Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Miscellaneous - (unidentified)

པར་ཤིང་སྣང་བརྙན། སྣ་ཚོགས། 版画 (多种)
(item no. 746)
Origin Location Central Tibet
Date Range 1100 - 1199
Lineages Nyingma
Size 15.88x20.32cm (6.25x8in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Paper
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1998.23.13
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Object/Concept

Interpretation / Description

This very rare and ancient image on paper of VIMALAMITRA was executed in the 12th century. The Indian sage Vimalamitra was invited to Tibet by the 8th century Tibetan King Trisong Detsen to continue teaching buddhism after the sage Padmasambava had left Tibet. His teachings published in Tibetan range from a simplified presentation of Kamalashila's "Stages of Meditation", which clarifies the need for both calm abiding and insight meditation to the "Bima Nying Thig", the highest Dzok Chen (Great Completion) teachings.

The paper these cards are painted on was carbon dated to between 1174 and 1293 AD

Moke Mokotoff 10-2000


These twenty-two cards (#'s 734 through 755) represent members of a group of religious teachers called RIG DZIN. Rig dzin means "holder of knowledge or awareness" (rig pa knowledge 'dzin pa, to hold, sanscrit: Vidyadhara). These masters are considered to be highly accomplished due to their meditations and ritual practices.

The title "knowledge holder " may refer to all masters who transmit esoteric teachings to their disciples, but there is a distinct group of eight masters, said to have meditated near Bodhgaya, to which Padmasambhava belonged during his studies in India. In this series of initiation cards, instead of the distinct group of eight Indian masters, there are both Tibetan and Indian masters' names on these initiation cards. Some of the Tibetans are known as disciples of Padmasambhava who were famous religious teachers traditionally believed to have lived in 8th to 9th century, in Tibet and the neighboring vallies in Bhutan. There is also the female disciple and consort of Padmasambhava, Ye shes mtsho rgyal, who is represented in this series as one of the teachers.

The biographical literature for Padmasambhava was codified during the lifetime of the lama Myang ral (1124-1192 or 1204) who wrote the earliest known biography, but two other major biographies were compiled in the fourteenth century by rDo rje gling pa (1346-1405). The tradition of the group of the Rig dzin is present in the earliest biography by lama Myang ral, but more fully developed as rituals in the writings of Sangs rgyas gling pa (1340-1396).

Among the cards there is mention of Mahamudra, which is the third of the four levels of knowledge in a classification of the Mahayoga teachings according to the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. However there is a mention of dKa' brgyud lineage of lamas, who also venerate Padmasambhava, and his teachings; the dKa' brgyud pa having a separate group of Mahamudra teachings. It would seem possible that this series of initiation cards was used in dKa' brgyud pa religious tradition, but there is no indication of regional provenance by dialect or language as far as I have been able to determine.

references: The Lotus-born, the life story of Padmasambhava, translated by Erik H.Schmidt, Shambhala Publications, Boston 1993. The Rise of Esoteric Buddhism in Tibet, Eva M. Dargyay, Samuel Weiser, Inc., New York, 1977 The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, Dudjom Rinpoche, translated by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein, Wisdom Publications, Boston, 1991.

Dr. Amy Heller

Reverse of Painting
English Translation of Inscription: 7

Hum hum the one who has power over life (tsi ta, short for tsi tata, sanskrit for heart, i.e., vitality), the teacher Vimalamitra, his esoteric name is rDo rje rdo bo bde bde (Vajra, stone, joy joy), (You who) resides in the Akanista paradise, we beseech you to come here. May those with good fortune obtain transmission of the best initiation (by the mantra) Om a hum vajra gu ru hum a bhi shi

Wylie Transliteration of Inscription: hum hum tsi ta' i dbang po slob dpon byee ma la mi tra gsang mtsahn ni: rdo rje rdo bo bde bde 'og min gnas na bzhugs: 'dir gshegs skal ldan 'di la dbang mchog bskur du gsol: om a hum badzra gu ru hum hum a bhi shin

printed letters bi ma la mi tra

rigs 'dzin nyer lnga'

Special Features: (Cursive script (Umay), is black)

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Initiation Cards: Nyingma Lineage Card Set
Subject: Indian Scholar (Buddhist)
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 5
Collection of RMA: Best of Collection 3
Indian Adept: Vimalamitra