Entries for month: December 2010

Twenty-five Disciples Outline Page

December 31, 2010 ·

An Outline Page for the Twenty-five Disciples of Padmasambhava has been uploaded as part of the re-structuring of the Nyingma Tradition pages. Another page listing all of the individual disciples along with images and short biographies will be uploaded soon.

Tags: outlines · iconography · Nyingma

Nyingma Tradition Outline Page - Updated

December 31, 2010 ·

An Outline Page for the Nyingma Tradition has been added although in the draft stage for a long time. The outline page needs more work and many sub pages need to be created to deal with such a large topic and the multitude of branch subjects.

Tags: outlines · Nyingma

Tibet House Museum - Sculpture Masterworks

December 31, 2010 ·

The Tibet House Museum Quick Guide has been updated and a Sculpture Masterworks page has been added along with the recently updated sculpture pages.

Tags: Sculpture · Masterworks · art

Amulet Box (Ga'u) Contents

December 30, 2010 ·

Amulet boxes are commonly used to store all manner of sacred materials such as small texts, blessing cords, consecrated medicine, relics, and the like. Objects such as this were generally carried when traveling for some distance away from home, such as on pilgrimage, or for extended business trips away.

A complete amulet box generally has three parts: (1) the metal container of whatever shape, (2) a cloth covering with a buttoned fold for opening, and finally (3) the contents of the amulet box which can be an image made of metal, a small painting, tsa-tsa (stamped clay images), cuttings of cloth - such as from the robes of a sainted teacher that has passed away, protection string that has become too thread worn to wear, Tantric medicine (mendrub), or anything that is deemed special or blessed in some way.

Amulet Box Main Page
Amulet Box Contents Page

Tags: Sculpture · iconography · Miscellaneous

Protector Rahula - Updated & New Outline Page Added

December 30, 2010 ·

The name Rahula belongs to three important figures in Buddhist iconography. The (1) first use is as the proper name for the biological son, Rahula, of Gautama - Shakyamuni Buddha. The (2) second use of the name is for the Indian cosmological deity Rahula, the deification of the phenomenon of an eclipse. The (3) third use of Rahula is for the horrific Nyingma protector deity, wrathful, with nine heads and a giant face on the belly. It is likely that this Buddhist protector is a Tibetan creation and not linked to any Sanskrit literature or Indian religious tradition. Aside from these three uses of the name there were also numerous Indian pandits and siddhas with the name Rahula, Rahula Bhadra, Rahula Gupta, etc.

Protector Rahula Main Page
Protector Rahula Outline Page

Tags: Protectors · iconography · art

Dorje Legpa - Updated & New Outline Page Added

December 30, 2010 ·

Indigenous to Tibet, it is said that the worldly spirit Dorje Legpa was subjugated in the 8th century by Guru Padmasambhava and oath bound as a protector of Buddhism. His primary function is to safeguard the Revealed Treasure texts (Terma) of the Nyingma Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

Dorje Legpa belongs to the category of Tibetan Buddhist Worldly Protector. He is depicted in two principal forms primarily differentiated by the mount he rides atop. The more common form is atop a (1) lion - depicted as a Tibetan snow lion and the second form is atop a (2) brown goat.

Dorje Legpa Main Page
Dorje Legpa Outline Page

Tags: Protectors · iconography · art

A Controversial Tibetan Buddhist Deity

December 29, 2010 ·

Dorje Shugden is generally believed to be a worldly protector deity that was likely practiced first in the Sakya Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. According to some accounts he was inducted into the pantheon of Sakya protectors by Sakya Trizin Sonam Rinchen (1705-1741). Later, placed together with the two protector deities Dorje Setrab and Tsi'u Marpo they were collectively known as the Three Kings (Gyalpo Sum). In the Sakya texts Shugden is known as Dorje Shugden Tanag, or rather Dorje Shugden Riding a Black Horse. He holds a butcher's stick upraised in the right hand and a heart in the left lifted up to the mouth. Dressed in the robes of a monastic and wearing a gold lacquer riding hat, he sits atop a black horse. In the early 20th century Dorje Shugden Tanag fell out of favour with the Sakya Tradition in general. His devotees and practices have subsequently diminished. Since the late 20th century the offering rituals for the Three Kings are no longer found in the standard daily use Sakya Protectors manuals in monasteries in India or Tibet.

Sakya depictions of Dorje Shugden Tanag in paintings can be dated to circa 1800 (see examples). Although so far no sculpture have appeared nor are there any paintings with Shugden Tanag as the principal central figure. In all there are approximately half a dozen Sakya paintings known that have Shugden Tanag as a minor figure in the composition, a number of these are from the first half of the 20th century - research is ongoing.

Liturgical formulas and religious texts for presenting offerings to Dorje Shugden were created in the Sakya, Gelug, and Drugpa Kagyu Traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. The Drugpa Kagyu texts are from Bhutan.  (No Drugpa Kagyu paintings have so far come to light). It is possible that other traditions aside from these three mentioned also propitiated the worldly deity and created visual depictions. The Sakyas have several short liturgical works all written approximately 200 years ago or more, whereas in the last century the Gelugpas have feverishly written enough new material to fill two standard size Tibetan volumes. This collection of works is called in short the Dorje Shugden Be'u Bum. The collection also includes those early Sakya writings.

In these less than harmonious times, with reference to the study of Dorje Shugden, the academic world is not so inclined to search out and study these and other historically interesting Dorje Shugden texts.

In the Gelug Tradition evidence suggests, textual and visual, that the practice of Dorje Shugden became popular in the early 20th century and very prominent by the mid century. The popularity was also carried forth by such great teachers of the time as Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo and others. However, since very recent times, specifically the 1970s and a frenzied exchange of Tibetan language publications on the topic of Dorje Shugden, there are now two groups of Gelug followers that espouse two different views on the nature of Dorje Shugden. There are those who follow the Dalai Lama and have put the practice of Dorje Shugden aside believing that it is nothing more than the worship of a ghost or spirit (preta) and potentially harmful in the end. A second group of Gelug followers believe that Dorje Shugden is in fact a Wisdom Deity of the highest level and none other than Manjushri himself emanating in various forms through the last millennium - appearing now as Dorje Shugden - protector of the true faith.

The two Gelugpa groups remain unreconciled over the issue of Dorje Shugden.

Gelug Forms of Dorje Shugden:
1. Riding a Lion
2. Seated on a Throne
3. The Five Kings & Retinue
4. Others.....

In the Gelug protector pantheon the main form of Dorje Shugden holds a wavy long edged sword up to the sky in the right hand and a heart in the left. A mongoose sits perched at the bend of the left elbow and an upright katvanga staff leans against the left shoulder. He typically rides a lion, depicted as a Tibetan snow lion, although a number of texts state that he can ride any number of mounts. An alternate form of the deity has him holding a butcher's stick aloft with the right hand and a heart in the left, seated on a cushioned throne with one leg pendant. A variation of both these two appearances is the addition of four accompanying forms of Dorje Shugden creating a total of five prominent figures known as the Five Kings. (As an aside, the traditional Gelug depiction of Dorje Shugden is very close in appearance with the Nyingma protector Dorje Legpa).

The two earliest known depictions of the Gelug iconography of Dorje Shugden are those presented above. The sculpture, whether it is the original or not, was created in the early years of the 1900s to decorate the Chojin Lama Temple in Ulan Bator, Mongolia - where it can be found today. The painting, in the collection of the Field Museum of Chicago, was collected in Eastern Tibet or China by Field Museum anthropologist Berthold Laufer between 1908 and 1909. Early visual examples of a Gelug depiction of Dorje Shugden prior to the 1900s are rare at best. What is even more curious is a lack of any Dorje Shugden image depicted among the protectors in the many good and early examples of Gelug Refuge Field Paintings - Refuge Field paintings being a Gelugpa invention of the 17th and 18th century. The HAR website has over 60 specifically Gelug examples of these Refuge Field paintings from collections throughout the world - research is on going. (See a small selection of source texts).

Jeff Watt 12-2010

Dorje Shugden Main Page
Dorje Shugden Outline Page

Tags: art · iconography

Tibet House Museum (New Delhi) - Sculpture Collection

December 28, 2010 ·

To help organize the Tibet House Museum sculpture collection a new Outline Page has been added.

Due to the large numbers of sculpture and ritual objects in the museum collection the objects have been further divided into eight broad groups for easy viewing. The HAR Search is always available for more in depth and refined searching of the Tibet House Collection:
1. Ritual Objects
2. Book Covers & Pages
3. Stupas
4. Buddhas
5. Bodhisattvas
6. Deities
7. Teachers: Siddhas & Lamas
8. Padmasambhava

Tags: Sculpture · collections · art

Tibet House Collection (New Delhi) - Updated

December 28, 2010 ·

The Tibet House Collection Main Page has been updated and re-organized with added sets pages and a new page for the Miscellanous Paintings.

"Tibet House was established in 1965 by His Holiness the Dalai Lama for the purpose of preserving the unique cultural heritage of Tibet at a time when it faced extinction in its homeland, as well as for providing a centre for Tibetan and Buddhist studies".

For an overview of the art holdings of Tibet House see the Tibet House Quick Guide. The collection of paintings have been placed in one large gallery which also serves as the Tibet House Main Page. It is somewhat awkward to navigate because of the size and also because of the sets included.

A separate page has been created for the Miscellaneous Paintings that are not that great in number compared with the sets of paintings. The strength of the Tibet House Collection is the vast number of sets - mostly complete. There is a small Textile Gallery and a separate Sculpture Gallery. Other than identifying each sculptural piece the sculpture has not yet been divided up into type, subject or sets.

Painting Sets:
1. Arhat Set (complete)
2. Avadana Stories Set (complete)
3. 7th Dalai Lama Biography Set (complete)
4. Dalai Lama Incarnation Set (complete)
5. Longdol Lama Set (complete)
6. Mahasiddha Set (incomplete)
7. Padmasambhava & Mahasiddha Set (complete)
8. Panchen Lama Incarnation Set (complete)
9. Shakyamuni Buddha Life Story Set (incomplete)
10. Tsongkapa Life Story Set (complete)
11. Amitayus Set (unknown)
12. Hands & Footprint Paintings (incomplete)
13. Mitra Gyatsa Mandala Painting Set (incomplete)
14. Miscellaneous Paintings Gallery

Tags: collections · art

Kshetrapala: The Protector Who Rides a Bear

December 28, 2010 ·

Kshetrapala is one of five retinue figures belonging to the practices of Shadbhuja Mahakala (one face, six hands) originating with the Shangpa Kagyu Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Kshetrapala, wrathful with one face and two hands, can typically be recognized by the brown or black bear that he sits or stands atop as a mount. For very wrathful rites and rituals Kshetrapala is practiced independently from the primary Shadbhuja Mahakala. In these fearsome situations Kshetrapala is often paired with a wrathful consort. (See Kshetrapala Outline Page).

Tags: Protectors · outlines · art