Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Refuge Field (Buddhist) - Sakya Lineage

སྐྱབས་འགྲོའི་ཞིང་ངམ་ཚོགས་ཞིང་། 皈依境(佛教)
(item no. 89994)
Date Range 1960 -
Lineages Sakya and Buddhist
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Private
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Object/Concept

Interpretation / Description

Margapala Field for the Accumulation of Merit (Refuge Field) depicting the Hevajra lineage descending from the mahasiddha Virupa and the Sakya, Tsarpa and Ngorpa traditions according to the calculated lineage of the 20th century and Sakya Tridzin Ngagwang Kunga (b.1945).

There are two sets of three key points to understanding the symbolism of the painting. The two sets belong to the larger and very important subject of Number Sets within Buddhism in general and specifically within Tantric Buddhist iconography. The first set is the Three Jewels: the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The second set is the Three Roots: the Guru, Ishtadevata (mandala deva/i) and Dharmapala.

Three Jewels:
Buddham sharanam gacchami.
Dharmam sharanam gacchami.
Sangham sharanam gacchami.

The Three Jewels are represented by the circle of Buddhas at the viewer's left side. The Dharma is represented by the appearance of physical books in a square chequered pattern in the upper composition seen as if behind the peak of the tree, stacked, with a tiled roof above. The Sangha is represented by the circle at the viewer's right side depicting the realized and common members of the community.

Three Roots:
Guruam sharanam gacchami.
Mandala deva sharanam gacchami.
Dharmapala sharanam gacchami.

The Three Roots are represented by Vajradhara Buddha as the Guru. He is at the center of the composition, blue in colour, peaceful in appearance, surrounded by the teachers of the Margapala lineage. The Ishtadevata, meditational deity, is represented principally by Hevajra and the Eight Goddesses. Five additional meditational deities are present. The Dharmapala, protectors of the Dharma, are represented principally by Panjarnata Mahakala visually grouped with the Ishtadevata. Below that are a row of Beyond Worldly (jnana) and Worldly (loka) protector deities.

This is more specifically a Margapala (Lamdre) Refuge Field of the Sakya Tradition. The lineage of teachers is specific to the Sakya Lamdre. There do appear to be a few extra figures at the top above Sachen Kunga Nyingpo. It is possible that these teachers represent other important masters such as Mal Lotsawa of Bari Lotsawa Rinchen Drag.

Top center & below: Vajradhara, Nairatmya, Virupa Viewer's left side: Kanha, Avadhutipa, Shangton Chobar, etc. Viewer's right side: Damarupa, Gayadhara, Mal Lotsawa or Bari Lotsawa (?). The following teachers descending at the right and left sides represent the lineage of the Disciples (lopshe) as received by the 20th century Sakya Tridzin Ngagwang Kunga.

The central meditational figure represented is Hevajra along with the eight accompanying goddesses. To the left is Kurukulla of the Hevajra Tantra. On the right is Vajrayogini of the mahasiddha Naropa tradition. Below Hevajra is Bhutadamara Vajrapani and Panjaranata Mahakala - both belonging to the Hevajra cycle of tantras. To the left and right sides are Vajrabhairava and Vajrakila. The Vajrabhairava appears to depicted in a Gelug iconographic appearance rather than the typical iconographic norm of the Sakya and Ngorpa traditions.

At the left side are Shakyamuni Buddha along with the Seven Buddhas. Slightly below those are Dipamkara and Maitreya Buddhas. On the right side, representing the realized and common Sangha, community of followers, is Manjushri at the center surrounded by the group of Eight Great Bodhisattvas. Below those are Ananda, Shariputra and Maudgalyayana, the principal students of Shakyamuni Buddha.

As if circling the base of the wish-fulfilling tree, supported by green and blue billowing clouds are (beginning on the left side): Maharakta Ganapati, Takkiraja, Kala Rakshasa. Kala Rakshasi, Shri Shmashana Adhipati, Shri Devi Magzor Gyalmo, Brahmanarupa Mahakala, Putra, Batra, Singmo, Ekajati, Shri Devi Dudsolma, 'Outer' Yama Dharmaraja, Gauri, Marajit, Vaishravana Riding a Lion, and Red Jambhala (of the Gayadhara and Traba Ngonshe tradition).

Jeff Watt 10-2021

Related Items
Thematic Sets
Tradition: Sakya Iconography
Subject: Refuge Field Main Page
Subject: Margapala (Lineage All in One)
Subject: Refuge Field, Sakya (Field of Accumulation) Page
Buddhist Deity: Vajradhara (Accumulation)