Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Avalokiteshvara (Bodhisattva & Buddhist Deity) - Chaturbhuja (4 hands)

སྤྱན་རས་གཟིགས། 观音菩萨
(item no. 86433)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1500 - 1599
Lineages Sakya and Buddhist
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Gold Background on Cotton
Collection The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Notes about the Central Figure

Alternate Names: Lokeshvara Avalokita Lokanata Lokanatha Mahakarunika

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Peaceful

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Avalokiteshvara, Chaturbhuja (Tibetan: chen re zi, chag shi pa. English: the All Seeing Lord with 4 Hands). This painting is a rare composition depicting the teaching lineage tradition of the Tsembupa Martri of the Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism. The Martri is a teaching focussed on the special Tantric methods of practice associated with Avalokiteshvara, in whatever manifestation a practitioner is comfortable with. The teaching is named after the first Tibetan teacher, Tsembupa, that received the instructions directly from Vajrayogini in a vision.

There are two other paintings identified as belonging to the same set as this Avalokiteshvara. Formerly of the Jucker collection and now in the Rubin Museum of Art collection (RMA) is the painting of Sakya Tridzin Jambai Dorje. Again, from the former Halpert collection and now in the RMA collection is the painting of Hevajra. Each of these paintings have a gold background and similarity in brush stroke and line. Their size is identical and the inscriptions on the back of the Jambai Dorje and Hevajra paintings are identical. The back of the Avalokiteshvara is yet to be revealed.

The central figure is Avalokiteshvara with four hands. At his right is the male attendant Manidharin and at the left, the female, Shadakshari. Both are similar to the Lord in colour, ornaments and appearance. Sometimes they are referred to as the son and daughter of Avalokiteshvara.

"As the nature of all buddhas, Avalokiteshvara, in colour like stainless conch and crystal, very resplendent, smiling, peaceful and radiant. With four hands the first are folded at the heart, the lower hold a crystal mala and jewelled lotus, two beautiful feet seated in vajra posture, adorned with many attractive silks and jewels, beautified with dark blue hair in tufts [some] loose. On the crown of the head, the wisdom of all buddhas, is the Lord, source of all refuge gathered as one, in essence the Guru in the aspect of Amitabha, in the manner of the Lord of the Family, seated happily." (Ngorchen Konchog Lhundrub 1497-1557).

Avalokiteshvara is the patron bodhisattva of Tibet and is included in all Buddhist traditions. There are numerous New (Sarma) lineages and varying forms of practice that span all four tantric classifications as well as uncounted old oral traditions (Kama) and Treasure (Terma) traditions from the Nyingmapa School.

There are many different sacred Buddhist traditions that depict the various forms of Avalokiteshvara. Most of these traditions only have an initiation ritual and at best a very short daily ritual practice. Preserved in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition there are seven principal traditions that contain extensive teachings on the practice of Avalokiteshvara. The first of these is the [1] King's Tradition (gyal lug) of Tri Songtsen Gampo, [2] Bhikshuni Shri Tradition (gelongma palmo lug) of the Kashmiri nun, Gelongma Palmo [top right corner], [3] Kyergangpa Tradition (gyergang lug) of the Shangpa Kagyu School, [4] Tsembupa Tradition (tsembupa lug) of the Sakyas, [5] Dagyal Tradition (dagyal lug) of the Nyingma Treasure (terma) tradition, [6] Maitri Yogin and [7] the Karma Chagme Tradition (karma chagme lug) joining the philosophical systems of mahamudra and dzogchen with compassion.

Jeff Watt 2-2007

Tsembupa Martri Tibetan Text Authors:

Ngulchu Togme Zangpo
Tsarchen Losal Gyatso
Shamar 5th, Konchog Yanlag
Lochen Ratnabhadra
Jonang Kunga Drolchog
Lochen Gyurme Dechen
Jonang Taranata
Sanggye Puntsog
Zhuchen Tsultrim Rinchen
Ngulchu Dharmabhadra
Changkya Rolpai Dorje
Reting Tri Trul
Jamyang Kyentse Wangpo
Khenchen Ngagwang Lodro Rinchen

Blue Annals Contents | Blue Annals Outline

Extracted from the Blue Annals (pages 666-667) of Go Lotsawa Zhonnu Pal (1392-1481) using the digitized text of THDL.

14.8 The Tsembu Instruction (dmar khrid tshem bu lugs kyi skabs). {Chandra 925; Chengdu 1213; Roerich 1043}. The doctrine known as the Clear Exposition of the Siddha tshem bu pa (grub thob tshem bu pa dmar khrid) also belongs to the Cycle of the Great Merciful One (Mahākaruṇika). Nairātmā bestowed it on the siddha gnyan tshembu pa named dar ma 'od zer. He was born at Shad sgo dar. He did not accept the monastery of ston mo lung, and others which were offered to him by rngog btsun dkar mo, practised meditation only on the mountain of g.yas ru, and attained spiritual realization.

He had six disciples to whom he imparted precepts. He bestowed them on a kalyanānamitra of 'bring mtshams lchim lung and on the scholar of the yul la monastery. These two also attained spiritual realization, and later sent on three occasions offerings to him.

He also {R1044} bestowed (precepts) on his younger brother spyil po dbang phyug grags and on his attendant che brag pa, as well as on rnog btsun dkar mo. These also attained spiritual realization with the help of this doctrine. spyi bo lhas pa byang chub 'od studied many suutras and Śastras, but he did not know how to practise them combined. He therefore went to lha sa to pray to the Lord (jo bo), and there he met gnyan tshem bu pa, and understood him to be a siddha. He made his request to him, and the Teacher understood him to be a suitable vessel (snyod ldan) and bestowed on him the phyi theg pa lam rim spungs kyi don khrid and the nang gsang sngag skyi dmar khrid.

He practised according to them, and attained spiritual realization. He imparted them to byang chub tshul khrims, the upādhyāya of stag bde brag dmar. The latter bestowed them on the Bodhisattva lha btsun pa, the upādhyāya of phyi 'brum dgon gsar. The latter on zhang kun spangs pa. It became one of the great guide books of the jonangpas. This (Doctrine) spread in all directions, and great was the benefit. Some of the methods of exposition appear to agree with those of Mahamudra. In other texts it was described as agreeing with the pratyahara (restraining the organs, sor sdus) of the Saddaṅga yoga.

Also there existed a Lineage of the dmarkhrid (detailed exposition) of the Cycle of the Great Merciful One (Mahākaruṇika). The nun Lakssmi (dge slong ma dpalmo) imparted it to dpal gyi bzan po (Śrībhadra). The latter on rinchen bzang po (Ratnabhadra), who imparted it to Atiśa. The latter bestowed it on yol chos dban. The latter on Rog ston. The latter on rtse ston lo sras. The latter on zhang ston chos dbang. The latter on phra ston zhig po. The latter on rnal 'byor skyabs se. The latter on rin po he ne mig pa. The latter on the upādhyāya rin byung. The latter on the upādhyāya sangs gzhon. The latter on the bla ma kun brsod pa. The latter transmitted it to mkhas grub chos dpal, father and son.

The Chapter on the dmar khrid (detailed {(17b)} exposition) of the method (lugs) of tshem bu pa. The Chapter on the Cycle of the Great Merciful One (Mahākaruṇika).

Numbered Schematic:
1. Chaturbhuja Avalokiteshvara
2. Manidharin
3. Shadakshari
4. Manjushri
5. Vajrapani
6. Vajradhara
7. Vajrayogini
8. Akshobhya
9. Amitayus
10. Amitabha
11. Maha Vairochana
12. Amitabha
13. Medicine Buddha
14. Avalokiteshvara (Standing)
15. Simhanada
16. Khasarpani
17. Chitta Vishramana
18. White Jambhala
19. Vaishravana Riding a Lion
20. Yellow Vasudhara
21. Yellow Jambhala

Lineage Teachers:
1. Vajradhara
2. Vajrayogini
3. Tsembupa
4. Jangchub Od
5. Jangchub Tsultrim
6. Sonam Nyingpo
7. Tugje Tsondru
8. Gyalwa Yeshe
9. Zhonnu Sengge
10. Sonam Gyaltsen Pal
11. Tegchen Choje
12. Palden Legpa
13. Dagchen Dorje Chang
14. Doringpa
15. Tsarchen Losal Gyatso

Avalokiteshvara Forms:
1. Chaturbhuja (Four Arms)
2. (Standing)
3. Simhanada (Lion's Roar)
4. Khasarpani Lotus Holder
5. Chitta Vishramana (Resting the Mind)
6. White Jambhala (an emanation of Avalokiteshvara)

Figures number one to four are forms of Avalokiteshvara himself. Figure number 6 is White Jambhala Riding a Dragon, an emanation of Avalokiteshvara. White Jambhala functions as a Wealth Deity.

Coloured Groupings:

Yellow: Three Lord of the World
1. Avalokiteshvara
2. Manjushri
3. Vajrapani

Green: Avalokiteshvara, Son & Daughter
1. Avalokiteshvara (yellow coloured section)
2. Manidharin
3. Shadakshari
Bottom: Offerings

Blue (top & bottom): Deities

Red (top): Lineage Teachers

Red (bottom): Wealth Deities - White Jambhala, Vaishravana Riding a Lion, Yellow Vasudhara & Yellow Jambhala.

Front of Painting
English Translation of Inscription: [Name inscriptions for each of the lineage teachers].

Reverse of Painting
English Translation of Inscription: [Currently there is no information about the back of the painting].

Secondary Images
Related Items
Buddhist Deity: Avalokiteshvara ('Mar Tri ' Description & Bibliography)

Thematic Sets
Buddhist Deity: Avalokiteshvara, Four Hands (Painting Masterworks)
Buddhist Deity: Avalokiteshvara, Chaturbhuja (Three Deity)
Painting Tradition: Menri
Painting Traditions Page
Buddhist Deity: Avalokiteshvara, Chaturbhuja Iconography
Buddhist Deity: Avalokiteshvara Religious Context
Buddhist Deity: Avalokiteshvara Masterworks (Painting)
Painting Type: Gold Ground
Buddhist Deity: Avalokiteshvara Main Page
Painting Set: Sakya Gold Ground (Series)
Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Painting)
Buddhist Deity: Avalokiteshvara, Four Hands (Masterworks)
Painting Type: Gold Ground Masterworks
Buddhist Deity: Avalokiteshvara, Chaturbhuja - Four Hands - Main Page
Buddhist Deity: Avalokiteshvara Lineage Paintings