Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Mandala of Avalokiteshvara (Bodhisattva & Buddhist Deity) - Amoghapasha (Unfailing Lasso)

སྤྱན་རས་གཟིགས། 观音菩萨
(item no. 65345)
Origin Location Nepal
Date Range 1500 - 1599
Lineages Buddhist
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Peaceful

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Amoghapasha Five Deity Mandala (Unfailing Lasso. Tibetan: don yod zhags pa lha lnga'i dkyil 'khor). (See the Amoghapasha Main Page and Outline Page).

Amoghapasha, which means unfailing lasso, refers to an unfailing compassion like a lasso which brings all sentient beings out of suffering and into a state of happiness leading to enlightenment. Amoghapasha is a complicated deity subject in Tantric Buddhist iconography. He is easily mistaken for Avalokiteshvara in most artistic depictions. The two deities are frequently conflated together by Western scholars. Sometimes Amoghapasha is described as a form, or emanation, of Avalokiteshvara and again at other times, such as with this mandala of Amoghapasha, a retinue figure while Avalokiteshvara is the central deity in the mandala. It begs the question, why is this mandala called the Five-deity Amoghapasha if the central deity is Avalokiteshvara? It all comes down to naming conventions in Buddhism. The very idea of a compassionate deity called Amoghapasha comes out of a number of Indian Sanskrit texts that all have Amoghapasha in the title. In these texts both Avalokiteshvara and Amoghapasha are described along with different appearances and functions for each. In consequence, the principal name for all of these forms of the two deities, regardless of which one of the two is at the center of the mandala, are called Amoghapasha - mandala, meditation, or ritual.

At the center of the mandala sits Avalokiteshvara, white in colour with one face and two hands. He holds the stems of two lotus blossoms in the hands while sitting with the right leg pendant. Below the central figure is the male attendant Rakta Amoghapasha, red in colour, peaceful in appearance and having four hands. At the left is Red Hayagriva, male, wrathful in appearance with four hands. At the top is Ekajati, female, wrathful in appearance, blue-black in colour with one face and eight hands. At the right side is the female attendant Bhrikuti, peaceful, white in colour, with four hands.

Around the outer circle of the mandala are the Eight Auspicious Emblems along with four deity figures seated on the edge of the circle. Beginning at the upper right is Medicine Buddha, lower right Green Tara, lower left yellow Vasudhara and upper left Shakyamuni Buddha.

In the top register starting on the left side is Avalokiteshvara, identical to the central figure of the mandala, followed by the Indian and Nepalese lineage teachers in the tradition of this Amoghapasha meditation system. In the bottom register beginning on the left side is the donor figure depicted as a monk seated in front of an array of shrine objects and musical instruments. Following that are the eight offering goddesses, the wealth deity Yellow Jambhala, the group known as the Three Deity Shadakshari Lokeshvara and finally the naked black form of Jambhala, a wrathful wealth deity.

There are a number of different Amoghapasha mandala configurations that still exist in the Newar and Tibetan Buddhist Traditions. There are also numerous solitary forms that do not have elaborate mandalas or retinue figures. The most common of these forms are typically depicted in Nepalese sculpture. They generally have one face and multiple arms, six, eight or ten, and are shown in a standing posture.

Jeff Watt 10-2008

Tibetan name: don yod zhags pa lha lnga'i dkyil 'khor.
Sanskrit source text: Arya Amoghapasa Kalparaja [Toh686].


Blue Annals Contents | Blue Annals Outline

Extracted from the Blue Annals (pages 645-651) of Go Lotsawa Zhonnu Pal (1392-1481) using the digitized text of THDL.

14.2 Amoghapaśa and the Instruction of Dawa Gyeltsen (don zhags dang dmar khrid zla rgyal lugs kyi skabs. {Chandra 904; Chengdu 1186; Roerich 1018}

Now the Lineage of the Sādhana (propitiation) of Ārya Amoghapaśa (?phags pa don yod zhags pa): a paṇḍita named E ra pa ti who was a native of Southern India, came to a vihara called Bhaktibala (dad pa'i stobs) in {(6b)} Southern India, and was ordained. He became a great paṇḍita who mastered all the branches of science.

On his return to his native country, he preached the Doctrine to his mother. Once when he was walking on the roof of a house, he caused a piece of brick to fall down on his mother?s {R1019} head, which caused her death. Such an action did not represent a true murder, for as the ācārya Āryadeva had said in his Cittāvarannaviśodha : A monk who had asked his aged father to go quickly, and pushing him on, caused the father's death, was not found guilty of a parajika sin. Since he did it amidst evil circumstances, he propitiated Amoghapaśa during six months in order to purify the sin, but no signs manifested themselves. He performed the propitiation rite for a second time, and again no signs were observed. Again he performed the rite for a third time, and again no signs were observed. While he was holding in his hand a sandal rosary and was repeating the mantra ?Hrii Trailokya...? he fell asleep and the rosary fell from his hand. When he awoke, he saw that all the place was filled with shades and lights, and that a shower of flowers and scented water was falling. He gazed in all directions but failed to see anything. He then looked up the tree, at the foot of which he was sitting, and saw the five deities of the parivāra of Amoghapaśa appearing clearly on the trunk. He said: O Ārya ! Why did you not manifest yourself? Are you small in commiseration, or am I great in defilement? The Ārya replied: I have never parted from you! and he imparted to him many doctrines. Since then he was able to listen to the Doctrine at will.

He then thought of going to another country and to spread there the Doctrine of Ārya (Avalokiteśvara). People, however, continued to call him {R1020} the Sinner who had killed his own mother (ma bsad pa'i sdig chan), and did not listen to his preaching. Many siddhas such as Śrii Virūpa and others gathered and listened to his preaching of the Doctrine. The king of that country said to the siddhas: Though you are siddhas, how can you listen to the preaching by such a sinner? The siddhas replied: He is the chief of all the siddhas! All his previous actions have been miracles performed by Ārya {(7a)}

(Avalokiteśvara). After that the king repented and all were filled with faith. He had a servant upāsaka. At the latter's request he composed the sādhana of Amoghapaśa. Elapatra (E ra pa ti) bestowed it on a yogin of low caste in the South. This yogin attained spiritual realization and when a boatman refused to ferry him across the Ganges, he struck the river with his mendicant staff, and the Ganges stopped flowing.

From him the Doctrine was obtained by the paṇḍita don yod rdo rje known as rdo rje gdan pa. Further, the pa__ita Dharmakapāla obtained it from Mahakarunnika . He expounded it to the great bsod snyoms pa the siddha of Sa_vara. The latter taught it to don yod rdo rje.

Don yod rdo rje was the name of rdo rje gdan pa, the Senior. He preached it to the teacher ba ri. Further, in the vihara of Khasarpanna, bo dge bnyen was worshipping Ārya Avalokiteśvara in order to invite the Ārya. After his death, there was another upāsaka of the Ārya to whom it was prophesied You should take up ordination! He then appointed another upāsaka to attend on the Ārya (Avalokiteśvara) and proceeded to VikramaŚiila; took up ordination, and then the final monastic ordination. His name was Śiilākara.

He preached the sādhana to the Vairocana. The latter taught it to bari. Then again a named chos ston worshipped Ārya Avalokiteśvara at Khasarpaṇa, and Avalokiteśvara used to preach him the Doctrine in his dreams. Later he instructed him personally. The latter preached it to the pa__ita donyod rdo rje. The latter taught it to bari. {R1021} 14.2.1 Bari {R1021}

Bari: he was a native of khams pa sdom tshang and was born in the year iron Male Dragon (lcags pho 'brug 1040 A.D.). The Venerable mid la was born in the same year. A pannddita from Kasmira having come to Khams, he heard from him the Abhidharma (mngon pa) and the Lesser recension of the zhal gnyis ma. He had the intention of going to India. Having obtained about seventy golden srangs, he took the gold with him and proceeded towards dbus.

At the age of {(7b)} 15, he met AtiŚa at snye thang and requested his blessing. (Atiśa) fortold him: Go to the residence of rdo rje gdan pa! Accidents will not befall you. Having gone to la stod dpal thang, he came across about a hundred sheep which were led away to be slaughtered. He felt pity towards them and bought them off paying for each one golden zho. He presented them to the monastery on the condition that they were to be kept alive.

Having come to Nepal, (he had to choose) between the two roads (leading to India), the short but dangerous road, and the long, but safe road. His tutelary deity indicated him to proceed by the short road, and that danger would not present itself. He had a vision of Avalokiteśvara in his dream in the night preceding the crossing of the Ganges. At

Kośalakrama he met tsa mi (sangs rgyas grags pa). He twice offered him a golden zho, Tsa mi showed him an image, which had been consecrated by the Buddha and fashioned by Viśvakarman. The image proved similar to the one he had seen in his dream. On seeing the image, an excellent transit meditation was produced in him. During his stay in India, Ārya Avalokiteśvara appeared constantly, and delivered to him many discourses. He also saw the vision of a yogini who advised him to return. He also saw Ārya Avalokiteśvara in tears and asked: What was the affliction? The Bodhisattva replied: Shin stang chan has captured sixty prisoners who are tormented in a prison pit by snakes and frogs, and are weeping from pain. In the morning he ascertained the fact, and having presented a golden srangs to the king, begged him to set the prisoners free. The {R1022} king said: Unless I get one golden srangs for each prisoner, I shall not release them! He freed the captives after paying the sixty golden srangs. He also called a medical practitioner to treat their wounds inflicted by snakes and torture. He paid him one golden srangs, and thus acquired the great fame of a Bodhisattva.

Again he saw Avalokiteśvara in tears, and {(8a)} when he asked: What was the affliction? the Bodhisattva replied: Bandits carried away the gold which belonged to rgyus lo tsa ba, and the latter is full of grief. Following this indication, he proceeded in the morning to the house of rgyus lo and inquired as to what had happened. The lo tsa ba said: Such is my sad fate! He gave him two golden chos and pleased him.

When he was preparing to go to Tibet, he saw in a dream numerous pretas who said to him O great lo tsa ba! On your way to Tibet, dangers will not befall you ! Present an offering to us, and then go! He then offered a gtor ma and rice comprising eleven men's loads. With the remaining gold he entertained numerous natives of mnga ris (who had come to India). They said (to him): The paṇḍita Parahita has come to mnga ris and is preaching the Five Treatises of Maitreya (byams chos sde lnga); and the Six Treatises of the Mādhyamaka system (dbu ma rigstshogs drug). He

journeyed to gung thang via Nepal. Then from Lower gro he proceeded to spu hrangs and obtained the Six Treatises of the Mādhyamaka system from the pannddita (Parahita).

After that he went to worship (the images) of Avalokiteśvara (Mahākarunnika), Manjuśrī and Tārā, which were formerly brought by the lo tsa ba rin chen bzang po. That night in a dream he was told that he should repair the big toe on the foot of the Tārā. He brought a (piece of) gor shi sha with gold, and repaired the damage. After that he again journeyed to India and obtained from rdo rje gdan pa (tsa mi) numerous doctrines, such as the Cycle of Avalokiteśvara and others.

Then he again returned to Tibet. He laboured for the welfare of living beings in many upper and {R1023} lower countries. He had numerous disciples to whom he imparted the Cycle of Avalokiteśvara. In particular he preached the Cycle of Avalokiteśvara to snubs phag mo lungpa, nye gnas lho pa and mkhang pa thang pa of gung than.

The siddha Zhang zhung obtained (it) from the above three. skyema grags tshul obtained it from him. The latter (preached it) to klu sgrub. The latter to the bla ma dka? bzhi pa. The latter to don zhags pa shes rab brtson 'grus. The latter to don zhags pa sangs rgyas rin chen. He became the upādhyāya of si tu dge blo ba at ?tshal. Because of this he became, known as the maha upādhyāya sang rin pa, He met rgyal tsha, the upādhyāya of spyan yas. At spyan yas he looked after disciples with the help of the Cycle of Ārya Avalokiteśvara.

{(8 b)} After that he travelled through the upper and lower regions. Later at the time of his passing into Nirvana, he said: Convey me to spyan yas, the strictest monastic college. On reaching spyan yas, he passed out. His remains are preserved until the present day inside a clay stupa.

The ācārya gzhon nu smon lam obtained from him the Cycle of Amoghapaśa. From him the maha upādhyāya sangs rgyas ?bum dpal obtained (it). His uninterrupted Lineage exists to the present day.

i. Lineage continued. Again, one named Da Bodhisattva, who was a nephew of AtiŚa, and was a Bodhisattva of this Bhadrakalpa, personally obtained (the Doctrine) from Ārya (Amoghapaśa).

There was a scholar named pannddita Śrīdhana, who used to worship the Mahabodhi (image) during the day, and at night used to meditate in a cemetery. When he received an invitation to Nepal, the lo tsa ba ?phags tshul of mnga? ris, and byang sems zla rgyal obtained from him the initiation and blessing, as well as the Cycle of Ārya (Avalokiteśvara).

He {who?} offered seven golden srangs, having borrowed them from other people. The pannddita said: This will do (for one journey). He then proceeded with the lo tsa ba to India. From the Bodhisattva he obtained the Doctrine of the siddha zhang zhung pa. From him skye ma grags tshul. From the latter the {R1024} blama ?jam dpal rgyal mtshan. From the latter zhig po kungrol. From the latter lo mo ba sangs rgyas ston pa. From the latter sangs rgyas dbon po. After him gzhon nu blo gros. Then grags pa rgyal mtshan. Then grags pa bzang po. Then the bla ma rdo rje rgyal mtshan. He called his chief doctrine AmoghapaŚa. He benefitted many laymen and monks, and became famous.

Again from byang sems zla rgyal ? nying phug pa, skye ma grags tshul, the siddha dkon mzhog grasg, sangs rgyas jam rgyal, thugs rje rgyal mtshan, chos kyi rgyal mtshan, skyes mchog klu sgrub, dka' bzhi pa dkon mchog glon nu, jam dbyangs thugs rje shes rab, kun mkhyen yon tan mgon po, the bla ma gzhon nu byang chub, and sangs pa kun mkhyen. Again, gran po lun pa, bla zhen pa, 'chims nam mkha' brags, bsod nams ye shes, the upādhyāya grags pa gzhon nu, the maha upādhyāya bsod nams grags, rgyal sras thogs med pa, the Dharmasvamin rgya ma ba, yon tan 'od, and kun mkhyen shangs pa. The latter bestowed it on me.

14.2.2 initiation ceremony of Amoghapaśa (rigs gtad). {R 1024} The Lineage of the rigs gtad of the five gods of the parivara of Amoghapaśa Avalokiteśvara, Śīlākara, Vairocana rakśita, ba ri lo tsa ba, skyema grags tshul, the ācārya don zhags pa of snar than, the mahāupādhyāya skyo, byang chen pa bsod ?phel, bag ston pa, the bLa ma tshul rgyal ba, and kun mkhyen shangs pa. The latter bestowed it on me. He bestowed on me the rigs stad and the initiation of the Eleven faced Avalokiteśvara transmitted through this Lineage.

i. Detailed exposition (dmar khrid) of the Cycle of the Great Merciful One (Mahākaruṇika) according to the system of byan sems zla rgyal {R1024}.

The detailed exposition (dmar khrid) of the Cycle of the Great Merciful One (Mahākaruṇika) according to the system of byan sems zla rgyal : skyi tsha 'od 'byung having heard of the fame of byang sems proceeded into the latter's presence, and perceived him as Avalokiteśvara. Again, on another occasion, he saw him as his teacher. Again, whenever a strong feeling of reverence filled him, he saw the Teacher as Avalokiteśvara. byang sems said (to him): Through your Doctrine benefit will arise for living beings, and imparted it to him. From him Zhang dbu dkar ba {R1025} heard it. The latter obtained the power of the Mani of the rite, and was able to command gods and demons. He obtained the power of the True Word With the help of this doctrine he caused great benefit to others.

He preached the doctrine to zhang lo tsa ba mya ngan med pa'i sa dpal. In his dreams he had repeated visions of the Mahākaruṇika and was able to listen to his preaching. He imparted it to the upādhyāya byan chub rin chen. The latter was well qualified for religious studies and great was the benefit for the living beings. Among his disciples there were many who had visions of Avalokiteśvara. He preached (the Cycle {(9b)} of Avalokiteśvara) to lche sgoms shes rab rdo rje. The latter preached it to the siddha Hūṃ 'bar. The latter had visions of tutelary deities, and amanusyas (demons) used to appear in person to accept (his) offerings. He preached (the Cycle) to the maha upādhyāya byan chub dpal, who had visions of Vajrapāṇi and Mahākāla (mgon po). He was endowed with a boundless faculty of prescience. He imparted (the Cycle) to dpal rgyal ba grub pa, who after reciting the number of mantras prescribed for the propitiation of the five deities (of the parivara of AmoghapaŚa) at the sacred place of thugs rje rdzong, acquired many merits, such as visions of the Eleven faced One (Avalokiteśvara), etc. He imparted (the Cycle) to the maha upādhyāya 'jims chen pa, who had visions of his tutelary deity and developed a yogic insight. He preached (the Cycle) to the ascetic (kun spangs) ri khrod pa, who had visions of many tutelary deities. Ri khrod pa bestowed it on the mahāpadhyāya gzhon nu 'bum. The latter bestowed it on the Dharmasvāmin chu tshan kha pa shes rab dpal. The latter bestowed it on skyes mchog nam mkha' bzang po. The Chapter on the Cycle of Amoghapaśa.

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Subject: Generic Figures