Entries for month: February 2010

Purification Deities Outline Page

February 28, 2010 ·

Purification is an important subject in Buddhism and visual depictions related to purification can be divided into two clear divisions.

The first division is Mahayana Buddhism where purification is accomplished by the recitation of the Confession Sutra while visualizing the thirty-five Buddhas mentioned by name in that Sutra. Paintings of the Thirty-five Confession Buddhas are numerous.

The second division is Vajrayana Buddhism where Purification Deities are a small but important sub-class of deities in Tantric practice. The three principle deities are Vajrasattva, Vajravidarana and Vajradaka. Numerous forms of all three deities are found in the Tantric Buddhist pantheon. There are a number of other less known deities and specialized ritual practices. Many of the more specialized forms do not have any painted images or sculptural representations.

Tags: outlines · iconography

Long-life Deities in Tantric Buddhism - Outline

February 28, 2010 ·

Long-life Deities are a sub-class of deities in Tantric Buddhism. The three principle and well known subjects are Amitayus Buddha, White Tara and Ushnishavijaya. Collectively they are simply known as the 'tse lha nam sum' - Three Long-life Deities. There are a number of other less known deities such as Amaravajradevi, forms of White Chakrasamvara, and all of the specialized forms of the important cycles of Mahakala such as Panjaranata, Chaturmukha, Shadbhuja, and others too numerous and specialized to discuss here. Many of the more specialized forms do not have any painted images or sculptural representations.  

Tags: outlines · iconography

Not all Wrathful Deities are Protectors, Not all Protectors are Wrathful Deities

February 27, 2010 ·

"Not All Wrathful Deities are Protectors, Not All Protectors are Wrathful Deities."

To unravel the statement above and to approach some sense of the meaning then there needs to be an understanding of Iconography. In Himalayan and Tibetan style art the study of Tantric Buddhist Iconography involves the combination of six subjects:

1. The Traditional Tantric Buddhist Hierarchy of Figurative Subjects.

2. The Manner of Depicting the Classes of Figures of the Hierarchy.

3. The Three Traditional Descriptive Categories.

4. The Four Tantric Buddhist Activities.

5. The Traditional Categories of Deities According to Function.

6. The Four Classes of Buddhist Tantra.

Some of these subjects have already been partially explored while others have only been hinted at. Over the next few weeks each of the six topics will be dealt with more fully along with lists, definitions and examples for each.



Tags: iconography

Brahmarupa Mahakala Outline Page

February 26, 2010 ·

In Tibetan paintings Brahmarupa Mahakala, depicted as a central or secondary figure, has quite often been confused for an Indian teacher or mahasiddha, and actually, this has been done on purpose. The appearance of Brahmarupa as commonly found in Tibetan art is merely a place card holder for the Mahakala known as 'four faced' - Chaturmukha - associated with the Guhyasamaja Tantra.

In the Sakya Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism it was traditionally not permitted to show publicly the image of Chaturmukha to anyone that had not received the initiation into the secret practices and rituals. The form of Brahmarupa was used as an image that could appear on publicly accessible paintings without breaking any of the strict restrictions. This strict practice is still current within the Sakya Tradition today. However, the Gelug Tradition was not as strict and over the course of time many paintings depicting  Chaturmukha were created.

Paintings of both the Brahmarupa and Chaturmukha depictions have now made their way into museum and private collections in Asia, Europe and North America. So, for the purposes of correctly identifying these subjects this topic has been discussed and the Brahmarupa Outline Page created.

Tags: Mahakala · outlines

Clearing Up Confusions: Yama, Yamari, Vajrabhairava

February 22, 2010 ·

Clearing Up Confusions: Further clarification regarding the figures in Himalayan & Tibetan Art associated with death & the figures that use death as a metaphor: Yama, Yamantaka, Yamari, Bhairava and Vajrabhairava.

Tags: updates

Caution Words & Sensitive Subjects Glossary - Updated

February 21, 2010 ·

The specialty glossary of Caution Words & Sensitive Subjects has been updated and additional illustrations have been added. Further updates are planned for the glossary with longer explanations for the more complicated and confused subjects such as Yama, Yamantaka and Vajrabhairava amongst others.

Tags: updates

Men With Beards - An Overview

February 21, 2010 ·

Historical figures such as Padmasambhava, Karma Pakshi, and the 5th and 13th Dalai Lamas are known for their moustache and goatee appearance. Tang Tong Gyalpo, Shabdrung Ngagwang Namgyal, Terdag Lingpa and others are known for wearing a full and flowing beard.

On the 'Men with Beards Page' where an individual is specifically named then the beard is a distinct iconographic feature in their standard iconography. For images of arhats and mahasiddhas then the beard is generally a creation of the artist. Traditionally the Vinaya code of Buddhist Monastics prohibits the wearing of a beard. Monks are required to be clean shaven. However, disheveled with a scruffy but not quite bearded, appearance can also be common for monks, as well as for the Sixteen Arhats and those siddhas that are depicted in  'mahasiddha' appearance. (Mahasiddhas typically have three types of appearance: [1] Lay, [2] Monastic, and [3] Siddha).

Chinese Kings, Brahmins and Indians in general, usually depicted as secondary figures, are often shown with a beard. The Four Guardian Kings are depicted with beards as are many Tibetan worldly gods and worldly protectors. Wrathful male deities, in general, have orange or red facial hair - eyebrows, moustache, beard - flowing upward like flames. Wrathful female deities often have the same facial hair as the males.

Tags: iconography · outlines

Not all Wrathful Deities are Protectors, Not all Protectors are Wrathful Deities

February 20, 2010 ·

More to come about Wrathful Deities, Peaceful Deities, Semi-Peaceful and Semi-Wrathful Deities, Protectors and Categories of Deities........


Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo Outline Page & Biography

February 20, 2010 ·

Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-1892) was one of the most exciting Tibetan Buddhist teachers of the 19th century. He was a prolific writer as well as inspiring others to write. Khyentse Wangpo along with Jamgon Kongtrul, Choggyur Lingpa, Loter Wangpo and others produced 100s of volumes of texts on all subjects related to Buddhism, history, art and Tibetan culture in general.

Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo Outline Page

Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo Main Page

Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo Illustrated Biography


Tags: outlines

Manjushri: Principal Tantric Forms & Emanations

February 19, 2010 ·

Manjushri is most commonly known as a bodhisattva, principal student and interlocator, of Shakyamuni Buddha as found and described in the Mahayana sutras. However, in Tantric Buddhism, Manjushri is understood to be a completely enlightened Buddha with a wide range of iconographic appearances, both peaceful and wrathful. These various appearances are used as Tantric meditations. This page has been created to exhibit Manjushri's most common Tantric forms found in Himalayan and Tibetan style art.

Tags: Manjushri · outlines