Himalayan Art Resources

Tibet: Shalu Monastery, Avalokiteshvara Chapel (Chou)

Shalu Monastery Main Page | Map of U-Tsang | Shangpa Kagyu

A Shangpa Kagyu Chapel at Shalu Monastery

The iconographic program in this small Avalokiteshvara Chapel located on the ground floor of Shalu Monastery, in the circumambulatory passage, follows the tradition of the Shangpa Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism. It is very likely that these murals are the earliest to represent the Shangpa Kagyu Tradition, circa 1400. The principal deity is Avalokiteshvara, central in the small chapel, and the lineage depictions follow the tradition of the Tibetan Lama Kyergangpa (1143-1216).

Avalokiteshvara is the patron bodhisattva of Tibet and is found in all Himalayan and Tibetan Buddhist traditions. There are numerous New (Sarma) lineages of depictions and practices for Avalokiteshvara. These various practices also span all four tantric classifications: kriya, charya, yoga and anuttarayoga. Many iconographic forms of Avalokiteshvara are also found in the Nyingma Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, in the old Oral traditions (Kama) and Treasure (Terma) traditions.

There are many traditions and depictions of Avalokiteshvara. Most of these traditions generally only have a simple initiation ritual and at best a very short daily practice. However, preserved in the Tibetan Buddhist traditions there are seven principal teaching lineages that contain extensive teachings on the practice of Avalokiteshvara. The first of these is the [1] King's Tradition (gyal lug) of Tri Songtsen Gampo, [2] Bhikshuni Shri Tradition (gelongma palmo lug) of the Kashmiri nun, Gelongma Palmo [top right corner], [3] Kyergangpa Tradition (gyergang lug) of the Shangpa Kagyu, [4] Tsembupa Tradition (tsembupa lug) of the Sakya, [5] Dagyal Tradition (dagyal lug) of the Nyingma Treasure (terma) Tradition, [6] Maitri Yogin and [7] the Karma Chagme Tradition (karma chagme lug) joining the philosophical systems of mahamudra and dzogchen with compassion.

Jeff Watt, 8-2010. (The images below were taken by Wen-ching Chou in June, 2007).