Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Chakrasamvara (Buddhist Deity)

འཁོར་ལོ་བདེ་མཆོག། ནང་ལྷ། 勝樂金剛 (全图)
(item no. 432)
Origin Location Eastern Tibet
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Karma (Kagyu) and Buddhist
Size 97.79x67.31cm (38.50x26.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1998.2.4
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Interpretation / Description

White Chakrasamvara, Life Accomplishing (Tibetan: kor lo dom pa kar po tse drup): together with various deities of the Chakrasamvara cycle of tantras from the lineages of Shakyashri Bhadra and Rechungpa. The two forms of White Chakrasamvara at the center of the composition and top center arise from the lineage of the Kashmiri teacher Kache Panchen Shakyashri Bhadra. The principal function of White Chakrasamvara is that of a meditational deity (yi dam). He also has a minor function as a long-life deity. The two forms have the same identical description and iconography. However, depending on the tradition and oral instruction then the long-life form of the deity, along with the consort, are depicted in a seated posture. This variation in iconography between the two uses for White Chakrasamvara is clearly stated in the Rinjung text of Jonang Taranata.

The composition above is from a set of twenty-seven paintings of meditational deities (Tib.: yi dam) commissioned by Situ Panchen Chokyi Jungne in the mid 1700s. The deity figures are painted in a Khyenri painting style following the original Gongkar Chode Monastery models. The landscape background follows a Chinese model. See a de-construction of the painting elements with a separation between the deities and the landscape.

Tibetan: Khor lo dem chog

Centrally located, white in colour, slightly peaceful and slightly wrathful with three eyes, he has one face and two hands holding a vajra and bell crossed at the heart embracing the consort red Vajravarahi. Adorned with a crown of five skulls, multi-coloured double vajra (Sanskrit: visvavajra) and crescent moon, earrings, necklaces and bracelets, he wears a tiger skin lower garment, seated in vajra posture with the right leg placed over the left. Vajravarahi holds a curved knife upraised in the right hand and wears a garland of skulls, seated in the lap of Chakrasamvara with the legs embracing the Lord. Above a moon disc cushion and multi-coloured lotus blossom of red and blue petals they dwell surrounded by the orange flames of pristine awareness.

At the top center is White Chakrasamvara Bodhi Siddha (Demchog Karpo Jangchub Drubpa) with one face and two hands holding a vajra and bell embracing the consort red Vajrayogini. Standing on a sun disc they are surrounded by the flames of wisdom fire. At the left is White Amitayus according to the lineage of Rechungpa, peaceful, with one face and four hands seated, embraced by a four handed red Yogini. He holds a vajra aloft in the right hand and a crystal mala in the left. The central pair of hands placed in the meditation gesture support a long-life vase in the lap. In vajra posture, seated above a moon disc and lotus blossom they are wreathed by soft rays of light - pink and green. At the right side is Avalokiteshvara Heruka, blue, with three faces and six hands holding a vajra and bell embracing a red yogini. The second pair of hands hold a damaru drum and skullcup, the third pair a fresh outstretched hide of an elephant. Standing atop two prone figures white in colour and a sun disc, they are surrounded by the five coloured flames of pristine awareness.

At the bottom center is the slightly wrathful long-life deity Amaravajra Devi (Tib.: chi me dor je lha mo), white with eight faces and sixteen hands holding various objects. Adorned with a crown of skulls, wrathful ornaments, a necklace of heads and a tiger skin as a lower garment. Standing above a sun disc and multi-coloured lotus she is surrounded by the orange flames of wisdom fire. At the left is the peaceful goddess Vijaya (Tib.: nam gyal ma. English: Victorious), white, with one face and two hands holding a gold visvavajra to the heart in the right hand and a begging bowl in the lap with the left. Adorned with various silks, gold and jewel ornaments, she sits on a white lotus with a pink hue surrounded by a blue nimbus and bright red aureola. At the right side is the wisdom deity White Vajravarahi (Tib.: pag mo she rab sal che) with one face and two hands holding upraised in the right a gold vajra and a skullcup to the heart with the left. Adorned with bone ornaments and a garland of skulls she stands surrounded by flames of wisdom fire.

As the foremost tutelary deity of the wisdom-mother classification of Anuttarayoga Tantra, Chakrasamvara is common to all Sarma Schools - Sakya, Kagyu and Gelug. Within the latter he is commonly referred to as Heruka. Among the many different forms and mandalas of practice this figure of white Chakrasamvara is specifically employed for the attainment of long-life and was predominantly introduced to Tibet by the Kashmiri Pandita Shakyashri Bhadra in the 12th century. (Name inscriptions written in fine gold lettering accompany each deity. Some syllables are illegible).

The deity figures are sketched and painted in a Khyenri style first seen at Gongkar Chode Monastery in Central Tibet. The colours are very bright and the paint is layered very thick. The halos, or circles of fire, around the figures are nearly a perfect circle and the detailing is fine and intricate with the eye being able to look intently at small aspects of the figures and decorations. These are all characteristics of the Khyenri style of painting. The background is following a Chinese style of landscape painting with grassy expanses and distant green hills. The landscape is almost completely independent of the Tantric deities super-imposed onto the composition. It is as if any deities, peaceful or wrathful, could just be dropped onto the landscaped canvas.

Jeff Watt 3-99

Numbered List:
1. White Chakrasamvara Long-life Accomplishment
2. White Chakrasamvara
3. White Amitayus with Consort
4. Avalokiteshvara Heruka
5. Vijaya
6. White Vajravarahi
7. Amaravajra Devi

Front of Painting
English Translation of Inscription: [Name inscriptions beneath each figure]

Wylie Transliteration of Inscription: Starting from the top left: tshe dpag med dkar po ras chung lugs. bde mchog dkar po byang chub bsgrubs [?]. spyan ras gzigs he ru ka. bde mchog dkar po. rnam rgyal ma. 'chi med rdo rje lha mo na ma. phag mo shes rab gsal byed.

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