Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Teacher (Lama) - Machig Labdron

བླ་མ། 喇嘛
(item no. 57037)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Shiche/Chöd, Karma (Kagyu) and Buddhist
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Mahasiddha

Gender: Female

TBRC: bdr:P3312

Interpretation / Description

Machig Labdron (1055-1153), 'the One Mother:' founder of the Cho Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. (See Machig Labdron Outline Page).

Ma chig lab dron Biographical Details

White in colour, with one face and two hands, she appears as a 'wisdom dakini' with bone ornaments, in the appearance of a bodhisattva - like a heavenly goddess. Peaceful with three eyes, a tiara of gold and jewels, gold earrings, bone ornaments, and hair ribbons, she holds upraised in the right hand a damaru (drum) resounding with the activities of Dharma. In the left hand upturned at the hip is a vajra-handled bell ringing with the symbolic silence of emptiness. Supported by the left leg with the right raised up she stands in a dancing posture above a moon disc and multi-coloured lotus blossom surrounded by a nimbus and aureole of three concentric spheres of green, pink and yellow light.

At the top center is the primordial Buddha Vajradhara, blue in colour, accompanied by the Five Symbolic Buddhas. Below that is the feminine personification of wisdom, orange in colour, Prajnaparamita, with one face and four hands seated peacefully in vajra posture. The first right hand is placed in the 'earth witness' mudra and the second upraised holding a gold vajra. The first left is placed in the mudra of meditation and the second holds aloft a folio book. Below that sits Shakyamuni Buddha, yellow in colour 'like a mountain of gold', with one face and two hands performing the gestures of 'earth witness' with the right and meditation with the left.

To the left side of Shakyamuni Buddha is the Indian teacher Khenpo Gobilha with Serlingpa, on the opposite right side (viewer's) of the composition, depicted more in the style of a Tibetan monk. Again at the far left is the South Indian teacher, Padamapa Sanggye (11th century) the founder of the Shije, 'Pacifying' tradition, and said according to some hagiographic accounts to be the root guru to Machig Labdron. Dark brown in colour he has the appearance of a mahasiddha wearing bone ornaments, a skull crown and an orange meditation belt. Held aloft in the right hand is a damaru and in the left a shinbone horn. At the far right side is the meditational deity Vajravarahi, red, with one face and two hands holding a curved knife and skullcup with a katvanga staff against the left shoulder. Dancing on a sun disc and corpse she is surrounded by a green halo. Below Padampa Sanggye at the left is the Tibetan teacher Karma Pakshi, the 2nd Karmapa incarnation. At the far right below Vajravarahi is Traba Ngonshe, wearing a flat orange hat with wide lappets.

At the bottom center is the meditational deity, Troma Nagmo - wrathful form of Vajravarahi - black, swinging a human skin in the right hand and holding a shinbone horn in the left, dancing wildly in a blaze of erratic wisdom fire. At the bottom right is the protector Chang Shon (spyang zhon), black in colour, with one face and two hands riding a blue wolf with nine heads. (See Cho Refuge Field for additional protector deities). At the left side is the worldly protector Tsi'u Marpo, indigenous to Tibet and guardian of Samye Chokor Ling. He is red in colour, in the dress of a warrior with one face and two hands holding a spear and lasso, riding a red horse, accompanied by a red dog.

Jeff Watt 3-2010

Secondary Images
Related Items
Publication: Selection of Works - Painting (RMA)

Thematic Sets
Teacher: Machig Labdron (Masterworks)
Teacher: Machig Labdron (Palpung Style)
Teacher: Machig Labdron Main Page
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 4
Collection of RMA: Persons Masterworks
Painting Style: Palpung - Peaceful & Semi-Peaceful Deities