Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Teacher (Lama) - Sonam Tsemo

བླ་མ། 喇嘛
(item no. 87230)
Origin Location Central Tibet
Date Range 1400 - 1499
Lineages Sakya
Size 83.20x76.80cm (32.76x30.24in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Catalogue # acc.# 67.831, Gift of John Goelet
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Lay Person

Gender: Male

TBRC: bdr:P1618

Interpretation / Description

Sonam Tsemo (1142-1182) and Dragpa Gyaltsen (1147-1216): two brothers that were early patriarchs of the Sakya School. This painting belongs to a larger set of paintings depicting the lineage of teachers for the Path together with the Result (S. margapala) teachings of mahasiddha Virupa.

The set of paintings was commissioned between 1419 and 1430 by Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo as part of the funerary services for his teacher Buddhashri who passed away in 1419.

Above the two central figures are three forms of the meditational deity Chakrasamvara. At the left is the deity according to the lineage of Krishnacharya. Note that the consort Vajrayogini has one leg planted on the ground and the other wrapped about the waist of the partner. In the center is the principal form according to the Maha-sambarodaya-tantra. At the right is the deity according to the tradition of Luipa. Note that the consort Vajrayogini has both legs wrapped about the waist of the partner.

Along the top arranged in an orderly register are the lineage teachers for the Chakrasamvara system of initiation and instruction: 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).

At the bottom right corner is the dark coloured and wrathful religious protector deity Panjarnata Mahakala the special protector of the Sakya Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

Each figure is accompanied with a name inscription. At the bottom center is a donor dedication. At both sides beneath the two central figures are four-line verses dedicated to Sonam Tsemo and Dragpa Gyaltsen composed by their great-great nephew Chogyal Pagpa (1235-1280).

"Accomplished from limitless merit,
Greatly increasing omniscient wisdom,
Becoming the supreme kinsman of beings;
To Sonam Tsemo I bow.

Seeing the reality of all dharmas,
Reaching the other side of the ocean of Secret Mantra,
Lord of all Vajra Holders;
To Dragpa Gyaltsen I bow." (Chogyal Pagpa).

(See Virupa and Kanha from the same set: Private Collection).

Jeff Watt 4-2001 [updated December 2005]

Secondary Images
Related Items
Definition: Himalayan 'Style' Art

Thematic Sets
Subject: Margapala Sets (Two Figures)
Subject: Ngor Masterworks
Subject: Lineage Composition (Greyscale)
Painting Sets: Teaching Lineages
Subject: Margapala Lineage Masterworks
Teacher: Sakya (Masterworks)
Teacher: Dragpa Gyaltsen (Masterworks)
Collection of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Masterworks)
Teacher: Khon (Masterworks)
Collection of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Teacher: Dragpa Gyaltsen Page
Subject: Margapala Lineage Paintings (Sakya)
Tradition: Sakya Art History
Tradition: Sakya Teachers
Tradition: Sakya Founders
Subject: Lay Figure Appearance
Teacher: Sonam Tsemo Masterworks
Video: Art History (YouTube)
Teacher: Sonam Tsemo Page
Painting Set: Margapala [2] (Ngorchen)