Himalayan Art Resources

Padmasambhava: Main Iconographic Form

Padmasambhava: Iconography

Subject, Topics & Types:
Description: Three Gestures (below)
[1] Vajra at the Heart
[2] Vajra at the Knee
[3] Vajra Upraised
- Padmasambhava-Like Figures
- Confusions
- Others...

- Padmasambhava: Three Gestures
- Tantric Practice in Nyingma (book review)
- The Words of My Perfect Teacher by Patrul Rinpoche (book review)

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 and the third is Meditational Forms.

The main form of Padmasambhava is iconographically described in many guruyoga publications and ritual texts. With the two hands he holds in the right a vajra scepter and in the left a skullcup supporting a long-life vase (sometimes without the vase). The most common depictions found in art have the right hand holding the vajra placed upright at the heart (this can vary depending on the artist). However, there are two other hand positions that are found although not as numerous as with the vajra at the heart. The second most common gesture is to have the vajra held over the right knee. The third, and much less common gesture is to hold the vajra upraised at the right side of the body.

With each of these distinctive gestures Padmasambhava can be referred to with a different name although these names accompanying the gestures are not always consistent between the many different Nyingma traditions and lineages. The gestures also have meaning although varying interpretations can be found depending on the tradition of explanation.

Common Compositions:
- Three Figure Configuration (sculpture)
- Life Story
- Copper Coloured Mountain
- Field of Accumulation (Refuge Field)
- Others...

The main form of Padmasambhava is often found in a three figure configuration. This configuration has two different types. The first is Padma with Shantarakshita and Trisongdetsen and the second is with the two consorts Mandarava and Yeshe Tsogyal.

The main form of Padma is also generally found at the center of life story compositions and Nyingma Refuge Field paintings.

Database Search: All Images - Main Form

Jeff Watt 3-2022


Tantric Practice in Nyingma by Khetsun Sangpo Rinbochay. Translated and Edited by Jeffrey Hopkins. Co-edited by Anne Klein. Gabriel/Snow Lion, 1982. (Video book review).

(The images below are only a selection of examples from the links above).