Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Vajradhara Buddha

རྡོ་རྗེ་འཆང། སངས་རྒྱས། 金刚持
(item no. 90528)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1500 - 1599
Lineages Sakya and Buddhist
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Interpretation / Description

Vajradhara, the Primordial Buddha (Tibetan: dor je chang. English: the Vajra Holder) surrounded by the Five Symbolic Buddhas and consorts, the Eight Bodhisattvas, Ten Wrathful Deities and Offerings Goddesses. This composition belongs to a much larger set of paintings depicting the Margapala (Lamdre) Lineage of the Sakya Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

Sanskrit: Vajradhara Tibetan: Dor je chang

Peaceful in appearance, with one face, dark blue in colour, the two hands are crossed at the heart holding the stems of two lotus flowers, with ample foliage, blossoming at each shoulder supporting a gold upright vajra on the right side and a bell on the left. The head is adorned with a jewelled crown decorated with red ribbons. The black hair is tied up in a topknot on the crown of the head with some falling loose across the shoulders and down the back. Gold earrings, necklaces, bracelets and a girdle decorate the body. The shoulders are covered with an orange scarf and the lower body is wrapped in a skirt of red and blue. With the two legs folded in vajra posture he sits atop a white moon disc and multi-coloured lotus blossom above a lion supported jewelled throne; a chequered brocade hangs in front. Surrounded by a red nimbus and a green-orange areola the backrest of the throne is composed of the 'six ornament' design. On each side are elephants supporting a white snow lion, green horse with a small boy riding on the back, a pink makara (sea creature), a naga - with a snake lower torso and at the top a single white garuda bird with green wings - all stacked one above the other. The 'six ornaments' have many meanings such as the 'six perfections' and the like.

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

Along side the throne stand two attendant bodhisattvas, blue in colour, displaying a peaceful demeanour on the left, and wrathful on the right. They both wear ornaments and silk garments, standing atop a moon and lotus seat. At the top center is the buddha Vairochana, white in colour with the hands in the mudra (gesture) of Dharma teaching. At the sides are blue Akshobhya, red Amitabha, green Amoghasiddhi and yellow Ratnasambhava. The three remaining figures at each end of the top row belong to the set of 8 Bodhisattvas. The remaining 2 are seated at the ends of the row below along with the consorts of the Buddhas seated between.

Descending from the upper right and left are 2 sets of 3 wrathful deities each with one face and two hands holding a unique object in the upraised right and performing a wrathful gesture at the heart with the left. At the bottom left are 4 more wrathful deities in the same appearance with unique hand objects and body colour - the 10 Wrathful Deities. At the lower right and left and at the bottom right are the 7 Offering Goddesses each with a unique colour and hand object.

This set of figures represents the principal inner deities of Anuttarayoga Tantra of the Sarma Schools - Sakya, Kagyu and Ganden. These 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 tutelary deities as 'Guhyasamaja, Shri Hevajra and Chakrasamvara arise. According to the Nyingmapa School Vajradhara is an activity emanation of buddha Samantabhadra.

Jeff Watt 8-99

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Collection of Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art
Buddhist Deity: Vajradhara Main Page
Buddhist Deity: Vajradhara, Solitary
Buddhist Deity: Vajradhara (Lineage Sets)
Painting Set: Margapala [14]
Collection of Southern Alleghenies: Buddhas
Collection of Southern Alleghenies: Deity