Entries for month: January 2010

How to Read a Painting #2

January 25, 2010 ·

View another example of How to Read a Painting #2.


How to Read a Painting

January 24, 2010 ·

Himalayan Art is a new area of study and in this study there are new tools and new ways to observe, approach and analyze the objects and works of art.

There are three important fields of study that have to be brought together equally: (1) Art History, (2) Iconography and (3) Religious Studies.

Because of the religious nature of the art and because of the living tradition - that the objects are very much a part of - there are three important points to observe when studying a Himalayan and Tibetan art object: (1) the Form - the physical object, (2) Function - the intention or purpose of creation and (3) Subject Meaning - the abstract concepts and symbolic meanings.

Following from the application of those three important points are (1) Analysis, (2) Interpretation and (3) Identification.

These pages for Reading a Painting are part of the on-going HAR project to create a Himalayan Art Curriculum and Study Guide. The image #113 (Chaturbhuja Mahakala) was chosen randomly based on a casual discussion with a museum guide. Paintings and sculpture covering a wider range of subject and type will be added in the future.


Tsongkapa Five Forms Outline Page

January 23, 2010 ·

The Five forms of Tsongkapa (je zigpa nga den) are based on the visions of Kedrub Geleg Pal Zangpo (1385-1438) of his teacher Tsongkapa (1357-1419).

These five special forms are depicted either in one painted composition showing all five forms of Tsongkapa grouped together, generally surrounding the mahasiddha form of Tsongkapa, or they are depicted each in their own painted composition making a set of five paintings in total. The five special Tsongkapa forms are also commonly seen as minor figures at the top of other Gelug Tradition painted compositions and painting sets of all types and subjects.

Tsongkapa Five Forms Main Page

Tsongkapa Five Forms Outline Page

Tags: Sets · painting · outlines

Longdol Lama Incarnation Lineage

January 22, 2010 ·

Longdol Lama Incarnation Lineage Set (klong rdol, ngag dbang blo bzang 1719-1794) [TBRC P22]. Longdol Lama is a subject in Tibetan Art History because he has ten pre-incarnations that are depicted in a seven painting set. Some of the incarnations still need to be identified either through the inscriptions on the front of the paintings or from other literary sources. Longdol Lama Ngagwang Lobzang was an important scholar and Gelug teacher of the 18th century. He has an especially interesting pre-incarnation lineage that includes the mahasiddha Dombi Heruka, Serlingpa - a teacher of Atisha and Marpa Chokyi Lodro the founder of the Marpa Kagyu Tradition of Tibet.

Tags: Incarnation Lineages

Incarnation Lineage Paintings Outline

January 21, 2010 ·

A unique characteristic of Himalayan style art is the creation of painting and sculpture sets as a single large composition. A second unique feature of Himalayan art is the creation of Incarnation Lineage paintings and painting sets. The notion of the same recognized human or living entity, such as the Dalai Lama, knowingly inhabiting a series of bodies through numerous generations is unique to Tibetan and Himalayan Buddhism. Therefore, Incarnation Lineage paintings and sculpture sets are a unique feature of Himalayan & Tibetan Style Art.

Fortunately for the purposes of study a number of the important incarnation lineages fall into natural groupings. The first group is concerned with the first recognized, or accepted, incarnate lama of Tibet, commonly said to be the Gyalwa Karmapa. Within the over-all tradition of the Karmapas, the Karma Kagyu Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, there are also the incarnate lineages of Shamar, Situ, Gyaltsab and Nenang Pawo. These five lineages of incarnations all belong to the same religious tradition and naturally form there own group. According to tradition, added to those are the Karma Tinlepa and the Treho Tulku although so far no painting or sculpture sets have been found that depict the two unique additional incarnation lineages.

The second important group is that of the Dalai Lama, Panchen Lama and Desi Sanggye Gyatso. The foundations for these incarnation lineages were developed at the same time in the 17th century and seemingly as a coherent inter-connecting group of three with each incarnation in a generation relating directly with the other incarnations. Examples of this inter-relationship are the Panchen Lama pre-incarnation of Atisha and the Dalai Lama pre-incarnation of the student Dromton. At the time of the 4th Dalai Lama the Desi pre-incarnation was Altan Khan who first used and offered the title 'Dalai Lama.'

Another natural group related in life and in incarnation lineage is Jamyang Kyentse Wangpo and Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye.

In each composition that depicts a complete incarnation lineage the central figure is surrounded by the previous incarnations. The earliest of these pre-incarnations for each central subject is almost always an Indian Adept (mahasiddha), a great Worthy One (arhat), or a bodhisattva such as Maitreya as with the Tai Situ incarnation lineage. Each of these originating pre-incarnations is a direct student of Shakyamuni Buddha.

Sometimes there are competing systems for enumerating and naming the former births. One such notable figure that has two variant lists, or an abbreviated list and a long list, is the Panchen Lama of Tibet. The long list of Panchen Lama pre-incarnations includes Padmasambhava and Jowo Atisha. The Dalai Lama list includes King Trisong Detsen and Dromton. The 8th Tai Situ of the Karma Kagyu Tradition apparently also claimed to be the re-incarnation of Taranata from a completely separate unrelated incarnation lineage system belonging to the Jonang Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. The 32nd Sakya Tridzin Wangdu Nyingpo also boasts Padmasambhava as a pre-incarnation and claims to be the 2nd Padmasambhava of this 'age.' Both the Gelug Longdol Lama and the Karma Kagyu Tai Situpa claim to have the pre-incarnations of both Dombi Heruka and Marpa Chokyi Lodro in common.

The incarnation lineages, names and groups of related figures discussed here are only those that have identifiable works of art depicting those individuals. There are hundreds of other incarnation lineages in Tibetan and Himalayan Buddhism. It is possible that many of the paintings of Lamas that are currently unidentified are actually incarnation lineage paintings.

Incarnation Lineages Outline Page

Google Tags: Himalayan Art Resources

Tags: outlines · Lineages

The Five Treasures of Jamgon Kongtrul

January 18, 2010 ·

Jamgon Kongtrul (1813-1899) was a prolific writer of the 19th century as well as a compiler of the works of other scholars. He gathered together and included their written works into larger compendia of contextualized material and structered encyclopaedic collections - numbering approximately 150 volumes. Many of these works are invaluable resources of iconographic information and indispensable for the study of Himalayan and Tibetan art history. The most famous of Jamgon Kongtrul's compilations are called the Five Treasures:

1. The Treasure of Encyclopaedic Knowledge (shes bya kun la khyab pa'i mdzod), a massive work  covering all of the common and uncommon subjects of Tibetan Buddhism.

2. The Treasure of Precious Instructions (gdams ngag rin po che'i mdzod), the most important texts of eight of the principal transmission lineages of Tibetan Buddhism known as the Eight Chariots.

3. The Treasure of Kagyu Mantras (bka' brgyud sngags kyi mdzod), a collection of the most important practices of the Kagyu Tradition.

4. The Treasure of Precious Revealed Treasures (rin chen gter mdzod), the largest compiled collection of rare Nyingma Termas (Revealed Treasure teachings).

5. The Treasure of Extensive Teachings (rgya chen bka' mdzod), primarily Jamgon Kongtrul's own writings such as the commentaries on the Hevajra Tantra and the Khon Tradition Vajrakila, etc.

Tags: iconography · Kagyu

Kagyu Tradition Outline Page

January 17, 2010 ·

Kagyu Tradition"The Kagyu tradition [Outline Page] originated in the 11th century with the Tibetan translator Marpa (mar pa), his famous disciple Milarepa (mi la ras pa) and his disciple Gampopa (sgam po pa), who merged the lay tradition with the Kadampa (bka' gdams pa) monasticism and scholarly focus that he had previously studied. Gampopa founded the first Kagyu monastery, Daglha Gampo (dwags lha sgam po) in Dagpo, southern Tibet. Following Gampopa the tradition split into multiple autonomous subsects, listed below. All claim allegiance to the tantric teachings of the Indian Mahasiddha tradition, primarily that of Naropa, in the form of the Six Doctrines of Naropa (na ro chos drug) and the doctrine of Mahamudra. The Kagyu were also heavily involved in the transmission of the Chakrasamvara, Hevajra, among other tantras of the Second Propagation era.

The traditional - though not very old - way of classifying the Kagyu lineages was evidently invented by members of the Drugpa Kagyu. These are all covered by the general term Dagpo Kagyu (dwags po bka' brgyud), the name stemming from the monastery Gampopa founded in 1121." (Dan Martin, 2009)

Tags: outlines · Kagyu

New Outline Page : Protectors of the Kagyu Tradition

January 14, 2010 ·

Kagyu ProtectorsA new outline page for the Protectors of the Kagyu Tradition has been added. More links will be added as more examples of the special protectors of the various traditions are acquired.

Additional images and links have been added to the Refuge Field Main Page and Outline Page.

Tags: outlines · Kagyu

Karmapa Paintings: Masterworks

January 11, 2010 ·

Karmapa Masterworks Page: there are many paintings that depict the Karmapa Lamas in all of their incarnations from the 12th century up to the 20th century. Some of the paintings are masterworks as well as good examples of the various Tibetan painting styles popular over the centuries. The small selection of works represented here are only what is currently available on the HAR website. There are many more paintings and sculpture in museum and private collections that are not yet included in the HAR database.

Tags: Masterworks

Karma Kagyu Tradition Outline Page

January 10, 2010 ·

Karma Kagyu Outline Page "The Kagyud Tradition developed from the teachings of Naropa and Maitrepa. The main founders of all the sects of the Kagyud are the three Great Masters: Marpa, Milarepa and Gampopa. From these three Masters the Kagyud Lineage scattered into the four major and eight minor Lineages. It was from Gampopa's disciple, Phagmo Drupa that most of these lineages of the Kagyud Tradition came, spreading in many different directions. Presently there are four which have not faded and still exist: the Karma Kagyud, Drukpa Kagyud, Drigung Kagyud and Taglung Kagyud. The Dharma lineages of the others have become very subtle or thin (having mostly been absorbed into larger lineages)."

(Excerpt from the Opening of the Dharma, A Brief Explanation of the Essence of the Limitless Vehicles of the Buddha. Written by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro. Translated by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Gyatso, Malaysia, October 1984).

Tags: outlines