Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Mandala of Amitayus Buddha - Amitayus

སངས་རྒྱས་ཚེ་དཔག་མེད། - སངས་རྒྱས་ཚེ་དཔག་མེད། 无量寿佛 - 无量寿佛 Immeasurable Life
(item no. 720)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1400 - 1499
Lineages Uncertain
Size 52.07x44.45cm (20.50x17.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1998.13.5
Notes about the Central Figure

Alternate Names: Aparimitayurjñana

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Buddha

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Amitayus Nine Deity Mandala (Tibetan: tse pag me lha gu kyil kor) from the Kriya class of Tantra and the lineage of mahasiddha Jetari.

Amitayus Tibetan: Tse pag me

At the center of the mandala sphere is the buddha Amitayus, red and peaceful. The two hands placed in the lap are in the mudra of meditation holding a golden vase of long-life nectar. Adorned with gold, jewel ornaments and silks he sits in vajra posture atop a lotus seat. Surrounding that, on an 8 petalled lotus, are 8 identical forms of Amitayus. In the east (below) is Vajra Amitayus, south (left) Ratna Amitayus, west (above) Padma Amitayus, north (right) Karma Amitayus. In the northeast is Avaloka Amitayus, southeast Guna Amitayus, southwest Jnana Amitayus and northwest Achala Amitayus.

The floor of the palace is divided into four colours, blue, yellow, red and green, decorated with eight gold vases. The square enclosure is composed of five walls of different colours. The four doors are indicated with 'T' shaped structures topped with four steps, two deer and a Dharma wheel. Various ornaments of banners, vases and standing arrows adorn the roof of the palace. Outside of that are a ring of multi-coloured lotus petals, a ring of gold vajras and the multi-coloured fires of pristine awareness completely surrounding all.

At the top center is the buddha Shakyamuni with Amitabha at the left. Various lineage teachers are seated at the right and left, appearing as mahasiddhas and panditas. At the upper left and right are forms of Amitayus surrounded by lineage teachers. At the lower left and right are forms of Amitayus surrounded by two bodhisattvas like forms, buddhas and the like.

At the bottom left are the two Direction Guardians Virudhaka and Virupaksha. A lama with red robes and a gold meditation cloak sits in front of a table arranged with offerings. Those are followed by another form of Vaishravana, yellow Jambhala, a bodhisattva-like figure wearing full length garments and the hands folded at the heart, black Jambhala, yellow Vasudhara, Chaturbhuja Mahakala and a form of Shri Devi. At the right side are the two Direction Guardians Dritarashtra and Vaishravana.

Lineage: Amitayus, Acharya Garbha, Jetari, Acharya Bodhi Bhadra, Acharya Samadhi Bhadra, Vajrasana the greater and younger, Bari Lotsawa Rinchen Drag, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158), etc.

Jeff Watt 9-99


There are many different Buddhas represented in Buddhist art and aside from the numerous images of the historical buddha Shakyamuni the next most common to appear in art is likely to be Amitayus (immeasureable life) or Amitabha (immeasurable light). His popularity is based in the Mahayana Sutra literature of which there are many texts devoted to him. In art depictions Amitayus can have has two different appearances. He can appear as a standard nirmanakaya buddha, red in colour, holding a long life vase, or he can appear in peaceful appearance, also known as the sambhogakaya form.

From the various traditions of Amitayus, this mandala originates according to Vajrayana Buddhism from the Tantra literature and the Sanskrit text called the Arya-aparimitayurjnana-nama-mahayana-sutra [TOH 674, 676]. The primary goal of this mandala and associated practice is the accomplishment of complete enlightenment. Long-life, life extension, and deathlessness are the metaphors used in the meditation practice focusing on the visualized form of Amitayus. Deathlessness equals enlightenment. The principal Indian Buddhist scholar associated with the popularization of this tradition of the Amitayus Nine Deity mandala is mahasiddha Jetari who lived between the 9th and 10th centuries.

At the center of the mandala is Amitayus, red in colour with one face and two hands placed in the gesture of meditation, holding a golden vase of long-life nectar. Adorned with various ornaments and silks, he sits in vajra posture. Eight identical forms, slightly smaller, surround the central figure. In the east is Vajra Amitayus (directly below the principal form of Amitayus), south Ratna Amitayus, west Padma Amitayus, north Karma Amitayus. In the northeast is Buddha Amitayus, southeast Guna Amitayus, southwest Jnana Amitayus and northwest Achala Amitayus.

Within the dimensions of the square painting only the large circular form and what is contained inside actually constitute the mandala of Amitayus.

In contrast to the vertically hung paintings this object is meant to lie flat on a table. It is painted on cloth and then glued to a flat square piece of wood. It functions as a ritual object at the center of a shrine and specifically for the initiation ceremony or rituals of the practice of Amitayus. Square mandala plates such as this are used again and again. They are typically found in temples where Amitayus holds a special place and yearly ceremonies to Amitayus are done according to the religious calendar.

The four additional figures outside of the mandala circle are essentially decorative. At the viewer's top left is Shakyamuni Buddha, golden in colour. At the right is the future Buddha, Maitreya. At the bottom left is Amitabha Buddha, red in colour. At the right is Vaishravana a guardian king in Buddhist cosmology, riding on a lion.

Title: Amitayus Nine Deity Mandala (Tibetan: tse pag me lha gu kyil kor) according to the lineage of mahasiddha Jetari.

Jeff Watt 10-2008

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