Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Teacher (Lama) - Marpa Chokyi Lodro

བླ་མ། 喇嘛
(item no. 562)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1500 - 1599
Lineages Karma (Kagyu)
Size 86.36x60.33cm (34x23.75in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1997.39.5
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Lay Person

Gender: Male

TBRC: bdr:P2636

Interpretation / Description

Marpa Chokyi Lodro, the Translator (1012-1096): the founder of the Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism. At the right is Milarepa Gyepa Dorje (1052-1135) the most famous student of Marpa and greatest poet yogi of Tibet.

Tibetan: Mar pa Mi la re pa

The top registers of the painting and the middle sides contain forty-six buddha figures representing a portion of the One Thousand Buddhas of this Aeon. The remaining nine hundred plus buddha figures are dispersed amongst the other paintings in the set.

Above the two central figures are four forms of the meditational deity Hevajra. Modern restoration has obscured some of the inscriptions and attributes of the deities.

Along the bottom are two registers of figures. The top register is composed of the Six Ornaments and Two Excellent Ones of the Southern Continent confirmed by an inscription along the bottom border of the painting (partially obscured in this digital image). This well known group is made up of famous philosophers such as Nagarjuna, Asanga, Aryadeva, Chandrakirti, etc. The central figure is the Buddha Shakyamuni and two further unidentified philosophers have been included.

The bottom register (also named in the bottom border inscription but currently unreadable) is made up of ten important Marpa Kagyu and Karma Kagyu teachers. Starting at the bottom right of the painting is Gampopa, the 3rd Karmapa Rangjung Dorje, unidentified, the 7th Karmapa Chodag Gyatso, Sanggye Nyenpa, unidentified, Ngogton Cho Dor, Meton Kunga Nyingpo, Milarepa, and Repa Shiwa Od.

Modern restoration and excessive infilling with the background blue coloured pigment has obscured many of the original inscriptions. Most of the name inscriptions for the bottom register are intact but the register above has had much of the background green replaced and inscription-like gold lines added to simulate the original name inscriptions.

Jeff Watt 3-2001 (updated 1-2006)

Marpa (1021 1097). (left)

Marpa was born in Southern Tibet in the year 1021 AD. At a very early age Marpa embraced Buddhism and took the name Dharmamati. After having studied Sanskrit with the Sakyapa Lama Drogmi, he exchanged all his possessions for gold and set out for India. His journey to India took him first to Nepal where he met up with two disiples of the great Indian teacher Naropa. Highly impressed by the religious accomplishment of his new found friends, Marpa himself went to seek out Naropa. Marpa stayed with Naropa for sixteen years, receiving teachings and initiations. He also received teachings from Atisha, Kukkuripa and Jnanagarbha. He resumed to Abet with numerous Buddhist texts. During his lifetime Marpa went back to India twice again in search of precious Buddhist texts and teachings.

Milarepa. (1052 - 1135). (right)

Milarepa was the foremost disciple of Marpa and was born in Gungthang province of Western Tibet. Milarepa endured a harsh life after the death of his father. The seven year Milarepa and his mother became the victims of greedy relatives who left them in poverty. To avenge himself and his mother Milarepa practiced black magic, with which he destroyed all his relatives. The death and destruction caused by the black magic made Milarepa very sad and and caused him to seek redemption through the practice of Buddhism. Milarepa studied under Marpa, enduring many hardships after which he went into the mountains to meditate for many years where he composed the Hundred Thousand Song

The Kardgyu/Karmapa Lineage:

Dharmakaya Buddha Vajradhara (Celestial Buddha) Tilopa (988 1069) Naropa (1016 1100) Marpa ( 1012 1096) Milarepa (1052 1135) Gampopa (1079 1153) Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa (1110 1193) Karmapa Karma Pakshi (120~1283) Karmapa Rangjung Dorje (1284 1339) Karmapa Rolpe Dorje (1340 1383) Karmapa Dezhin Shegpa (1384 1415) Karmapa Thongwa Donden (1416 1453) Karmapa Chodrag Gyatsho (1454 1506) Karmapa Mikyo Dorje (1507 1554) Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje (1556 1603)

This series of five tangkas ( #558 , #559 ,#560 , #561 , #562 )belongs to the Karmapa lineage. The series shows the portraits of the Karmapas, who are the Throne holders of the Kagyupa Sect. The series also includes Marpa, Milarepa and Gampopa, the siddhas from whom the the Black hat sect is descended. To show the unbroken continuity in the transmission of the tradition, the teachers of the Karh~apas are also portrayed. It is very interesting to note that the approximate date when the Tangka series was commissioned can be deciphered by looking at the last tangka in the series. The Mikyo Dorje thanks has a small image of the Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje seated on a cushion. This indicates that the series was completed during the life time of Wangchuk Dorje and was probably commissioned by him. The small image below the Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje appears to be that of Shamar Kunchok Yenlak. It is very possible that the Tangka series was done during the time when the Karmapa and the Shamar Tulku travelled together. There are records that state that tangkas depicting the two of them together were painted at the time and presented to the Karmapa for consecration. Thus we can safetly date this series to the sixteenth century, and maybe more precisely between 1561 and 1564 A.D. the years when the Shamar Tulku and the Karmapa Here travelling together. The thanks series is extremely important for its historicity. The portraits are delicately painted, capturing the character of the personages. Each Tangka shows good composition; the Buddhas line the upper half of the thanks, the Karmapa and his teacher or pupil make up the central image with their tutelary dieties in between. The bottom frieze depicts various deities, monks and siddhas. One of the tangkas also depicts a Ganesa which is rather rare in Tibetan art.

Related Items
Thematic Sets
Tradition: Marpa/Dagpo Kagyu Masterworks
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 3
Tradition: Kagyu Teachers (Paintings)
Teacher: Two Main Figures (Composition)
Painting Set: Karma Kagyu Lineage (Two Figures)
Teacher: Marpa Chokyi Lodro Main Page
Teacher: Marpa Chokyi Lodro (Masterworks)
Teacher: Milarepa Main Page
Collection of RMA: Persons Masterworks
Collection of RMA: Painting Masterworks Page
Tradition: Kagyu Founding Teachers
Subject: Composition - Registers
Subject: Lineage Paintings - Linear
Subject: Caricature Art
Subject: Kagyu Lineage Painting Sets (Two Figures)