Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Mandala of Vairochana Buddha - Sarvavid (Sarvadurgati Tantra)

ཀུན་རིག་རྣམ་པར་སྣང་མཛད། 普明大日如来(佛教本尊)
(item no. 773)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1600 - 1699
Lineages Sakya
Size 88.90x69.85cm (35x27.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1998.28.4
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Peaceful

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Maha Vairochana, Sarvavid (Tibetan: kun rig nam par nang dze lha sum chu so dun kyil khor. English: The 37 Deity Mandala of all the Families of Great Vairochana): the central deity of the Sarvadurgati Parishodhana Tantra of the Yoga Classification.

Sanskrit: Vairochana Tibetan: Nam par nang dze

At the center of the mandala is Maha Vairochana, peaceful in appearance, white in colour, with four faces and two hands placed in the mudra of meditation. Adorned with gold, jewels and silks, he is seated in vajra posture above a lotus, surrounded by a nimbus of yellow light. At the four main directions are the buddhas pink King of Purification in the east (below), blue Precious Supreme Conqueror in the south (left), red Powerful One of the Shakya Race in the west (above), and green Blossoming Great Flower in the north (right). At the intermediate directions are the four buddha consorts, Locana, Mamaki, Pandara and Tara. All have one face and two hands, jewels and silks. Surrounding those are the 16 Vajras starting with Vajrasattva, Vajraraja, Vajraraga, etc., each with one face and two hands. At the four intermediate directions are the 8 female offering goddesses in sets of two.

Surrounding the inner sanctuary of the palace is a square enclosure composed of five coloured walls with 'T' shaped structures representing the doors. The roof is adorned with vases and victory banners. The 4 female Door Guardians sit at the entrances, Vajrankushi, Vajrapashi, Vajrasphota and Vajraghanta. Seated in the outer enclosure of the palace are 44 figures, the 16 bodhisattvas, 16 sravakas and 12 pratyekabuddhas. Surrounding that is another set of 5 walls and 'T' shaped doors topped with 4 steps, two deer a Dharma wheel and canopy. A wrathful deity with 3 faces and six hands accompanied by 3 wrathful figures guards each of the entranceways.

The tips of a giant double vajra extend out from each of the outer doors representing a vajra ground supporting the entire palace structure. Various figures sit in the courtyard on a green park like expanse. Surrounding that is a ring of 128 guardian and worldly deities. An inner ring of vajras and an outer ring of gold surround the entire mandala.

'Faultless wisdom of the dharmadhatu, Bhagavan Vairochana with the mudra of meditative stabilization; to the All Knowing Bhagavan, I bow.' (Sakya liturgical verse).

At the top center is the buddha Shakyamuni-Vairochana with Vajrapani at the immediate left side and King Indrabhuti at the right. Again at the left is a small figure of Vajradhara and at the right mahasiddha Virupa. Lineage teachers are seated at both sides and Sakya lineage lamas such as Sachen, Mal Lotsawa, Loppon and Jetsun, seated slightly below, (with name inscriptions).

At the bottom left and right are 12 lamas wearing monastic robes and some crowned with red pandita hats. At the bottom center is the wrathful Bhutadamara Vajrapani, blue, with one face and four hands. At the left side is Panjarnata Mahakala. At the right side is Shri Devi and Brahmarupa Mahakala, (with name inscriptions).

Maha Vairochana is the chief mandala from the set of 12 arising from the Sarvadurgati Parishodhana Tantra (Eliminating All Bad Rebirths). See the Four Great Kings and Chitta Vajrapani from the same series.

Early Lineage: Vairochana, Vajrapani, king Indrabhuti, the younger king Indrabhuti, Acharya Nagarjuna, Nagabodhi, Jnanavajra, Oddiyana Anandagarbha, Rabjor Shenyen, Padmakara Varman, the great Tibetan translator Rinchen Zangpo and the younger translator Legshe.

Jeff Watt 9-1999


The buddha Vairochana can best be understood in three different ways: as the principal character in a number of Buddhist sutras, a common image depicted in painting and sculpture, and as a meditational deity used in ritual practices. All of these have the same common source in the Vairochana Sutra. Vairochana is also one of the three most important Buddhas in Tantric Buddhism along with Akshobhya and Amitabha. These three together make up the organizing structure of the first category of the fourfold Tantric classification system. In some Sutra explanations Vairochana is seen as a universal form of Shakyamuni Buddha and is especially important in the history of the early development of Buddhist Tantra.

At the center of the mandala is Vairochana, peaceful in appearance, white in colour, with four faces and two hands placed in the gesture of meditation. Adorned with gold, jewels and silks, he is seated in vajra posture above a lotus, surrounded by a nimbus of yellow light. At the four main directions are the buddhas King of Purification in the east (below), Precious Supreme Conqueror in the south (left), Powerful One of the Shakya Race in the west (above), and Blossoming Great Flower in the north (right). At the intermediate directions are the four buddha consorts, Lochana, Mamaki, Pandara and Tara. All have one face and two hands, jewels and silks. Surrounding those are the sixteen Vajras starting with Vajrasattva, Vajraraja, Vajraraga, etc., each with one face and two hands. At the four intermediate directions are the eight female offering goddesses in sets of two. Surrounding that is nearly two hundred other retinue figures representing different Buddhist figures as well as all of the important Indian gods, such as Indra, Brahma, and Shiva.

At the top center is the buddha Shakyamuni-Vairochana with numerous figures seated to at the sides. Most of these represent the most significant early individuals from the lineage of teachers. On paintings of standard size there is usually not enough room to depict the entire lineage of teachers and only the most important are depicted. At the bottom of the composition teachers contemporaneous with the creation of the painting are arranged around four wrathful protector figures.

Maha Vairochana is the chief mandala from a set of twelve described in the Sarvadurgati Parishodhana Tantra. The primary function of this is the removal of the causes and effects that lead to a bad rebirth. The ritual practice of Vairochana is especially important for sanctification ceremonies for new religious buildings and in the conducting of funeral services.

Name: Sarvavid Maha Vairochana, The Thirty-seven Deity Mandala of all the Families of Great Vairochana
Tibetan: kun rig nam par nang dze lha sum chu so dun kyil khor
Textual Source: Sarvadurgati Parishodhana Tantra

Jeff Watt 10-2008


Inscription Key:
By Laura Weinstein

1. shes rab sgyong
2. [completely abraded]
3. rdo sems pa= Vajradhara
4. chog bra ma gsuM lagsol ba ‘debs
5. [abraded]…mtshan
6. [abraded]…rtsa
7. [completely abraded]
8. [completely abraded]= Vajrapani
9. rab gsal [?] zla…[abraded]= King Indrabhuti
10. [?]g mtshan shes
11. chus [?]m nor bu
12. [ma] lo tsha la na mo= Mel Lotsāwa Lodro Drakpa (11th cent; TBRC P3088)
13. brag sdeng pa= Draktengpa Yonten Tsultrim (11th cent; TBRC P3411)
14. [completely abraded]= Virupa
15. …gnas mthar phyin [?] dbyangs
16. rin chen bzang = Rinchen Zangpo (958-1055; TBRC P753)
17. glu grub
18. ser ha ba
19. [too damaged to make out]
20. gru ku rip [or ri pa]
21. [completely abraded]
22. in to ba ta
23. dril bu pa
24. bhom bi he ru ka
25. span tri ta= Sakya Paṇḍita Kunga Gyeltsen (b.1182 - d.1251; TBRC P1056)
26. mchog dpal… = Kyabchok Pelzang (14th Century; TBRC P4921)?
27. nyan chen ba = Nyenchen Sonam Tenpa (1222-1317; TBRC P3413)
28. brag phug pa= Naza Drakpukpa Sonam Pel (b.1277 - d.1350/1346; TBRC P3092)
29. rdo+e ‘chang kun dga’ bzang po= Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo (b.1382 - d.1456; TBRC P1132)
30. [almost completely abraded]
31. mgon po= Panjarnata Mahakala
32. bram ze la na mo= Brahmarupa Mahakala
33. kun mkhyen ba= Kunkhyen Ngawang Drakpa (ca. 16th-17th century; P8399)
34. sangs rgyas rin chen= The Twenty-Seventh Ganden Tripa, Sanggye Rinchen (b.1540 - d.1612; TBRC P5563)
35. bsod nam rgyal mtshan = Lama Dampa Sonam Gyeltsen (b.1312 - d.1375; TBRC P1226)
36. dpal ldan pa= Pelden Tsultrim (b.1333 - d.1399; TBRC P502)
37. tshog gnyis yong rdzog ye shes rgyal mtshan dang= Sharchen Yeshe Gyeltsen (b.1359 - d.1406; TBRC P3094)
38. chos rgyal ‘phag pa= Pakpa Lodro Gyeltsen (b.1235 - d.1280; TBRC P1048)
39. ‘byung po ‘dul byed= wrathful Bhutadamara Vajrapani

Front of Painting
English Translation of Inscription: mgon po, 'byung po 'dul byed, lha mo, bram ze la na mo.

Secondary Images
Related Items
Exhibition Appearances
Exhibition: Mandala, The Perfect Circle (RMA)

Thematic Sets
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Mandala
Mandala: Main Page
Tradition: Sakya Deity Paintings
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 8
Buddhist Deity: Sarvavid Maha Vairochana
Subject: Tantra Text, Sarvadurgati Parishodhana
Buddhist Deity: Sarvavid, Parishodhana Tantra
Buddhist Deity: Vairochana Buddha Main Page