Himalayan Art Resources

Padmasambhava: Iconography

Padmasambhava Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
--- Main Form
--- Specialty Forms
--- Meditational Forms
- Copper Coloured Mountain (Life Story)
- Field of Accumulation (Refuge Field)
- Related Subjects
- Iconography Sub-sets Outline
- Rubin Museum (RMA): Padmasambhava
- Confusions
- Others...

Videos:
- Introduction to Padmasambhava
- Padmasambhava: Three Gestures
- Padmasambhava in Youthful Appearance
- Eight Forms of Padmasambhava
- Padmasambhava: Early Portrait Paintings
- Padmasambhava (HAR 160)
- Copper Coloured Mountain
- Second Buddha

The iconography of Padmasambhava can be divided into three main groups based on appearance. The first is the Main Form, the second is Specialty Forms based on the main form and the third is Meditational Forms. The main form of Padmasambhava is NOT counted as one of the Eight Forms or manifestations reflected in his life story.

According to the Revealed Treasure accounts in the Terma literature he is white in colour with a reddish hue, one face adorned with a moustache and goatee, the right hand holds to the heart an upright gold vajra. The left hand placed in the lap holds a white skullcup filled with nectar, jewels and a long-life vase. The ornate katvanga staff of a Vajrayana mendicant decorated with streamers rests against the left shoulder. Adorned with gold earrings and necklaces, the head is covered with a lotus hat, a gift of the King of Zahor, of silk brocade topped with a half-vajra and a single vulture feather. Attired in various robes of different colours reflecting the disciplines of the Vinaya, Bodhisattva and Mantra Vehicles, he sits atop a sun and moon disc above a lotus blossom rising from the blue waters of Dhanakosha lake.

The most common depictions have Padmasambhava holding the vajra scepter in three standard gestures: [1] at the heart, [2] raised upward at the right side, and [3] held outward across the knee. From the standard appearance there can arise a number of variations in hand gestures or objects held in the two hands, seated posture and standing posture. Regardless of the gesture and posture, all of these forms arise from the literature of the Revealed Treasure tradition and the second and third periods of Nyingma development.

Iconographic Topics:
- Embracing a Consort (All Images)
- Standing
- holding the vajra scepter upward & outward to the side.
- holding the vajra scepter down & outstretched across the knee.
- holding a katvanga staff in the left hand
- holding a katvanga staff in the right hand
- holding a kila (purba) in the left hand
- holding a scullcup extended outward in the left hand
- with the two hands in the gesture of meditation
- holding a victory banner & mongoose
- in a standing posture holding a katvanga
- seated with leg leg pendant
- others...

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Jeff Watt [updated 8-2013, 6-2017, 12-2019, 3-2022]