Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Begtse Chen (Buddhist Protector)

བེག་ཚེ་ལྕམ་སྲིང། སྲུང་མ། 大红司命 (又名战神)护法
(item no. 719)
Origin Location Mongolia
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Nyingma, Sakya, Karma (Kagyu) and Gelug
Size 67.31x43.82cm (26.50x17.25in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1998.13.4
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Interpretation / Description

Begtse Chen, (English: the Great Coat of Mail. Sanskrit: Prana Atma), the main protector for the Hayagriva cycle of practice.

Tibetan: Begtse Chen

Fiercely wrathful, with one face and two hands, red in colour, he stares with three round eyes and a gaping mouth with exposed fangs, brown hair flowing upward. In the right hand held aloft is a sword, with the left he holds a heart to the mouth while cradling a spear with a pendant, bow and arrows in the bend of the elbow. Adorned with a crown of five skulls, gold and jewel ornaments, he is attired in body armour, variously coloured garments and boots. With the right leg bent atop a green horse and the left straight atop a human corpse, he stands above a pink lotus blossom surrounded by the flames of wisdom fire. Three red offering tormas (stylized food), in triangular shape, are presented in front.

At the lower right, in front of the lotus seat, is the consort Goddess of Life, with a red face, blue body and upward flowing brown hair. In the right hand held above is a gold sword and in the left extended outward a kila (Tib.: phur ba, Eng.: peg) dagger. As a mount she rides a brown bear. At the left side of the lotus is the son, Lord of Life, red in colour with one face and two hands. Dressed in similar attire to the father, he holds a spear in the right hand and a heart outstretched in the left, riding atop a wolf, dark blue in colour.

At the top center is Guru Padmasambhava, the principal founder of Tibetan Buddhism, with the right hand placed at the heart holding a vajra and the left in the lap supporting a skullcup. A katvanga staff leans against the left shoulder. Attired in various ornaments and robes, he wears the red lotus hat; seated in vajra posture.

Surrounding the central figure are 29 butcher daemons - forming the outer retinue, red in colour with one face and two hands. Holding various instruments, butcher knives and the like, they are engaged in the work of carving the flesh from corpses, dancing and cavorting in various postures.

Within the Sarma Schools the practice of Begtse Chen, also known as red Mahakala, was popularized by Marpa Lotsawa and Sachen Kunga Nyingpo the respective early founders of Kagyu and Sakya; later the practice was taken up by the Gelugpa School.

Lineage from India: Vajradhara, Mahadeva, Nyi Od Drakpa, Dawa Nagpo, Shridhara Krashu, Nyen Lotsawa Dharma Drag, Kha'u Chokyi Gyaltsen, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158), etc. Alternately from Nyen Lotsawa to Marpa Lotsawa Chokyi Lodro (1012-1099), etc.

Jeff Watt 4-99

Related Items
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Buddhist Protectors: Enlightened
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 7
Buddhist Protector: Begtse Chen Main Page
Tradition: Gelug Protectors
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Mongolia