Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Shakyamuni Buddha - Shakyamuni

ཤཱཀྱ་ཐུབ་པ། 释迦牟尼佛
(item no. 501)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Karma (Kagyu)
Size 139.70x80.01cm (55x31.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1996.27.5
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Buddha

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Shakyamuni Buddha (Tibetan: sha kya tu pa, sang gye. English: the Enlightened One, Sage of the Shakya Clan): together with the two foremost students - Shariputra and Maudgalyayana.

Sanskrit: Buddha Shakyamuni Tibetan: Sang gye sha kya tu pa

In a formal posture, gold in colour with one face and two hands he gazes forward with half closed eyes. The hair on the head is piled in a topknot (Sanskrit: ushnisha) crowned with a gold ornament and the earlobes are long and pierced - reflecting his youth spent as a prince. Adorning the middle of the forehead is a white dot (Skt.: urna) between the eyebrows and the neck displays three curved lines. Extended across the right knee the fingertips of the hand touch the ground calling the personified goddess of the earth to witness the moment of perfect enlightenment. The left hand is placed in the lap in the mudra (gesture) of meditation supporting a black begging bowl - a gift from the Kings of the Four Directions. Wearing strips of gold and ochre coloured patchwork robes constructed from discarded cloth, the right arm is bare and the left covered in the fashion of a Buddhist monk. The lower body is covered with orange and red robes tied with a green sash. With the two feet crossed in vajra posture, right over left and adorned with Dharmachakra wheels, atop a white moon disc and multi-coloured lotus seat above a snow lion supported throne, he is surrounded by radiant light of blue and gold emblazoned with wishing jewels and an aureola of green and orange.

At the sides, the elaborate backdrop composed of the 'Six Ornament' design has two white elephants atop moon discs and pink lotuses. Arranged upward in pairs are a snow lion, a mythical winged horse - green in colour, a small boy holding up the crossbeam, a makara sea creature, a naga with the lower torso in the shape of a serpent and crowning the top is a single Garuda bird. All of that is surrounded by pink lotus blossoms and dark clouds.

Standing at the left side is Shariputra, foremost in the study of Abhidharma, holding a monk's staff in the right hand and a begging bowl in the left, attired in orange coloured robes and encircled by radiant light. Standing at the right is Maudgalyayana, foremost in magical powers, with the same objects and attire.

At the top center is the primordial buddha Vajradhara, blue in colour, with the two hands folded at the heart holding a vajra and bell. Adorned with jewels and silks, he sits in vajra posture. At the left is the mahasiddha Tilopa holding a skullcup in the right hand and a vajra in the left. With long hair, bone ornaments and a red meditation belt, he sits on a deerskin mat. At the right is mahasiddha Naropa holding upraised a curved knife in the right hand and a skullcup held to the heart with the left. In a similar appearance he sits in a relaxed posture on a deerskin mat. At the left corner is the buddha of the previous age, Kashyapa (Dipamkara), with the two hands held at the heart performing the Dharma teaching mudra. At the right side is the bodhisattva Maitreya, the future buddha, with the two hands placed at the heart holding the stems of two lotus flowers blossoming at the sides supporting a Dharma wheel and water flask.

On a red table in front is a large bowl of precious objects and wishing jewels, with flower vases at the sides. Four standing figures with the hands in a respectful manner offer a mandala plate - symbolic of the universe, presented with a long white scarf.

Jeff Watt 6-99

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Shakyamuni Buddha: Main Page
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery III
Subject: Torana Main Page (Arch, Decorative Throne Back)
Shakyamuni Buddha: Arhat Sets