Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Eight Chariots of Spiritual Accomplishment

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Video: Eight Chariots

The Eight Chariots:
(1) Nyingma
(2) Kadampa Mind Training Precepts
(3) Zhije & Cho
(4) Margapala
(5) Marpa Kagyu Mahamudra Tradition
(6) Six Dharmas of Niguma
(7) Six Branches of the Kalachakra
(8) Orgyan Nyendrub

Painting Sets:
- Dege Blockprint Set
- Shechen Set 1
- Shechen Set 2
- Set 3 (Kham)
- Others...

The Eight Chariots of Spiritual Accomplishment is a 16th century classification of Tibetan religious traditions. It was later popularized by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye in the 19th century. The Eight Chariot system lists what Kongtrul promotes, in several publications, as the significant practice traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. Kongtrul uses the same formulation in presenting the Dam Ngag Dzo collection of practices for each of the Eight Chariots (as listed below). It is also important to mention that Kongtrul also used a number of other variations of the Eight Chariot system.

In the collected works of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo there is a short text describing the history of the Eight. Also in the works of Khyentse Chokyi Lodro there is a short text on the subject of the Eight.

Matthew Kapstein identifies the Tibetan author Trengwo Terton Sherab Ozer (1517-1584) as the originator of the Eight Chariots formulation (sgrub brgyud shing rta brgyad). (Kapstein, Matthew. 1996. gDams ngag: Tibetan Technologies of the Self. In Tibetan Literature: Studies in Genre. Edited by Jose Ignacio Cabezon and Roger Jackson, 275-289. Ithaca: Snow Lion. See page 277).

Additional references to the Eight Chariot system are found in the writings of a Lama of Chonggye Palri Monastery, an important teacher of Jigme Lingpa (1729-1798). [Information source Alak Zenkar Tuden Nima].

The Dege block print images are a 20th century creation as evidenced by the depiction of Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro at the bottom center of at least two of the compositions. The Dege Printing House set has nine compositions in total representing the Eight Chariots. In the Dege set the Jonang and Shalu Traditrions are listed together and depicted in a single composition. The Mind Training system of the Kadampa is represented by Atisha as the central figure and the Gandenpa Tradition represented in a separate composition by Tsongkapa. The composition of Tsongkapa was likely added to balance out the set making sure to have a central painting (Padmasambhava) and four compositions on each side of that to balance the complete composition.

Jeff Watt 4-2006 [updated 6-2017]