Himalayan Art Resources

Teacher: Tsang Nyon Heruka Main Page

Tsang Nyon Heruka Masterworks

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Tsang Nyon Heruka Description (below)
- Tsang Nyon Heruka Biography
- Rechung Nyan Gyu Painting Set
- Kagyu Tradition Main Page
- Confusions
- Others...

Video: Tsang Nyon Heruka

Main Characteristics:
- Appearance: Mahasiddha
- Right Hand: vajra scepter
- Left Hand: vase, skullcup, or both
- Left Shoulder: katvanga staff
- Bone ornaments
- Others...

Tsang Nyon Heruka Rupai Gyan Chen (1452-1507 [TBRC P442]) the 'Crazy Heruka of Tsang Wearing Bone Ornaments' was an author, teacher and yogi, in mahasiddha appearance who belonged to the Sakya and Rechung Nyengyu traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. (See biography).

Tsang Nyon (gtsang smyon he ru ka), be it painting or sculpture, typically appears as a Tantric yogi holding a vajra scepter in the extended right hand, or alternately raised, and a skullcup in the left hand with a katvanga staff leaning against the left shoulder. His robe is generally white as is the custom of those following the tradition of Milarepa and Rechungpa. As ornaments he wears a skull headdress and bone earrings, necklace, long and short, bracelets, anklets, all modelling the appearance of the semi-peaceful and semi-wrathful deities like Hevajra and Chakrasamvara of the Anuttarayoga class of Buddhist Tantra. This is known as Mahasiddha Appearance. This peculiar and anti-social manner of dressing, copying a Heruka deity, is called the second level of the Application of the Vow in the Hevajra Tantra. The Chakrasamvara and Hevajra Tantras principally, along with similar instructions in other Tantras, are the textual source for all of those teachers and practitioners in India and Tibet who wear bone ornaments, animal skins and hold Tantric implements.

Depictions of Tsang Nyon generally take the form of sculpture with only one painting so far identified (aside from minor figures in lineage paintings). There are many modern sculpture productions of Tsang Nyon Heruka as well as modern copies of older works.

Tsang Nyon is famous for his appearance and his writings. After extensive retreats he insisted on wearing the Heruka attire as stipulated in the Chakrasamvara and Hevajra Tantras. He is more well known for writing and compiling the One Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa along with numerous biographies of early Kagyu teachers. In the 15th century he set about to revive the old Marpa Kagyu traditions of extensive retreats in isolated locations following after the conduct of Milarepa.

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Jeff Watt 9-2011 [updated 6-2016, 5-2017, 1-2020]

(See the publication: Among Tibetan Texts, History and Literature of the Himalayan Plateau. E. Gene Smith, Author. Jeffrey Hopkins, Foreword. Kurtis Schaeffer, Editor. Wisdom Publications, Boston: 2001. ISBN:0-86171-179-3).

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