Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Teacher (Lama) - Kunrig, Seton

བླ་མ། 喇嘛
(item no. 89471)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1500 - 1599
Lineages Sakya, Ngor (Sakya) and Buddhist
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Private
Painting School Ngor
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Lay Person

Gender: Male

TBRC: P406

Interpretation / Description

Seton Kunrig, also known as Sekar Chungwa (1029-1116 [TBRC P406]) of the Lamdre Lineage surrounded by the Path of Indrabhuti Lineage of sequential teachers. This composition belongs to a set of paintings numbering more than thirty in total.

The subject of the painting set are the Lamdre (Margapala) lineage teachers with a single teacher placed as the central figure in each composition. This painting is number nine in the sequence and the second of the Tibetan lineage holders. The lineage is as follows: Vajradhara, Nairatmya, Virupa, Kanhapa, Damarupa, Avadhutipa, Gayadhara, Drogmi Lotsawa (Tibet), Seton Kunrig (Tibet). The earlier teachers start with two deities followed by five Indian Buddhist teachers. The painting set continues, with each composition, representing the later teachers up to approximately the mid 16th century when the set was commissioned. The exact date of commission and the name of the donor and artists involved are currently not known and more research will be required.

The composition of the painting can be understood in several different ways. Simply put, there is a central large image surrounded by secondary smaller images. Secondly, there is a central large image that represents a lineage teacher in a larger set of paintings, followed in the same composition by a number of deity figures added for decoration and balance, followed by an upper and side register descending lineage of teachers unrelated to the central subject, followed by a series of deities in the bottom register.

Central Subject:
The main subject of the painting is the central large figure. Seton Kunrig appears relatively youthful with short cropped hair and a pleasant smile. He holds the two hands in a gesture of teaching at his heart in imitation of a Buddhist Dharma wheel (dharmachakra). Attired in heavy layered upper garments with long sleeves (indicating he is a layman rather than a monk), red, blue and orange, his lower torso is wrapped in a meditation cloak, red, with a yellow inner lining. Seated on a white moon disc and multi-coloured lotus seat above a lion supported throne, stylized pillars and an arch, his body is surrounded by a blue and green nimbus and the head by a green and blue aureole.

To the left and right sides of the aureole are two Buddha figures. At the left is Amitabha Buddha and on the right side is Amitayus Buddha. They have no special relationship to Seton Kunrig. These two figures are decorative and added to help fill and balance the composition. Just above these two figures and incorporated into the register structure are six more deities. At the upper left is Akshobhyavajra Guhyasamaja with an Amitayus Buddha to the side and below. At the upper right of Seton Kunrig is Lokesahvara Guhyasamaja with an Amitayus Buddha to the side and below.

Each composition in the painting set follows the same basic scheme of central figure and smaller secondary figures.

Composition Type:
Outside of the borders created by the throne, pillars and arch are registers of figures neatly and equally arranged from the top of the composition to the bottom of the composition along the four sides. This style of painting structure is called Register Composition. There are Four Compositional Styles in Himalayan art: Grouped Figure Composition, Register Figure Composition, Floating Figure Composition and Repeated Figure Composition. Register Composition was primarily influenced from Nepal and was the dominant style in Tibet from approximately the 12th/13th century until the 16th century.

Lineage Composition Type:
The figures in the top and two vertical side registers, also known as secondary figures, belong to another lineage of teachers (different from the central figure lineage) called the 'Path of Indrabhuti Lineage.' It is one of the core teachings of the Sakya Lamdre system originating with the Mahasiddha Virupa. The name Indrabhuti refers to the first of the three famous Indian Tantric kings who are each named Indrabhuti: the Elder, the Middling and the Younger.

There are four types of Lineage Composition in Himalayan style art: Linear, Alternating, Dual and Asymmetrical. This composition employs the Alternating Lineage with the beginning, first teacher, located in the center of the top register then alternating with the first teacher to the viewer's left and then the viewer's right and again to the left - alternating horizontally and then vertically descending down the left and right registers. This Alternating type of lineage is more commonly found with paintings after the 15th century up to the present day.

In this composition the lineage teachers depicted are: 1. Vajradhara, 2. Indrabhuti, 3. Cham Lakshmi, 4. Je Gayadhara, 5. Je Drogmi Shakya Yeshe, 6. Je Khar Chungpa Kunrig, 7. Je Shang Gonpawa Chobar, 8. Je Sakyapa Chenpo Kunga Nyingpo, 9. Lobpon Rinpoche Sonam Tsemo, 10. Jetsun Rinpoche Dragpa Gyaltsen, 11. Je Sakya Pandita Chenpo, 12. Chogyal Pagpa, 13. Shang Konchog Pel, 14. Dragpugpa, 15. Palden Lama Sonam Gyaltsen, 16. Palden Tsultrim, 17. Buddhashri, 18. Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo, 19. Kepa Kunlo, 20. Palchog Gyaltsen, 21. Namkha Palzang, 22. Sangye Puntsog. However, in this composition the Indian teachers in the lineage have been abbreviated with some omitted. Each of the teachers has an inscribed name written in Tibetan letters. Some names are abbreviated or only their titles used. The last of the sequential teachers should be dated to the mid to late 16th century. The other compositions in the painting set also have name inscriptions for each of the figures.

The traditional list of teachers in the Path of Indrabhuti Lineage are: "Vajradhara, Shri Mahadeva, Indrabhuti, Pal Tsangwi Shap, Dramze Drupai Dorje, Raja Indrabhuti Barpa, Acharya Godral Shap, Raja Jnana Bhuti, Sri Yobhuti, Padmavajra, Dombi Heruka, Yanlag Barmi Shap, Lhamo Pungwai Padma, Cham Lakshmi, Raja Indrabhuti Chungwa, Ratna Vajra, Khache Sherab Ge Ngawa, Je Gayadhara, Je Drogmi Shakya Yeshe, Je Khar Chungpa Kunrig, Je Shang Gonpawa Chobar, Je Sakyapa Chenpo Kunga Nyingpo, Lobpon Rinpoche Sonam Tsemo, Jetsun Rinpoche Dragpa Gyaltsen, Chokyi Je Sakya Pandita Chenpo, Lama Chokyi Gyalpo (1235-1280)." (Sakya Lineages).

Bottom Register:
The bottom register contains a row of deities that are organized some what sequentially according to the text known as the Bari Gyatsa by Rinchen Drag the Translator from Bari (1040-1112 [P3731]). Starting from the left and moving to the right the deities are: Khasarpani, Vasudhara, Kurukulla [Hevajra Tantra], Kalpoktam Kurukulla, Ekajati, Vighnantaka, Janguli, Kurukulla, Trailokyavashamkara Lokeshvara and Mahachinakrama Tara. The numbers and descriptions below follow the order in the Bari Gyatsa text.

[20] Avalokiteshvara Khasarpani, with a body white in colour, one face and two hands, the right in supreme generosity [and] the left holding a lotus. With the hair adorned as a crown, the same ornaments and garments. Seated in the half [vajra] posture.

[37] Vasudhara, with one face and two hands. The right [hand] in the gesture of supreme generosity and the left holds tufts of rice and a vase, showering down various jewels. Having jewel ornaments and garments of silk. Seated in the vajrasana [posture].

[51] Kurukulla, [with] a body white/red in colour, [having] one face and four hands. The first two [hands] hold an utpala bow and arrow, drawn near to the ear. The lower right is in the gesture of bestowing fearlessness. The lower left holds a hook. Adorned with jewel ornaments and wearing upper and lower garments of red silk. Seated in the vajrasana [posture].

[52] Kalpoktam Kurukulla with a body red in colour, one face and four hands. The first two hold a drawn bow and arrow, the lower right, the gesture of fearlessness, the lower left, a red utpala [flower]. Wearing jewel ornaments and garments of red silk. Issuing forth red rays of light. Standing in the cave of Kurukulla, in a half asana posture with the left leg extended.

[49] Ekajati, [with] a body black in colour, one face and four hands. The first two [hands] hold a curved knife and skullcup. The lower right a sword. The lower left an utpala. [With] three eyes and bared fangs. Brown hair bristling upwards. Swelling breasts and the belly hanging down. Having a lower garment of tiger skin. Adorned with a skull and flower garland and ornaments of blue snakes and small bells, etc. Seated in a manner with the left [leg] extended.

[48] Vighnantaka, [with] a body blue in colour, one face and two hands. The right [hand] holds aloft a vajra. The left, a wrathful [gesture held to] the heart, together with a lasso. Having bared fangs and three eyes. [With] brown hair bristling upwards. Adorned with jewels and snakes and having a lower garment of tiger skin. Standing in a manner with the left leg extended.

[50] Arya Janguli, yellow, with three faces. Having a hood of seven snake heads. [Each face] possessing three eyes and the faces [both] smiling and fierce. The six right hands hold, a vajra, sword and an arrow in a dancing manner. The left, a wrathful [gesture] together with a lasso, a blue poisonous flower and a bow. Adorned with flowers and snakes. Standing in a dancing manner.

[53] Kurukulla: the Goddess Kurukulla Arisen from Tara. [Taken] from the other [meditations] above. The first two hands [hold] an utpala bow and arrow. The lower right [the gesture of] supreme generosity. [The lower left an utpala.]

[55] Above two sheep lassoed together, is a lotus and sun. ...Trailokyavashamkara Lokeshvara with a body red in colour, one face and two hands. The right [hand] holds a lasso marked with vajras [and] the left a hook. Wearing the hair as a crown [and] adorned with various ornaments. .... Seated in the vajrasana [posture].

[57] Mahachinnakrama Tara, black, [with] one face and four hands. The first two [hands] hold a curved knife and skullcup. The lower right a sword and the lower left an utpala. [With] three eyes and bared fangs, brown hair bristling upwards, swelling breasts and a belly hanging down. Having a lower garment of tiger skin and adorned with skulls and snakes. Standing on a corpse seat in a manner with the left leg extended.

Seated above the blue coloured Tara are Vajrapani in peaceful appearance, also blue in colour, holding a vajra scepter in the raised right hand. Above him is a seated figure of Orange Manjushri hlding the stems of two utpala flowers blossoming at the right and left shoulders supporting a sword and Prajnaparamita folio text.

Front Inscriptions:
As mentioned above, each figure in the composition has a name inscription. Also, along the bottom front of the painting against the red border there is a lengthy inscription that has several parts. The first is a four line praise of Seton Kunrig which reads;

"Attending the teacher with devotion,
Holding all of the tantras and instructions,
Possessing great power and strength;
To the revered Seton Kunrig, I bow!".

The second part of the inscription is composed of two lines of auspicious wishes which read as follows: 'From this time forth in all my lives and properly attending upon a holy spiritual teacher may I place all living beings in the state of liberation.'

Below the lengthy inscription there is a short line which gives the name of the secondary lineage in the composition, i.e. 'Path of Indrabhuti Lineage.'

The inscription in Tibetan reads as follows: གུས་པས་བླ་མ་ཉེར་བསྟེན་ནས། རྒྱུད་དང་མན་ངག་ཀུན་འཛིན་ཅིང་། ཐུ་སྟོབས་ཆེན་པོ་དང་ལྡན་པ། རྗེ་བཙུན་ཀུན་རིག་ལ་ཕྱག་འཚལ། དུས་ད་ནས་ཟུང་སྟེ་སྐྱེ་བ་ཐམས་ཅད་དུ་བཤེས་གཉེན་དམ་པ་ཚུལ་བཞིན་དུ་བསྟེན་ ནས། སེམས་ཅན་ཐམས་ཅད་སྨིན་གྲོལ་ལ་འགོད་པ་འགྱུར་ཅིག ། མངྒ་ལམ། ཨིནྟྲ་བྷཱུ་ཏིའི་ལམ་གྱི་བླ་མ་བརྒྱུད་པ་ལ་ན་མོ།

Back Inscriptions:
The reverse of the painting has a number of inscriptions.

Om sarva vidya svaha.
Om sarva vidya svaha.
Om vajra ayushe svaha, Om supra tishtha vajraye svaha.

[Patience Verse:] "Patience for hardships is noble patience, [Leading to] supreme liberation, the Buddha has said. With respect to others, Monks should do no harm or cause distress."

“Commit not a single wrong,
Perform wholesome virtue,
To tame one's mind completely.”
This is the teaching of the Buddha.

"Having the perfect vow of body,
Having the perfect vow of speech,
Having the perfect vow of mind,
Having perfectly all the vows,
Bhikshus who protect all [the vows] -
Will be liberated from all suffering."

Om supra tishtha vajraye svaha,
[Ye Dharma Formula:] ye dharma hetu prabhava hetum tesham tathagato hyavadat tesham cha yo nirodha evam vadi maha shramana svaha. Om supra tishtha vajraye svaha.

Om shri mahakala hum phat. Om shri mahakala hum hum phat phat svaha. Om roru roru bitashta batosi kamala rakshasi hum bhyoh hum. Om mahakala kala bikala ratrita hum phat svaha. Om vaishravanaye svaha. Om jambhala jalendraye svaha. Om jambhala jalendraye svaha. Om vasudhariniye svaha.

Iconographic Elements of the Painting: Size, Descending Order & Hierarchy:
- Seton Kunrig above a throne
- Top & Side Registers: Indrabhuti Path Lineage
- Lineage Configuration: Alternating
- Secondary Deities: Akshobhyavajra & Lokeshvara Guhyasamaja
- Tertiary Deities: Amitayus & Amitabha
- Bottom Register: Deities of the Bari Gyatsa
- Donor Figure: none identified

Artistic Elements of the Composition:
- Subject: Figurative
- Composition Type: Register Composition
- Painting Style: Nepalese, Ngor Monastery
- Region: Central Tibet, Tsang Province
- Date: circa 1600
- Front Inscriptions: name inscriptions, long inscription at bottom
- Back Inscriptions: stupa shaped blessing inscription, om ah hum for each figure
- Artist: unknown at this time

Lineage Teachers:
1. Vajradhara
2. Indrabhuti
3. Cham Lakshmi
4. Je Gayadhara
5. Je Drogmi Shakya Yeshe
6. Je Khar Chungpa Kunrig
7. Je Shang Gonpawa Chobar
8. Je Sakyapa Chenpo Kunga Nyingpo
9. Lobpon Rinpoche Sonam Tsemo
10. Jetsun Rinpoche Dragpa Gyaltsen
11. Je Sakya Pandita Chenpo
12. Chogyal Pagpa
13. Shang Konchog Pel
14. Dragpugpa
15. Palden Lama Sonam Gyaltsen
16. Palden Tsultrim
17. Buddhashri,
18. Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo (1382-1456 [Ngor 1])
19. Kepa Kunlo
20. Palchog Gyaltsen
21. Namkha Palzang (1532-1602 [Ngor 13])
22. Sangye Puntsog

Secondary Deities:
1a. Akshobhyavajra Guhyasamaja
2a. Lokeshvara Guhyasamaja
3a. Amitayus Buddha
4a. Amitayus Buddha
5a. Amitayus Buddha
6a. Amitayus Buddha
7a. Amitabha Buddha
8a. Amitayus Buddha

Bottom Register Deities:
1b. Manjushri
2b. Khasarpani Lokeshvara
3b. Vajrapani
4b. Vasudhara
5b. Kurukulla [Hevajra Tantra]
6b. Kalpoktam Kurukulla
7b. Ekajati
8b. Vighnantaka
9b. Janguli
10b. Kurukulla
11b. Trailokyavashamkara Lokeshvara
12b. Mahachinakrama Tara

Jeff Watt 8-2016

Nor, Peintures du Monasterie de Nor (list of image plates)

Front of Painting
English Translation of Inscription: Homage to the lineage teachers of the Path of Indrabhuti.

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Collection: Bonhams on HAR (Painting & Sculpture. Hong Kong Fall 2016)
Tradition: Sakya Teachers
Subject: Margapala/Lamdre Lineage [1] (Ngor set)
Teacher: Seton Kunrig (Lamdre Lineage)
Subject: Ngor Tradition (Teachers)
Subject: Lay Figure Appearance