Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Padmasambhava - Guru Dragpo (meditational form)

པད་མ་འབྱུང་གནས། 莲花生大士
(item no. 88608)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Nyingma and Buddhist
Size 52.71x38.74cm (20.75x15.25in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University
Catalogue # Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University, Accession #2003.5, Anonymous gift
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Wrathful

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Karma Guru (English: the Activity Teacher. Tibetan: Byang bDag Karma Gu Ru'i gTer rTsag): a form of Guru Dragpo, wrathful Padmasambhava, surrounded by eight retinue deities and likely to be from the terma tradition of Karma Lingpa, 14th century.

Bright red in colour, fearsome and wrathful in appearance, he has nine faces, eighteen hands and eight legs. Each face has three round bulbous eyes, a gaping mouth with bared fangs and yellow hair flowing upwards like flame. On the crown of the head of the upper face is a small Garuda head, red in colour, with two blue pointed horns, the tips adorned with a sun and moon disc facing outward. Between the horns is a blue jewel - a prize stolen from the treasury of the serpent (naga) race. Held in each of the nine outstretched right hands are gold vajra scepters and in each of the left blue-black scorpions. Unfurled from the back are large dark blue wings, saber tipped, and stretching to the sky.

Adorned with crowns of five dry skulls, earrings, necklaces, bracelets and a garland of freshly severed heads, he has a snow lion skin draped across the shoulders and a tiger skin wrapped about the waist. Standing in a fierce posture with the four right legs bent and left straight treading upon a pair of human figures atop a sun disc and multi-coloured lotus blossom seat he stands completely surrounded by the brightly burning orange flames of pristine awareness fire. Encircling the main deity at the sides and below are eight retinue figures - four wrathful males and four semi-peaceful females. At the upper left and right and likewise the bottom left and right are the four males, yellow, red, blue and green, each with one face and two hands, unfurled wings, wrathful vestments, standing atop sun discs, surrounded by the flames of wisdom fire.

The four female figures at the lower sides and bottom center are red, green, yellow and blue, each with one face and two hands, standing in dancing postures atop moon discs. The four different colours represent four of the Celestial Buddha Families and the four principal Tantric activities of peaceful, increasing, powerful and wrathful.

At the top center is the Buddha Amitayus, red in colour with one face and two hands holding a long-life vase while loosely embracing the consort, white of colour. Both are adorned with sambhogakaya vestments. At the sides are four Nyingma teachers. On the left are two laymen having the appearance of 'tertons' treasure-finders wearing lotus hats, multi-coloured garments and resting on cushion seats. On the right are two teachers wearing the maroon coloured robes of the monastic order, pandita hats and resting on cushion seats. (Seated on a cushion rather than a lotus flower is often an indication that the lama is alive at the time of the commissioning of a painting).

[KARMA GURU : #94 (094 CD 04) Byang bDag Karma Gu Ru'i gTer rTsag].

Jeff Watt. April 12th, 2001. Uploaded to the HAR site 11-2007.

Related Items
Thematic Sets
Buddhist Deity: Mahottara Heruka (Nine Faces)
Buddhist Deity: Karma Guru (Padmasambhava)
Padmasambhava: Guru Dragpo Main Page
Collection of Stanford University Museum
Padmasambhava: Guru Dragpo Religious Context