wears the standard pointed yellow pandita hat of the Gelug tradition. In the right hand he holds the stem of a white lotus flower. In the left hand he cradles a long-life vase in the lap. A small white figure of the deity Avalokiteshvara seated on a white lotus is located directly above the pinkish halo of the Dalai Lama figure.

At the top center of the composition is a Buddha figure which is identified as possibly either Shakyamuni in a teaching gesture or the future Buddha Maitreya. Seated to the immediate left are Indian Kings and sages belonging to the narrative stories of the Kadam Legbam. Positioned on the rights side are an additional four figures, including a rabbit, a monk and two kings. These figures are also identified as originating with the Kadam Legbam.

The previous incarnations of the Dalai Lama prior to the fifth can be divide into three groups. The [1] first group is from the list of characters described in the text of the Kadam Legbam. The [2] second group are a various assortment of miscellaneous Tibetan kings beginning from the early royal chronicles up to and including Tri Ralpachen. The [3] third group are those Tibetan teachers immediately after Dromton Gyalwa'i Jungne up to the time of the designated 1st Dalai Lama, Gendun Drubpa. This last group includes famous teachers such as Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, Chogyal Pagpa, Terton Padma Wang and Nyangral Nyima Ozer. (See a set of paintings depicting the Tibetan pre-incarnations).

At the middle right and left of the composition are six figures, three on each side. The first figure on the left is again a king from the Kadam Legbam while the remaining five figures are Tibetan Kings, early and late, ending with Tri Ralpachen. All of these Tibetan Kings are regarded as previous life incarnations of the Dalai Lamas.

At the bottom center directly below the large central figure is the smaller figure of the 5th Dalai Lama, Ngagwang Lobzang Gyatso (1617-1682). Directly below is the 3rd Dalai Lama, Sonam Gyatso (1543-1588). At the left side is the Nyingma 'Treasure Revealer' Nyangral Nyima Ozer (1124-1192) and the Sakya Patriarch Drogon Chogyal Pagpa, Lodro Gyaltsen (1235-1280). On the right side is the Nyingma 'Treasure Revealer' Terton Pema Wang and the 1st Dalai Lama, Gendun Drubpa (1391-1474).

The identification of the central figure is based on a process of elimination and probability. The three Dalai Lamas identified in the composition by inscription are Dalai Lamas #1, #3 and #5. The large central figure of the composition holds a long-life vase which is not a characteristic iconographic feature for any of the Dalai Lamas however it is a common convention to add to a composition if the person being depicted, holding the long-life vase, is alive during the creation of the painting. The style of the painting is that of the 18th century and the 7th Dalai Lama had a relatively long life. It is therefore most probable that it was commissioned during the time of the 7th Dalai Lama and depicts the 7th Dalai Lama.

Because of the unusual manner of alternating the figures from the Kadam Legbam at the top of the composition - meaning some figures are placed in the composition while others are omitted and the alternating of the Dalai Lamas at the bottom - it is possible that the composition belongs to a three painting set. The other two currently unknown paintings would likely contain the other missing figures from the Kadam Legbam along with the depictions of the 2nd, 4th and 6th Dalai Lamas. The Buddha figure in the image above would then likely be Maitreya and the other two compositions would have Dipamkara and Shakyamuni Buddha.

List of Numbered Figures:
1. Dalai Lama (no inscription)
2. Buddha (no inscription)
3. Poreng Raja (pho reng rA dza)
4. Trulpa'i Ribong (sprul pa'i ri bong)
5. Gyalpo Sengge Drar (rgyal bu seng ge sgrar)
6. Lha'i Gyalpo (lha'i rgyal po)
7. Dzi'ur Nampa Tanpa (rdzi'ur rnam pa bstan pa)
8. Gelong Samten Zang (dge slong bsam gtan bzang)
9. Ling Dran Gyalpo (gling phran rgyal po)
10. Gyalpo Kyabjin (rgyal po skyabs sbyin)
11. Chogyal Gewa'i Pal (chos rgyal dge ba pal)
12. Gyalpo Yisho Leg (rgyal po yi sho legs)
13. Gyalwa Degyal (rgyal pa lde rgyal)
14. Lha Totori Nyantsan (lha tho tho ri gnyan btsan)
15. Durong Mangje ('dus srong mang rje)
16. Ngadag Tri Ralpa (mnga' bdag khri ral pa)
17. Nyangral Nyima Ozer (nyang ral nyi ma 'od zer)
18. Terton Padma Wang (gter ston pad ma dbang)
19. Drogon Chogyal Pagpa ('gro mgon chos rgyal 'phags pa)
20. Gendun Drubpa, 1st Dalai Lama (dge 'dun grub pa)
21. Sonam Gyatso, 3rd Dalai Lama (bsod nams rgya mtsho)
22. Ngagwang Lobzang Gyatso, 5th Dalai Lama (ngag dbang blo bzang rgya mtsho)

Jeff Watt 11-2011

Front of Painting
English Translation of Inscription: [Name inscriptions for most figures]

Reverse of Painting
English Translation of Inscription: [Om ah hum inscriptions for each figure along with the Ye Dharma written at the back center of the painting]

Wylie Transliteration of Inscription: Upper Composition: pho reng rA dza la na mo, sprul pa'i ri bong la na mo, rgyal bu seng ge sgrar la na mo, lha'i rgyal po la na mo, rdzi'ur rnam pa bstan pa la na mo, dge slong bsam gtan bzang la na mo, gling phran rgyal po la na mo, rgyal po skyabs sbyin la na mo, chos rgyal dge bad pal la na mo, rgyal po yi sho legs la na mo, rgyal pa lde rgyal la na mo, lha tho tho ri gnyan btsan la na mo, 'dus srong mang rje la na mo, mnga' bdag khri ral pa la na mo. Lower Composition: nyang ral nyi ma 'od zer la na mo, gter saton pad ma dbang la na mo, ngag dbang blo bzang rgya mtsho la na mo, 'gro mgon chos rgyal 'phags pa la na mo, dge 'dun grub pa la na mo, bsod nams rgya mtsho la na mo.

Special Features: (Printed script (Uchen), is black, includes "Om Ah Hum" inscription)

Secondary Images
Related Items
Publication: Worlds of Transformation

Thematic Sets
Tradition: Gelug Teachers (Paintings)
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 2
Incarnation Lineage: Dalai Lama Main Page
Painting Style: Men-ri (Old)
Subject: Incarnation (Tulku) Lineage Paintings
Teacher: Dalai Lama VII, Kalzang Gyatso
Subject: Incarnation (Tulkus & Animals)
Subject: Kadam Legbam Images (Miscellaneous)