Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Begtse Chen (Buddhist Protector)

བེག་ཚེ་ལྕམ་སྲིང། སྲུང་མ། 大红司命 (又名战神)护法
(item no. 484)
Origin Location Mongolia
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Sakya and Gelug
Size 114.30x69.85cm (45x27.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1996.22.4
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Interpretation / Description

Begtse Chen, (English: the Great Coat of Mail. Sanskrit name: Prana Atma), the main protector for the Hayagriva cycle of practice.

Tibetan: Begtse Chen

With one face and two hands, in the appearance of a red 'tsen' daemon, dressed like a Tibetan warrior, he is covered in protective armour. In the right hand he holds a sword with a black scorpion shaped handle. The left hand clutches to the breast a fresh heart with a bow and arrow held in the bend of the elbow and a long lance and banner leaning against the shoulder. Aside from the armour, he wears all the usual wrathful vestments such as the crown of five skulls, a necklace of fifty freshly severed heads, and the like. Standing atop a sun disc with the right foot on the corpse of a horse and the left on the corpse of a man he is completely surrounded by the flames of pristine awareness.

At the top center is the Buddha of Medicine, blue in colour, with the right hand holding the stem of a medicinal plant. The left is placed in the lap holding a begging bowl filled with healing nectar. At the left is the Indian mahasiddha Saraha holding upraised an arrow shaft. At the right a lama wears monastic robes and a yellow cap. With the right hand placed at the heart he holds the stem of a lotus blossom supporting a sword and book. The left hand placed in the lap holds a gold vase.

To the right of the central lotus seat is the consort, Goddess of Life, with a red face and blue body. In the right hand she holds aloft a sword and in the left she stabs with a 'purba' (Skt.: kila, Eng.: peg) dagger. As a mount she rides a bear clutching a small human corpse in the jaws. To the left of the lotus is the son, Lord of Life, red in colour with one face and two hands, dressed in similar attire as the father. He holds a lasso in the right hand and a spear in the left, riding a wolf.

Surrounding the central figure is a retinue of twenty-nine butcher daemons, red in colour, with one face and two hands holding various instruments and engaged in the work of carving the flesh from corpses. At the bottom center, placed on tiger skin mats, are three skullcups with nectar on the left, blood on the right and a wrathful triangular torma (Skt.: balim. Eng.: stylized food) offering in the middle.

The background is devoid of scenery save for a rocky, jagged, windswept land locked in perpetual twilight. Within the Sarma Schools the practice of Begtse Chen was popularized by Marpa Lotsawa and Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, the respective founders of Kagyu and Sakya.

Jeff Watt 5-1998

The History of the Protector Deity Begtse

Begtse is also known as Trichapa Chamsin and is one of the main protectors of the Sakya School. He is also a Dharma protector of the Gelugpa school. He is also known as a father of Nujin Tsiu Marpo. Here is a history of Begtse according to the Sakya Lama Tsarchen Losal Gyatso.

Many ages (kalpa) ago two sons were born into the family of king Sergyi Shugchen and queen Upale Ke. The older brother's name was Dragden and the younger brothers name was Draggye.

The two brothers had different religious beliefs and they could not agree with each other. They had many debates. In these debates whoever lost had to follow the winner's religion. The older brother won but the younger one refused to follow him and ran away. The older brother caught him and tried to punish him, but the younger brother said: "Even if you will try to kill me I will not accept your religion, please let me go and I promise in the future when you reach Enlightenment, I will protect your teachings". The older brother released him and gave him a set of copper armour, a coral stick, an arrow and a bow; and he also gave him the name Sogdag Yamshi Marpo. Then they separated.

In another lifetime when the older brother became Buddha (Shakyamuni), the younger brother was born in the North West Marutse cemetery. His father's name was Nujin Zangki Ralpachen and his mother's name was Sinmo Dragi Ralpachen. The parents laid two eggs, one of them was coral, another one was "se" (agate like stone). Those two eggs flew into the sky, subduing many gods, then they flew into the earth, subduing many nagas. They even threatened their own parents. The parents asked Ekajati, Mahakala's mother, for protection and Ekajati threw her katvanga staff at the eggs and broke them. From the coral egg a coral man with yellow hair came out. He was wearing copper armour, carrying a copper sword, arrow,bow and a coral stick. He said: "My name is Sogdag Yamshu Marpo". From another egg the blue female came out. She had shell teeth and turquoise eyebrows, her hair was made out of fire. She was wearing an agate and lapis lazuli necklace. She was carrying a copper knife and a purba and riding a man eating bear. Ekajati subdued them. Thus they became the Dharma Protectors.

The lineage of this Deity was carried by Nyen Lotsawa and Marpa Lotsawa. Nyen Lotsawa gave it to Lama Namkaupa. Namkaupa gave it to Sachen Kunga Nyingpo. Thus Begtse Chamsing (brother and sister) became protectors of the Sakyapa.

L. Kunga Rinpoche 7-98

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Buddhist Protector: Begtse Chen (Masterworks)
Buddhist Protectors: Enlightened
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 3
Buddhist Protector: Begtse Chen Main Page
Buddhist Deity: Red Wrathful Appearance (Male)
Tradition: Gelug Protectors
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Mongolia
Subject: Two Protectors Red & Black
Subject: Eight Wrathful Ones of the Gelug School
Subject: Generic Figures