THE HUNTINGTON ARCHIVE of Buddhist and Asian Art

of the

Enter Online Exhibition Here


June 13–September 13, 1998 | Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art |
St. Francis College | Loretto, Pennsylvania 15940 | USA

Curator: Michael Tomor | Supervising Academic Consultant: John C. Huntington

Project Managers:

Chaya Chandrasekhar
Sonal Patel

Guest Curators:

Chaya Chandrasekhar
Ying Chua
Cathleen Cummings
Su-Hsing Lin
Wei Lin
Ariana Maki
Natalie R. Marsh
Kimberly Mastellar
Christina Moore
Sonal Patel
Chad Sawyer
Tom Suchan
Brian Zaharack

© All images on this site are copyrighted. Unauthorized use or electronic dissemination is prohibited by applicable law.

© Text copyright as noted


Adi Buddhas | Arhats | Bardo | Bhaishajayaguru | Bodhisattvas | Buddhas | Herukas | Jina Buddhas | Mandalas | Prajnas | Protective Deities | Ritual Implements | Shakyamuni Buddha | Stupas | Taras | Teachers

adi buddhas

Guhyasamaja Akshobhyavajra by Sonal Patel

The Guhyasamaja, or "Secret Assembly," Tantra and Mandala are fundamental teaching tools which developed at an early date in history to aid the Buddhist practitioner in understanding and practicing Tantric Buddhism to attain enlightenment. Starting at the core of the painting, Guhyasamaja Akshobhyavajra and his Prajna, Sparshavajri comprise the center of this classic Karma Gadris-style thangka. Moving to the bottom center of the painting and circling around it clockwise, we encounter the jina Buddhas--Vairochana, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha, and Amoghasiddhi--as well as their female counterparts--Lochana, Mamaki, Panduravasini, and Shyama Tara. The key to recognizing the overall message in this painting, as well as the larger tantra itself, is that these deities are not only generated by Guhyasamaja Akshobhyavajra, but they are all considered to be him as well....

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Arhats by Ying Chua

Arhats are the "saints" or sages of Buddhism; they are the monks who have attained enlightenment through the teachings of the Buddha and are now freed from the cycles of suffering and rebirth. In early monastic, or Theravada Buddhism, the arhats were the major disciples of Shakyamuni and served as patriarchs of the sangha, or monastic community after the death of the Buddha. Among his numerous disciples, sixteen were chosen by the Buddha and entrusted with the task of protecting and preserving his teachings until the coming of the next Buddha Maitreya. Thus, the arhats remain alive indefinitely and reside with their numerous disciples in their reclusive abodes or paradises...

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Nagasena by Lin Su-hsing

The arhats (T. Gnas-brtan) are the enlightened beings of Buddhism, who were disciples of Buddha Shakyamuni and attained freedom from the cycles of suffering and rebirth (Frederic 101; Rhie and Thurman, 102). Iin Tibet, there are a group of sixteen arhats and the two "adjuncts," Hvashang and Dharmatala, making it an eighteen-member group (Rhie and Thurman, 86, 102). The main figure shown in the midst of drawing a dragon up from the depths of rolling waters is the Arhat Nagasena, one of the sixteen arhats....

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The Bardo by Cathleen Cummings

The Tibetan Book of the Dead, or Bardo Thodol, is one of the fundamental texts of Tibetan Buddhist practice. A self-contained doctrine, the book whose title more accurately translates as The Great Liberation Through Hearing in the Between—stands in its own category of Tibetan literature. The Bardo, or Between, is the postdeath plane of existence wherein one's enduring consciousness wanders between the end of this life and the next rebirth. The experiences of each individual consciousness drifting in the Bardo realm—the visions that confront him and the condition of his liberation or eventual rebirth—are determined by the spiritual effects of karmic accumulation resulting from his own particular life's deeds....

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Thirty-Seven Bardo Tsakalis (Initiation Cards) by Cathleen Cummings

Tsakalis are carried by a monk or Lama to the home of a dying or deceased person to whom the Bardo will be recited. At the start of this recitation, the Lama summons the consciousness of the deceased with a name-card or picture-card, often a block-printed drawing of a worshipper upon which the deceased's name is written. The name-card symbolically represents the deceased so that the Lama may give him instructions and describe the Bardo stages, thus preparing the deceased for the Bardo visitations. The tsakalis are then used by the Lama to guide that consciousness through the realms of the Bardo, the "Between state" or intermediate plane of existence that each person experiences following the end of this life and the next rebirth....

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Wrathful Deities of the Bardo: Vajra-Heruka and his Consort Vajra-Krodesvari Surrounded by Sixteen Wrathful Goddesses by Cathleen Cummings

Visions of peaceful and wrathful deities appear before the mind of the deceased during the Chonyid Bardo, the second stage of the "in-between" or Bardo state separating death and rebirth. These deities are visions of each individual's own internal buddha-nature which unfold systematically before the deceased in the Bardo, describing complex deity mandalas. The mandala of the forty-two peaceful deities is followed by the fifty-eight wrathful deity mandala. As projections of the consciousness or fundamental awareness of the deceased these figures have no external, physical reality; instead, they serve as guides for the consciousness of the deceased on the path to liberation and enlightenment....

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The Buddha Bhaishajayaguru ("Teacher of Healing") with Amitabha, Shadakshari, Padmasambhava, and Two Protectors by Chad Sawyer

The means of invoking the power of Bhaishajyaguru are also outlined in the sutra and include: sincere recitation or concentration on his name, performing puja or offerings to the sutra itself, as well as, reciting and disseminating it, and performing puja before an image of the Master of Healing. A fourth method describes a way of aiding a person who is unconscious and on the "brink of death". It is described that when in such a state a person is led by the hosts of Yama to the King of the Law and judgement is passed on the person's karma. However, if those attending him or her pray to the Medicine Buddha with greatest sincerity then the Master of Healing himself will intercede on the ill person's behalf and bring them back to consciousness. The actual practice involves offering puja six times a day and reading the sutra forty-nine times. It also involves burning seven lamps in front of seven images of the Master of Healing for forty-nine days, making a five-colored banner forty-nine hands in height, and freeing forty-nine different species of animals. The repeated use of seven and forty-nine probably makes reference to the "inbetween state" described in Tibetan Buddhism as the Bardo. The person, upon recovering, will remember the entire episode and will be inspired to change their ways so as not to accrue any more negative karma. This speaks to the buddhist notion of bodhicitta, that auspicious moment in a person"s life where the direction of one's existence changes from endless wandering in samsara to the desire for enlightenment....

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Ekadashamukha Avalokiteshvara by Chaya Chandrasekhar

Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of absolute compassion, is one of the most important deities of Tibetan Buddhism. Literally, his name means "Lord who [mercifully] looks Down upon the world." He is the primary Bodhisattva of the jina Buddha Amitabha, who presides over the present kalpa, or eon. Avalokiteshvara's association with Amitabha, as well as the Bodhisattva's ability to aid all those in need of his help, has made him one of the most popular deities of lay devotion. However, as a demonstration of the compassion of all Buddhas, Avalokiteshvara also plays an important role in Tantric Buddhism. Although dressed as an Indian prince and bearing other Bodhisattva attributes, in several contexts, Avalokiteshvara is a fully enlightened Buddha. As the main meditational deity of various Tantras, he functions as the arya, or central figure, from whom all other deities emanate (The Seventh Dalai Lama, 191)....

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Buddha Nanda by Lin Su-hsing

An inscription on the base identifies this masterwork as the Buddha Nanda (T. dGab wo rCal chin), one of a set of thousand Buddhas (T. Sangs-rgyas sTong). In the Aryabadrakalpa Sutra, it is said that during the future Auspicious Age there will be a thousand Buddhas, whose names and characteristics of this aeon are described in detail in this Sutra. The followers of Mahayana had no hesitation in infinitely increasing the number of Buddhas and great bodhisattvas; they conceived at the heart of the cosmos a considerable number of universes, each ruled over by a Buddha assisted by one or more great bodhisattvas (Lamotte, 92). Because the Auspicious Age has not arrived yet, this concept represents the promise of future enlightenment for every being. It is common to find halls in temples and monasteries dedicated to the thousand Buddhas, which serve to reinforce the worshipper's faith in his own future (Bechert, 72)...

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Che-mchog, or Mahottama Heruka by Sonal Patel

Buddhist Tantric deities are divided into three forms: peaceful, wrathful, and peaceful/wrathful. The Heruka class of deities belong to the third category. By definition, they are enlightened beings that adopt fierce forms to express their detachment from the world of ignorance. Many of these peaceful/wrathful deities hold attributes, such as skull cups filled with blood which initially generate fear in the observer. However, the fear dissipates immediately when one understands that blood symbolizes worldy attachments and that the 'drinker' is none other than the individual destroying his or her own hindrances to enlightenment. In the SAMA collection, Heruka deities like Guhyasamja Akshobhyavajra, Hevajra, and Che-mchog, or Mahottama Heruka symbolize wisdom's consumption of the lifeblood of ignorance....

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Hevajra by Sonal Patel

Based on the Hevajra Tantra, this painting portrays the Buddha Hevajra and his Prajna, Nairatmya, or "Non-self," surrounded by a retinue of eight dakinis, or female "sky-goers." Although in form this ca. 18th century C.E. thangka does not appear to be a Hevajra Mandala rooted in the tantra of the same name, it is nonetheless considered to be one conceptually. The painting is roughly divided into three sections, the upper, middle, and lower. The upper portion contains ten figures that appear to emanate from the central paired-deity based on the rainbow-like beams of light that connect one to the other. The middle section predominantly portrays the central paired-deity of Hevajra and his Prajna, Nairatmya. The lower portion contains the eight female dakinis, as well as three figures at the bottom center of the painting....

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Vajrabhairava by Cathleen Cummings

Vajrabhairava is a wrathful manifestation of Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom. His is the enduring, adamantine wisdom of ultimate reality which triumphs over suffering and death. He is known also as Yamantaka because he is the conqueror of Yama, the Lord of Death, who appears with the face of a buffalo. Of Vajrabhairava's nine heads, the central one is that of the buffalo, symbolic of his defeat over Yama. The top-most head is that of Manjusri himself. Because of his manifold power Vajrabhairava was called upon to oppose all enemies of the doctrine, to keep the uninitiated away from the tantras....

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Vajrabhairava and Dharma Protectors of the Gelukpa Orderby Cathleen Cummings

This painting represents the most important transformative deities of the Gelukpa order. At center is Vajrabhairava, a wrathful manifestation of Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, with his consort Vajravetalia. To his left is Cakrasamvara in union with his consort Vajravarahi, and to his right is Guhyasamaja, in union with Sparsavajra. These three deities, Vajrabhairava, Guhyasamaja, and Cakrasamvara, represent three of the four main tantric meditations practiced in the Gelukpa school. The Guhyasamaja-tantra emphasizes the generation of an illusory or subtle body through yoga; the Cakrasamvara-tantra emphasizes the generation of Clear Light, associated with the cultivation of wisdom; the Vajrabhairava-tantra emphasizes both in balance....

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jina buddhas

Buddhas Akshobya and Ratnasambhava, each surrounded by 200 Tarasby Kim Masteller

Depictions of jina, or victor, Buddhas are common in Tibetan art. The jinas are abstract beings which symbolize the totality of enlightenment. The goddess Tara is also a subject of great importance in Himalayan Buddhism. She offers protection to the practitioner in the manner of a Bodhisattva. She is also considered to by fully-enlightened, and the Mother of All Buddhas. What is unique about these two paintings of Buddhas Akshobya and Ratnasambhava, each surrounded by 200 Taras, is that they bring these two iconographic conceptions together into one set of paintings....

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Bonpo Mandala by Chris Moore

Bon, the indigenous religion of Tibet, was a fully developed and highly ritualized faith before the emergence of Buddhism. It may have stemmed from the shamanic religions of Central Asia, and was based around death rites and the propitiation of localized, often hostile deities. However, with the spread of Buddhism, Bon both absorbed and contributed to the Buddhist pantheon and practices. The nature and extent of this exchange remains unclear. However, by the time this mandala was created, there was little difference between the arts of the two religions....

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Mandalas based on the Sarvadurgatiparshodhana Tantra by Kim Masteller and Chad Sawyer

One day the Buddha was sitting amongst the assembly of thirty-three brahmanical gods when Indra came forward and asked "O Lord, seven days have passed since a god named Vimalamaniprabha died....where was he born?" To this the Buddha replied that Vimalamaniprabha had "fallen from here and was born in the great hell of Avici." At this, all the gods were filled with great distress, concerned that such a fate had come to one of their kind. Asking if there was a way to avoid such a fate, and more, to obtain enlightenment, they implored the Buddha for instruction. The Buddha responded by beginning the discourse known as the Sarvadurgatiparisodhana Tantra or "the practice concerned with the elimination of all evil destinies"(Skorupski, 1983, 4-5)....

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Mandala of Peaceful and Other Deities of the Bardo by Cathleen Cummings

The Bardo is the state of existence which comes between death and rebirth. Bardo translates as "the Between" and every person who dies makes a journey in the Between before reincarnation or enlightenment. Visions of numerous deities, both peaceful and wrathful in appearance, confront each individual there. These deity-visions are emanations of each person's own internal buddha-nature, and they serve the individual as his or her guide through the realms of the Bardo. Recognizing their true nature leads the individual to enlightenment and liberation from the Bardo experience....

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Rakta Shadakshari Avalokiteshvara by Ariana Maki & Chaya Chandrasekhar

Avalokiteshvara is the Bodhisattva of absolute compassion who descends into the hells to help afflicted beings better their rebirth. Here he is shown as Rakta, or Red, Avalokiteshvara in the center of a mandala. The specific identification of this mandala is unclear and the ways in which it is meditated on, or the sotoreological methodology it communicates, remains speculative until further study....

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Ushnishavijaya by Natalie R. Marsh

Ushnishavijaya, the "Victorious Crown Protrusion," is depicted as the primary deity in two examples in the SAMA collection (cat. #'s 97.079 and 96.017) Virtually all Buddhist goddesses are essentially emanations of the archetypical goddess, Prajnaparamita, thus, Ushnishavijaya is understood to also be a Buddha Matri, or "Mother of the Buddhas." In addition, she further serves as the Prajna, or the female aspect of enlightenment and representative of shunyata, or the void. As a fully enlightened being she is herself a Buddha. The goddess's iconography varies slightly in the two folk tradition pieces shown....

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Prajnaparamita by Natalie R. Marsh

Prajnaparamita, the goddess depicted in the center of this ca. 17th century folk tradition thangka, is the paradigmatic goddess from whom virtually all other Buddhist goddesses arise. She is the ultimate Buddha Matri, or "Mother of Buddhas," making her an enlightened being as well, and thus, a female Buddha. Prajnaparamita is identified in this painting by the small delicate linear gold painted rendering of a book resting on the lotus in her left hand. This book is the goddess' namesake text, the Prajnaparamita Sutra, or the "perfection of wisdom." She, and the text, encompass and represent the wisdom that all enlightened beings must attain, and subsequently both are seen as the progenitors of Buddhas....

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protective deities

Begtse (Tibetan: lCam sring) by Cathleen Cummings

Begtse is worshipped in Tibet as one of the Eight Dharmapala, the Guardians of the Buddhist Dharma; as a god of war; and as a special protector of the Gelugpa sect. The name Begtse means "hidden coat of mail" but in Tibet Begtse is also commonly known as lCam sring, meaning "brother and sister," for he is often shown alongside his sister gDong dmar ma. ...

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Dorje Legpa by Tom Suchan

Dorje Legpa (Skt: Vajrasadhu) whose name means "Excellent or Accomplished Vajra" is held to be one of the highest ranking "oath-bound" guardian deities (Skt: Dharmapala) by the Nyingma "old" sect of Tibetan Buddhism (De Nebesky-Wojokowitz, 154). His chief officer and emanation Garba Nagpo, "The Black-Hued Blacksmith," is an equally important protective deity who appears in a number of paintings in the Rezk collection. By coincidence, the largest and smallest thangkas included in the present exhibition represent respectively, Dorje Legpa and Garba Nagpo. The varying sizes of these works is not indicative of their relative status but rather of differing functions within the ritual and devotional activities of Tibetan Buddhism. Despite its size when compared to other paintings in the exhibition, the painting of Dorje Legpa is actually not that unusual for images of protective deities....

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Gur-gyi Mgon Po by Chaya Chandrasekhar

Panjara, or "cage," Mahakala is a specific form of the angry manifestation of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. In Tibet he is commonly known as Gur-gyi Mgon Po, or "Lord of the Tent," and is popularly worshipped by members of the lay Buddhist community. Gur-gyi Mgon Po is said to reside in charnel fields, trampling over vanquished enemies who hinder religious attainment. He is usually black, or deep blue in color and is shown with three glaring eyes, fangs and hair that stands on end with a vajra in it. In his two hands he holds a katrika, or chopper and a kapala, or skull-cup, while his most distinguishing attribute, a staff called a beng (Skt. gandi), rests in the crooks of his arms (Wojkowitz, 50). Rhie and Thurman note that the beng was used as a gong in monasteries to get monks to assemble for meditations and discussions. As a result, Gur-gyi Mgon Po came to be considered the primary protector of Buddhist monasteries (Rhie & Thurman, 223). The deity's ornaments consist of a five-skulled crown, a garland of fifty severed heads, bone ornaments and a tiger-skin loin cloth (Wojkowitz, 50). Each of these ornaments symbolize his ability to overcome a specific hindrance which obstructs enlightenment (Rhie & Thurman, 223)....

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Hayagriva by Chaya Chandrasekhar

Hayagriva or, "horse-necked one," is a primary emanation of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of absolute compassion. Avalokiteshvara's compassion manifests itself in various angry, energetic deities who serve as his acolytes, attending to the needs of afflicted devotees. Specifically, Hayagriva is the archetypal fierce, dynamic manifestation of Avalokiteshvara's undying compassion. The Bodhisattva's compassion transforms into a fierce energy that compels one to overcome internal obstacles and subdue outer hindrances (Rhie, Thurman, 189)....

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Mahakala by Tom Suchan and Chaya Chandrasekhar

Mahakala is the fierce manifestation of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of absolute compassion, and the primary Dharmapala, or "Dharma protector" in Tibetan Buddhism. Mahakala's name translates as the "Great Black," one, or "Great time." The latter is a reference to the deity's ability to transcend all time. More than seventy-five forms of Mahakala are known in Tibet where he is generally called mGon po, or the "Master," "Lord," or "Protector." ...

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Offerings to Mahakala by Chad Sawyer

The Dharmapalas are fierce beings whose function is to protect and maintain Buddhist truth, or Dharma, against enemies both internal and external. This piece is concerned with the Dharmapala known as Mahakala in Sanskrit and Gonpo in Tibetan . Mahakala can be translated as the Great Destroyer, the Great Black-One, or the Great Time. He is regarded as either having been tamed by Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion, or to be a fierce manifestation thereof. In addition to his role as protector, his wrathful qualities are also employed in the eradication of obstacles which a practitioner may have to deal with in seeking liberation....

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Palden Lhamo by Natalie R. Marsh

Like all emanations of this goddess, Palden Lhamo (T. dpal ldan lha mo) is represented in an angry (Skt. krodha) form in this 18th century, Central Tibetan example from the SAMA Rezk Collection. Her single face is framed by wild orange-brown, or reddish hair, above which an array of nine peacock feathers float.1 She exhibits her ferocious teeth which gnaw on a human corpse while she strikes a fearful glare with her three blood-shot eyes. Palden Lhamo's body is covered with ashes, fat, and blood and surrounded by a halo of flame as is appropriate to her visualized presence in a charnel field. According to textual sources, and evident upon very close examination, in her raised right hand this dark-blue form of the deity brandishes a sandalwood club topped with a vajra....

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Palden Lhamo Figure by Cathleen Cummings

This small sculpture is similar to Palden Lhamo in many respects but is depicted without many of Lhamo's characteristic attributes and is most likely one of the deities of her retinue. It may originally have formed part of a large Palden Lhamo mandala....

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Yama by Tom Suchan

Yama is an ancient Vedic deity incorporated into the Tibetan Buddhist Pantheon as the judge of the dead and ruler of the Buddhist hells located in the southern hemisphere of the Mount Meru world system beneath the continent of Jambuvidpa. His name comes from the root used in Vedic literature meaning "twin" and means "to restrain or bound." In Tibet Yama is usually called gShin rje, "Lord of Death" or Dam Can Chos rGyal, "The Pledge Bound Dharma-King." The later alludes to his conversion to Buddhism by Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, in his wrathful manifestation as Yamantaka "the Destroyer of Yama."...

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Yamuna and two attendents by Natalie R. Marsh

This Nepalese fire gilt copper sculpture represents the goddess Yamuna, the personification of the Yamuna, or Jumna, River in India. She is identified by the tortoise below her lower right hand. Frequently Yamuna is shown standing directly on the tortoise which serves as her vahana, or vehicle.1 In South Asia many rivers are personified as goddesses and worshipped as symbols of fertility and abundance. They are considered incredibly auspicious and powerful sites where numerous rituals take place. When paired with the goddess Ganga, the personification of the Ganges River, Yamuna assists in marking the entrances to both Buddhist and Hindu sacred spaces and monuments such as temples and shrines....

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ritual implements

Ritual Bone Apron by Natalie R. Marsh

Bone aprons such as this ca. 18th century example in the SAMA collection were worn as ritual garments meant to vivify the practitioner or priest during Tantric ceremonial practices. The significance of wearing such ornamentation symbolizes one's own death and the necessary release of one's attachment to the human physical body in order to effectively pursue enlightenment. This is further reified in the use of human bones collected from charnel fields and carved into the beads shown. A set of six bone ornaments, including the apron, worn by certain Tantric deities, symbolize the six paramitas, or perfections, necessary for the attainment of enlightenment....

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Prayer Wheel by Brian Zaharack

The Prayer Wheel, or mani chho-khor in Tibetan, is a very common object in Tibet and Tibetan culture. There are many varieties of the Prayer Wheel, all sharing the same religious function and constructed according to a similar design....

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Prognosticator's Diagrams by Kim Masteller

The world we live in is filled with surprises and dangers. Human existence is still plagued by violence, illness and natural disaster, forces which act upon us of which we have little knowledge or control. Throughout history, civilizations have developed methods for navigating through the world and coping with life's perils. This handscroll illustrates Tibetan systems for evaluating relationships between the elements and the heavenly bodies in order to map out their combined effects on everyday life....

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Skull Cup by Brian Zaharack

The Skull Cup, thod phor in Tibetan, is a very common symbol in Tibetan Buddhism. Signifying impermanence of life and of the body, skull cups appear in the liturgy and in the art of Tibetan Buddhism, complementing and interlinking a number of contexts with a single Buddhist truth....

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Zan Par by Brian Zaharack

Dough molds such as these are ritual objects called zan par. For lay Buddhists in Tibet, the utilization of gTor ma has been a common way to interact with the pantheon of deities for the purpose of receiving worldly benefits. According to Tibetan Buddhist belief, all events in this world are a result of past deeds, but are also influenced by the actions of various deities and demons. The offering of gTor ma cakes, along with other offerings and meditations, is given either to gain favor of protective deities or to appease malevolent demons....

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shakyamuni buddha

Descent from the Trayastrimsha Heaven by Wei Lin

The Buddha Shakyamuni was a great teacher, and his life was a paradigm of the enlightenment process. Numerous episodes of the Buddha's life are described in Buddhist literature. Among them, the eight great events are the most common, and their representations remain a favorite theme in Buddhist art. The narrative scene depicted in this wood-block print represents one of the life events, namely, the descent from the Trayastrimsha heaven....

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The Life of the Buddha Shakyamuni as Commemorated by Eight Stupas by Wei Lin and Chris Moore

The eight Mahachaityas, as depicted in this painting, commemorate eight sites associated with events in the life of the Buddha Shakyamuni. These events are known as the astamahapratiharya, or "eight great conjuror's illusions" (Huntington, Susan and John, 531-33). These sites constitute a pilgrimage cycle, the completion of which results in potential rebirth into a heaven realm. Although the original Mahachaityas are located in India and Nepal, surrogate stupas were constructed throughout Tibet, inner Asia, and China to facilitate this pilgrimage. Indeed, it is likely that a devotee either commissioned this painting in lieu of taking the actual pilgrimage or perhaps to commemorate such a pilgrimage...

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Narrative scenes of the Buddha Shakyamuni by Wei Lin

Several scenes of narrative stories surrounding the Buddha Shakyamuni are illustrated in this painting. The scenes are separated from one another by natural elements, such as rocks, hills, and clusters of trees. Each scene is set within its own background with buildings and landscape details. Nevertheless, all elements, including the central Buddha, the verdant landscape and human figures are well integrated, and thus, the whole painting can be read as a single unit....

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Shakyamuni and his two disciples presiding over the Confession Buddhas by Lin Su-hsing

The Buddha in the center seated on a lotus throne within an elaborate shrine is Shakyamuni. The large figure of Shakyamuni clearly dominates the composition. He sits cross-legged and makes the bhumisparsha mudra, the earth-touching gesture with his right hand. Shakyamuni is flanked by two of his chief disciples, Sariputra and Mahamaudgalyayana, who are famous for their intellectual and mystical powers, respectively. The two disciples are shown in smaller size; they stand out by virtue of their bright orange robes, and each holds a begging bowl and a monk's mendicant staff, khakkhara....

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Shakyamuni with two hundred Buddhas by Wei Lin

In Mahayana and Tantric traditions, every being has the potential of enlightenment within him or herself. It is commonly stated that there are as many Buddhas as there are stars in the sky. Various Buddhas preside over specific periods of time as well. There are the Buddhas of the past, the Buddha of the present, and the Buddha of the future. The figure in the center of this painting is possibly Shakyamuni, the Buddha of the present time....

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Kadam Chorten (Stupa) by Chris Moore

Kadam stupas generally function as reliquaries. While many contain the ashes of a lama or other revered person, some merely contain associated articles. Frequently, they hold various bits of treasure, ranging from pieces of amber and coral, to coins, to fragments from a lama's robe. Additionally, some stupas even hold the dharma itself, containing passages from sutras and fragments of paintings (Bentor, 1995, 252)....

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Four Taras by Natalie R. Marsh

The goddess Tara is an intriguing and multifaceted deity within Tibetan Buddhism. She is manifest in numerous forms as befit her multiple roles, for which she is worshipped accordingly. Her name may be translated and interpreted in several ways. The term, "Tara," means "star," and is most closely associated with the polar stars, the primary tool used by mariners and travelers in following a correct path during journeys. This meaning is clearly related to Tara's role as one who guides and saves individuals from the perils of travel, whether physical or spiritual. The Sanskrit verbal root "tri," another possible linguistic link meaning "to carry across, assist in difficulty, to rescue or save," is also associated with Tara's name, and subsequent role as a saviouress....

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Bromdon by Tom Suchan

The famous ordained layman (S: upasaka) Bromdon (1005-1064) was the principle Tibetan disciple of the Bengali master Dipamkara Srijnana (982-1057), better known by the honorific title Atisa, "The Incomparable One." Atisa was one of the most famous Indian scholars of his day and is credited with providing the impetus to initiate the second propagation of Buddhism in Tibet with his arrival at the request of the western Tibetan king Yeshe-O in 1042. Near the end of Atisa's intended stay of three years, Bromdon meet Atisa and convinced him to remain in Tibet for the remainder of his life. Bromdon became Atisa's primary disciple and a noted scholar and translator in his own right....

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Eight Manifestations of Padmasambhava by Ariana P. Maki

Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche, Padmakara, or Tsokey Dorje, was the guru predicted by the Buddha Shakyamuni to bring the Buddhist Dharma to Tibet. In the land of Uddiyana, King Indrabhuti had undergone many trials, including the loss of his young son and a widespread famine in his kingdom. The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara felt compassion for the king, and entreated the Buddha Amitabha, pictured directly above Padmasambhava, to help him. From his tongue, Amitabha emanated a light ray into the lake of Kosha, and a lotus grew, upon which sat an eight year old boy. The boy was taken into the kingdom of Uddiyana as the son of King Indrabhuti and named Padmasambhava, or Lotus Born One...

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Karmapa Lama by Tom Suchan

The third Karmapa lama Rang Jung Dorje (1284-1338) whose name translates as "Self-Arisen Vajra" was one of most influential of the lineage of seventeen Karmapa lamas. The Karmapa lamas are the spiritual leaders of a branch of the Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism that was established by Dusum Khyenpa (1110-1193) and based in Tsurphu monastery fifty miles west of Lhasa. The Karmapas are considered to be one of the earliest line of tulku (T: sPrul-sKu) "reincarnate lamas" in Tibet. Their representations in art can be easily identified by their distinctive black hat (T. Shwa-nag) which was a gift from a Mongol prince to the second Karmapa Lama, Karmapakshi, and held to represent a metaphysical hat made of the hairs of a myriad of Dakinis....

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Refuge Field of Padmasambhava by Ariana P. Maki

Each day, a Buddhist devotee takes refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, to remind him or her of the purity of the teachings and the route of their transmission. Tantras which explain how to take refuge are very explicit: the guru is identical to the Buddha, and subsequently, all Buddhas. The guru is the link between Buddhas and the student, and confers the teachings necessary to progress towards enlightenment....

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The Teacher, Padmasambhava by Ariana P. Maki

The eight primary manifestations of Padmasambhava are here joined by Nyingma monks and protective deities. Padmasambhava is seated in the center atop a lotus bloom with his common attributes, on his left shoulder the khatvanga, in the left hand the kapala, and holds the vajra in his right hand. His primary consorts, Mandarava and Yeshe Tsogyal, are flanking him. Directly above Padmasambhava's head is the Bodhisattva, Avalokiteshvara and atop him, the red Buddha Amitabha. The Buddha Amitabha is the direct progenitor of both Avalokiteshvara and Padmasambhava, but the extent of their relationship will not be explored here....

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