Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Vajradhara Buddha

རྡོ་རྗེ་འཆང། སངས་རྒྱས། 金刚持
(item no. 665)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1500 - 1599
Lineages Sakya
Size 55.88x55.88cm (22x22in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1998.17.3
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Interpretation / Description

Vajradhara, Buddha (Tibetan: dor je chang, sang gye. English: the Vajra Holder, Enlightened One). The primordial buddha, personification of the dharmakaya - truth body of enlightenment and progenitor of the Vajrayana system of Buddhism; surrounded by the Eighty-four Mahasiddhas of the Vajrasana system of enumeration. (See the Yoga Postures depicted in this painting).

Sanskrit: Vajradhara Tibetan: Dor je chang

Along the bottom, comprising the 2nd register up, are the Sixteen Arhats accompanied by Dharmata the faithful attendant. At the bottom right are four deites: Yellow Jambhala, Chaturbhuja Mahakala, Panjarnata Mahakala and Brahmarupa Mahakala. At the bottom center are seven monks kneeling in a group. These seven represent the first Tibetans to be ordained as monks by the abbot Shantirakshita in the 8th century at the time Samye Monastery was built.

Numbered List:
Center - Vajradhara
A. Bodhisattva Male Attendant (Vajrapani?)
B. Bodhisattva Female Attendant (Ekajati?)
C. Shakyamuni Buddha
D. Padmasambhava
E. Chaturbhuja Avalokiteshvara
F. Yellow Jambhala
G. Chaturbhuja Mahakala
H. Panjarnata Mahakala
I. Brahmarupa Mahakala
Donor Figures at bottom left

The Eight-four Great Mahasiddhas according to the Tradition of Vajrasana the Elder - see the Numbered Image and the Numbered List of Names.

1a through 16a are the Sixteen Great Arhats.
17a. Dharmatala

Inscriptions that are not legible or have been effaced are 16, 18, 21, 24, 27, 33, 37, 45, 46, 49, 54, 56, 58, 59, 60, 61, 68, 74, 75, 76, 78, 79, 81, 82 and 83. The name inscriptions which are legible follow the Vajrasana list and system of the Eight-four Mahasiddhas. There are some small iconographic differences where a siddha known to be a monk is depicted in siddha appearance. Learn the definition and three different appearances for the Eighty-four Mahasiddhas: [1] Layperson, [2] Monastic, and [3] Siddha appearances.

Jeff Watt 4-2001 [updated 9-2009]

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

Thematic Sets
Painting Style: Guge Kingdom (Western Tibet)
Buddhist Deity: Vajradhara & the Eighty-four Mahasiddhas (Single Composition)
Indian Adept: Systems of Mahasiddhas
Collection of RMA: Painting Masterworks Page
Subject: Vajrasana Mahasiddhas (Single Composition)
Subject: Vajrayana Buddhism Main Page
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 3
Tradition: Sakya Protectors (Composition Examples)
Buddhist Deity: Vajradhara Main Page
Buddhist Deity: Vajradhara & Eighty-four Mahasiddhas
Subject: Yantra Yoga (Physical Yogas)
Buddhist Deity: Vajradhara & Mahasiddhas (Painting Masterworks)
Buddhist Deity: Vajradhara & Mahasiddhas (Single Paintings)
Buddhist Deity: Vajrapani (Vajradhara Set of Three)
Collection of RMA: Best of Collection 1
Buddhist Deity: Vajradhara, Solitary
Padmasambhava: Early Images (Primary & Secondary)