Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Vajradhara Buddha

རྡོ་རྗེ་འཆང། སངས་རྒྱས། 金刚持
(item no. 89)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1400 - 1499
Lineages Uncertain
Size 86.36x68.58cm (34x27in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Raised Gold on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# c2003.50.1
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Interpretation / Description

Vajradhara, Buddha (Tibetan: dor je chang, sang gye. English: the Vajra Holder, Enlightened One). The primordial buddha, personification of the dharmakaya - truth body of enlightenment and progenitor of the Vajrayana system of Buddhism together with the Eighty-four Mahasiddhas.

Sanskrit: Vajradhara Tibetan: Dor je chang

Peaceful in appearance, blue in colour (painted with gold as a special offering)), with an attractive face, he holds the two hands folded across the heart in the mudra of non-duality. The right hand holds a vajra sceptre and the left a vajra-handled bell. Beautifully adorned with a five-pointed crown of gold, each point is emblazoned with a buddha of the five families. With gold jewels, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, anklets and a girdle, he wears an upper garment of dark blue. The lower body is attired in a green skirt trimmed with blue and red. Seated in vajra posture with the legs interlocked atop a moon disc and multi-coloured lotus and blue snow lion supported throne he is surrounded by a green and gold nimbus and red areola - both adorned with rings of precious jewels. The backrest displays the design of the 'six ornaments.' On each side at the bottom left and right are grey elephants supporting a small boy, a blue-hose like antelope again with a small child riding on the back, a makara (sea creature) and at the top a single garuda bird biting down on the stretched length of a snake.

"Master of all-pervasive pristine awareness, unmoving great bliss of dharmata, unsurpassed treasure of wishing jewels; homage to the great Vajradhara." (Nyingma liturgical verse).

At the sides of the throne stand two bodhisattva figures. On the right side of Vajradhara is Maitreya with the attributes of a water flask and a whee. On the left is Manjushri with the attributes of a sword and book. Both are peaceful in appearance and fully adorned with ornaments and silks, they hold the hands at the heart in the gesture of Dharma Teaching, each standing atop a red lotus blossom. Above those, on the left is the meditational deity Chakrasamvara, blue in colour (gold painted), embracing the consort Vajrayogini. Above that is a seated Samantabhadra like buddha figure embracing a consort and another single smaller Amitayus Buddha to the right. At the right side is the meditational deity Secret Accomplishment Hayagriva. Above that is the female deity Sitatapatra with one face and two hands holding a parasol upraised. Seated next to her is the deity Vajravidarana with a wrathful expression and holding a vajra and bell. A single buddha sits to the left.

Below the bodhisattvas and alongside the throne seat are four more smaller Amitayus Buddha figures each with ornaments and silks, the hands placed in the mudra of meditation. Directly in front of the throne is the wrathful protector Chaturbhuja Mahakala, black in colour (painted with gold) with one face and four hands, seated in a relaxed posture on a pink lotus seat and surrounded by red flames.

Completely surrounding the central figure and arranged in rows from the top to the bottom are ninety-one figures mostly comprised of famous mahasiddhas of India. Each is attired in characteristic garb and holds, or performs, unique objects and hand gestures. At the top left is the Acharya Nagarjuna, five down on the left with the hand raised in the air is Virupa. At the top center is Dombi Heruka riding a tiger and fourth from the top right is Kukkuripa embracing a dog. At the middle right is a Guru Rinpoche like figure wearing a red hat and directly above that is Saraha holding an arrow.

The Sarma schools hold Vajradhara as the secret form of Shakyamuni Buddha and the combined essence of all buddhas of the ten directions and three periods of time gathered as one. It is from Vajradhara that such meditational deities as Guhyasamaja, Shri Hevajra and Chakrasamvara arise. According to the Nyingmapa School Vajradhara is an activity emanation of buddha Samantabhadra.

On the back of the painting is a drawing of a stupa filled with verses of blessing written in red ink. Surrounding that are the three letters om, ah, hum representing the purified body, speech, and mind of all of the figures portrayed.

Jeff Watt 8-99 rev.: 8-2007

Reverse of Painting
Special Features: (Cursive script (Umay), Printed script (Uchen), is black, is red, is stupa-shaped, includes "Om Ah Hum" inscription)

Secondary Images
Related Items
Publications
Publication: Selection of Works - Painting (RMA)

Thematic Sets
Subject: Vajrasana Mahasiddha System
Subject: Vajrayana Buddhism Main Page
Buddhist Deity: Vajradhara Main Page
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Main Page (Gallery 1)
Buddhist Deity: Vajradhara & Eighty-four Mahasiddhas
Buddhist Deity: Vajradhara, Solitary
Padmasambhava: Early Images (Primary & Secondary)
Buddhist Deity: Vajradhara & the Eighty-four Mahasiddhas (Single Composition)