Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Chakrasamvara (Buddhist Deity)

འཁོར་ལོ་བདེ་མཆོག། ནང་ལྷ། 勝樂金剛 (全图)
(item no. 85746)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1300 - 1399
Lineages Sakya and Buddhist
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Interpretation / Description

Chakrasamvara (Tibetan: khor lo dem chog. English: the Wheel of Bliss): the principal tantra of the Anuttarayoga Wisdom (mother) classification within the Buddhist Vajrayana tradition. Chakrasamvara is commonly depicted with four faces and twelve arms, however he can have a number of different forms ranging from the complex to the very simple with one face and two hands.

Reading the Painting: The composition of the painting has an established hierarchy based on the identity of the subject along with the size and arrangement of images in the composition. The painting is meant to be read from inside out and largest to smallest, top and bottom. The subject images in order of importance are: [1] Chakrasamvara and Vajrayogini, [2] the Four Dakinis, [3] the Eight Great Charnal Grounds, [5] Indra Khechari and Naro Khechari, [6] the top register, and finally [6] the bottom register.

The top register also contains four alternate forms of Chakrasamvara along with a number of unrelated but important meditational deities, Hevajra, Kalachakra, etc. The bottom register on the other hand contains many of the essential minor retinue deities belonging to the Chakrasamvara cycle of practice and mandala.

Deity Description: Chakrasamvara has four faces and twelve arms, blue in colour, and standing on two legs. He embraces with the first pair of arms the female consort Vajrayogini. She has one face and two hands, red in colour, and wraps both legs around the male figure.

Tibetan Text Translation from the similar Krishnacharin Tradition: "...Shri Cakrasamvara with a body blue in colour, four faces and twelve hands. The main face is blue, left face red, back face yellow and right face white. Each face has three eyes and four bared fangs. The first two hands hold a vajra and bell embracing the mother. The lower two hold an elephant skin out-stretched; third right a damaru, fourth an axe, fifth a trident, sixth a curved knife. The third left holds a katvanga marked with a vajra; fourth a vajra lasso, fifth a blood filled skullcup, sixth carries the four-faced head of Brahma. The right leg is straight and presses on the breast of red Kalaratri; left bent and pressing on the head of black Yama. The hair is tied in a topknot on the crown of the head; on the crest a wish-fulfilling jewel ornament and crescent moon. The soft spot at the top of the head is marked with a vishva-vajra. Each head has a crown of five dry human skulls; a necklace of fifty fresh heads and six bone ornaments; wearing a lower garment of tiger skin; possessed of the nine emotions of dancing; grace, fearlessness and ugliness; laughter, ferocity and frightfulness; compassion, fury and peacefulness. In the lap is the Mother Vajravarahi, with a body red in colour, one face, two hands and three eyes. The left holds a blood filled skullcup embracing the Father and the right a curved knife in a threatening gesture pointed in all directions. The hair is worn piled on the head; a crown of five dry human skulls and fifty dry as a necklace. The left leg is straight and right bent, embracing the Father. Both Father-Mother stand in the middle of a blazing fire of pristine awareness." (Jamyang Kyentse Wangpo).

Surrounding Figures: Immediately surrounding Chakrasamvara are four principal retinue figures called 'Dakinis' hovering against the red flame background pattern behind the central deity. Each figure has one face and four arms, a unique colour, standing with the right leg straight and the left leg bent. The Dakini at the upper right is red Khandaroha, below that green Lama. At the upper left side is yellow Rupini, below that is dark blue Dakini.

Eight Great Charnal Grounds: Outside of the flame circle and placed in a charnal ground setting, at the upper left, is Indra Khechari Vajrayogini popularized by King Indrabhuti. On the right side is Naro Khechari Vajrayogini popularized by the mahasiddha Naropa.

The charnal ground scene is populated by an assortment of characters including earth spirits, tree spirits, nagas, and demons, along with trees, stupas, fires, etc. "In the Chakrasamvara cycle of Tantra the Eight Great Charnal grounds are: east Gruesome, north Dense Wild Thicket, west Blazing with [the Sound] Ur Ur, south Terrifying, south-east Marvelous Forest, south-west Interminably Gloomy, north-west Resounding with the Sound Kili Kili, north-east Wildly Laughing." (These names are from a Chakrasamvara ritual text composed by Chogyal Pagpa).

"Furthermore, there are headless corpses, hanging corpses, lying corpses, stake-impaled corpses, heads, skeletons, jackals, crows, owls, vultures, and zombies making the sound, "phaim". There are also siddhas with clear understanding, yakshas, rakshas, preta, flesh eaters, lunatics, bhairavas, dakas, dakinis, ponds, fires, stupas, and sadhakas. All of these fill the charnal grounds." (Konchog Lhundrub).

Within the charnal grounds, beginning at the top of the composition and descending down the sides, are siddhas from belonging to the system of the Eighty-four mahadiddhas of Abhayadatta. On the left side are Luipa and Nagarjuna, etc. On the right side are Virupa and Naropa, etc.

Top Register: In the top register on the viewers far left is Maitri Yogini, Chakrasamvara (1), Chakrasamvara (2), Yogambara, Kalachakra and Manjuvajra Guhyasamaja. Continuing on the right side is Akshobhyavajra Guhyasamaja, Hevajra, Buddhakapala, Chakrasamvara (3), Dhutaguna Chakrasamvara, and Chinnamasta Yogini.

Bottom Register: In the bottom register beginning on the viewers left side is Vira Vajradharma, Sahaja Heruka Chakrasamvara, six male-female couples embracing, followed by the eight dakinis of the directions, with four in a two tone body colour.

Chakrasamvara Long Lineage: Vajradhara, Vajrapani, Maha Brahmin Saraha, Acharya Nagarjuna, The Protector Shavari, Luipa, Darikapa, Vajra Ghantapa, Kumarapada, Jalandharapa, Krishnacharya, Guhyapa, Nampar Gyalwai Shap, The Acharya Barmai Lobpon, Tilopa, Naropa, Pamtingpa Kuche Nyi, Lama Lokkya Sherab Tseg, Lama Mal Lotsawa, The Lord of Dharma Sakyapa (Sachen Kunga Nyingpo 1092-1158).

Jeff Watt 7-2009

Numbered List:
1. Chakrasamvara & Vajrayogini
2. Dakini
3. Rupini
4. Khandaroha
5. Lama
6. Vajrayogini (Indrabhuti)
7. Vajrayogini (Naropa)
8. Vajrayogini (Maitripa)
9. Chakrasamvara
10. Chakrasamvara
11. Yogambara
12. Kalachakra
13. Manjuvajra Guhyasamaja
14. Akshobhyavajra Guhyasamaja
15. Hevajra
16. Mahamaya
17. Chakrasamvara
18. Dhutaguna Chakrasamvara (Lawapa)
19. Chinnamasta Vajrayogini
20. Vira Vajradharma
21.
22.
23.
24.
25.
26.
27.
28.
29.
30.
31.
32.
33.
34.
35.
36. Shri Devi
37. Chaturbhuja Mahakala

Secondary Images
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Collection of Los Angeles County Museum of Art
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