Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Teacher (Lama) - Tsongkapa

བླ་མ། 喇嘛
(item no. 57)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Gelug
Size 50.80x38.10cm (20x15in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1994.8.5
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Monastic

Gender: Male

TBRC: P64

Interpretation / Description

Lord Tsongkapa (1357-1419): founder of the Gelugpa School, emanating from the Tushita heaven on a bank of clouds with his two principal disciples at the side.

Tsongkapa Biographical Details

"From the heart of the Lord of the hundred gods of Tushita, on the peak of a cloud, bright white like a mound of fresh yogurt, Lord of Dharma, Omniscient Lobzang Drakpa, together with sons; please come here." (Gelugpa liturgical verse).

In the appearance of a fully ordained monk, wearing the yellow pandita hat characteristic of the Gelugpa School and the orange and yellow patchwork robes, he performs with both hands the mudra (gesture) of Dharma Teaching at the heart while holding the stems of two lotus flowers blossoming at both ears supporting on the right a wisdom sword and on the left the Prajnaparamita book. With the two legs folded in vajra posture he sits upon a moon disc and lotus seat atop a golden lion supported throne surrounded by an ornate gold nimbus and areola of wishing jewels, green foliage and flowers, all on a cloud bank arched with rainbow light and numerous rainbow trails, emanated from the Tushita heaven. Auspicious at the front, a black begging bowl sits on a lotus blossom. On smaller thrones to each side are the two heart-sons of Je Rinpoche (the Precious Lord). At the left is Gyaltsap Dharma Rinchen (1364-1432) and at the right Kedrup Geleg Pal Zangpo (1385-1438), both wearing monastic robes and yellow hats.

Situated above, surrounded by clouds, is the Tushita heaven with bodhisattva Maitreya, the future buddha, seated before a pavilion with the Indian Pandit Dipamkara Atisha to the left and the real Lama Tsongkapa to the right; filled with coloured mountains and gardens, a bodhisattva and heavenly gods.

On the lower left side is the Buddha of Healing, dark blue in colour, holding a fruit in the right hand and a begging bowl in the left. Below that is an early Dalai lama wearing monastic robes and a yellow pandita hat with the right hand in the mudra of blessing at the heart and the left holding a book in the lap. On the right is Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion, white in colour with four hands and precious jewelled objects. Below that is Green Tara, the female bodhisattva representing enlightened activity.

Along the bottom, at the side of an ornate red table with well ordered offerings and the eight auspicious emblems upright in the middle, radiant with rainbow streams of shining light, a lama wearing monastic robes offers a mandala, symbolic representation of the entire universe, respectfully held in both hands with a white scarf.

At the bottom left is the protector Yama Dharmaraja, black in colour, with the head of a buffalo, holding a bone stick and lasso. Embraced on the left side by the consort Chamundi he stands on the back of a black buffalo and corpse, surrounded by orange and red flame.

Born in the Amdo region of Eastern Tibet Lobzang Dragpa (Tsongkapa), popularly referred to as Je Rinpoche, received novice monks vows from the fourth Karmapa Rolpa?i Dorje. Travelling to Central Tibet he studied with Sakya, Kagyu and Nyingma masters showing a special fondness for the Sutrayana teachings of Jowo Atsiha from the earlier Kadampa Tradition. With the founding of Ganden monastery in 1409 and a following of numerous students the Gelugpa School was born.

Jeff Watt 9-98

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Tradition: Gelug Teachers (Paintings)
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 6
Teacher: Tsongkapa Main Page
Subject: Tsongkapa, Father and Sons
Subject: Coloured Mountains Page
Teacher: Tsongkapa (Descending from Tushita)
Tradition: Gelug Tradition Main Page