Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sakya Refuge Field Identification Key

The Sakya Refuge Field poster created for the 1980 Puruwalla Lamdre has been colour coded on the Himalayan Art Resources website and the lineages differentiated. The next step is to separate the different lineages and sections and to create another image of only that section along with a numbered identification key for those parts individually. Each figure will be numbered and a Romanized transliteration of the name provided for the lineage teachers and the Sanskrit name provided for all of the deities. This has already begun. See the earlier post from September Sakya Refuge Field Poster.

Mahakala Visual Model - Updated

A new visual model page has been added to further simplify the identification of all the figures of the Panjara Mahakala painting HAR #87227. It has already been discussed previously but, this painting is both unique and special because it is so clear and easy to follow and also because it represents precisely the form of Mahakala described in the Vajrapanjara Tantra along with so many of the other deity forms described in that same tantra, such as White Prajnaparamita, Vajra Tara, Bhutadamara Vajrapani, etc. This is one of the only paintings in existence that depicts the correct iconographic form of the Vajrapanjara Tantra Mahakala as passed on through the Lamdre (Margapala) tradition of Sakya.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hevajra Mandala: More Visuals

Here is another page to help with navigation for the Hevajra Mandala discussed below (HAR #87225). The two Himalayan Art Resources visual key pages have been placed alongside the main mandala image with the identification keys for the numbers and colours located below - all on one page.

See Mapping a Mandala: Hevajra - A Visual Model.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hevajra Resource Page

A new Hevajra Resource Page has been added to the HAR website. Additional new pages have also been created and added to the Hevajra section. See the new Hevajra Masterworks Page and the Hevajra Deity Forms Page. The many scattered and miscellaneous Hevajra pages have been brought together under the Resource Page. The main topics of the new page are mediums, mandalas, reading a mandala and deity forms.

The Masterworks page on the HAR website is based almost exclusively on art and aesthetics while maintaining a standard of iconographic accuracy. From a religious perspective, a Sakya perspective, or a Lamdre perspective, the Masterworks Page would change and reflect predominantly iconography and the chronology of small changes in iconography that reflect changes in the teachings and commentaries that have taken place over the last millennium. A religious Masterworks page might also include unique and rare subjects that pertain to Hevajra in general, or to the specific Lamdre system such as the Hevajra Balimta Offering painting.

Mapping a Mandala: Hevajra - A Visual Model

Paintings of the Hevajra Mandala are quite numerous and at times of a very high artistic quality. This painting from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is one of the finest and best preserved in the world. It was painted in 1461 as recorded by inscription on the reverse of the composition and very likely commissioned at Ngor Monastery in Tsang Province, Tibet. Ngor was founded by Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo (1382-1456) and this painting was likely commissioned by a principal student or nephew less than five years after the founders passing.

Aside from the artistic qualities of this Hevajra mandala it is perhaps the best, or clearly one of the best, iconographic examples of a Hevajra Mandala in the world. Anybody who is interested in the practice of Hevajra or engages in the practice should know this painting and should study this painting. Every figure depicted in the mandala is clear, iconographically detailed, and correct. Two mandala elements stand out as being particularly detailed, the Eight Great Cemeteries and the Eleven Wrathful Ones. Each of the Wrathful Ones is correctly coloured and holds the correct object, or mudra, in the right hand.

Reading a mandala is often very difficult without insider knowledge and the benefit of the explanatory literature. Painted mandala compositions are generally read from the center out and then all of the figures immediately outside of the mandala circle, followed by the top register, and then finishing with the bottom register. The important sections of the MFA Hevajra painting have been divided into colours; blue for the essential deities, red for the Eight Great Charnal Grounds, yellow for the lineage teachers and green for the miscellaneous deities added by the donor or artist. Click on the image to see the greyscale/coloured Numbered and Names Key for this painting.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Visual Models for Practice: Panjarnata Mahakala

The image of the painting shown here is really quite exceptional. It may not be to everybody's taste. The style is very strongly influenced by the Newar aesthetics of the Kathmandu Valley. This style however was very popular at the Ngor Ewam Monastery of Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo. Ngorchen is depicted in the upper left corner below the image of Kalachakra.

This painting is both unique and special, not because it is so clear and easy to follow, but rather because it represents precisely the form of Mahakala described in the Vajrapanjara Tantra and also because it includes so many other deities described in that same tantra that are special to the Hevajra system of practice - such as White Prajnaparamita, Vajra Tara, Bhutadamara Vajrapani, etc.

Panjarnata, Vajra Mahakala (Tibetan: dor je nag po chen po, gur gyi gon po. English: the Great Vajra Black One, Lord of the Pavilion), special protector of the Hevajra cycle of teachings and principal protector of the Sakya Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. This form of Mahakala arises from the 18th chapter of the Vajrapanjara exclusive explanatory tantra. The Vajrapanajara Tantra is exclusive to the Hevajra Root Tantra whereas a tantra such as the Samputa is an explanatory tantra shared between the Hevajra and Chakrasamvara (and Yogini) root literature.

The unique iconographic feature of Panjaranata Mahakala as described in the Vajrapanjara Tantra and according to the special Lamdre literature of the Sakya Tradition is that he has no ghandi stick laying horizontally across the forearms. In the other more common Sakya traditions of Panjara Mahakala, such as the Three Deity, Eight Deity etc., he is generally depicted with the ghandi 'stick of emanation.' There are other exceptions to this ghandi stick rule but they are rare and not commonly found in art. The two main exceptions are for the Nagarjuna lineage form and the Ngog lineage form of Panjarnata.

As with most things related to Tantric Buddhism, there is some confusion regarding the name of this Mahakala. Specifically, the name 'panjara' or 'panjarnata' is referring to deities described in the Vajrapanjara Tantra. Therefore this form of Mahakala is the Vajrapanjara or Panjara form. However, generally speaking, there are other descriptions of this same form of Mahakala found in other tantras such as the Twenty-five Chapter and Fifty Chapter Mahakala Tantras. So, how are we to understand this? Now it comes down to appearance. If the Mahakala form has one face and two hands, squat, holding a curved knife and skullcup at the heart, and generally (but not always) holding a ghandi stick across the forearms, then it is said colloquially and in Tibetan literature that this is Panjaranata Mahakala, or the panjara form of Mahakala despite the original source text. It is likely that this came about because the Vajrapanjara Tantra and the Hevajra Tantra were so well known as early Tantric literary works and practice traditions. Because the panjara name was so well known and represented the one face, two armed, form of Mahakala, it is therefore most likely that the name panjara came to be applied to all forms of Mahakala that had this same appearance.

Alternate Names: Vajra Panjara, Vajra Panjarnata, Panjara, Panjarnata, Panjara Mahakala, Panjarnata Mahakala.

Panjarnata Masterworks
Panjarnata Main Page
Panjarnata Outline Page

Monday, November 30, 2009

New Narrative Content on HAR

Short biographies for the following Sakya Lamas, or Sakya related, have been added to the HAR website:
Sachen Kunga Nyingpo
Sonam Tsemo
Dragpa Gyaltsen
Drogmi Lotsawa
Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro
Kedrub Kyungpo Naljor
Gyurme Dechen

Also see the Religious Traditions Section for:
Sakya Tradition
Jonang Tradition
Shangpa Tradition

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sakya Biographies

The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation has started a new website called the Treasury of Lives with a mission to translate or paraphrase the biographies of the major Tibetan Buddhist Teachers. Some biographies are of Sakya Lamas. I have copied a few of these over to the Himalayan Art Resources website accompanied with links and illustrations. I will post to the SRG whenever I upload a new Sakya Biography to the HAR site.

Sakya Biographies:
Drogmi Lotsawa Shakya Yeshe
Dzongsar Khyentse Jamyang Chokyi Lodro (Also look to the biography of Chokyi Lodro, by Dhongtok Rinpoche, in the Bodhi Magazine of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche).

Monday, November 16, 2009

Secrets of Shangri-La: Quest for Sacred Caves

This may seem at first to be unrelated or a departure from the study of the Sakya Tradition but it is not. In the summer of 2008 I spent a month in the Mustang Region of Nepal with a National Geographic sponsored film crew to investigate previously inaccessible caves filled with ancient artifacts, texts, and Buddhist and Bon cave murals. The cave murals were primarily Sakya in origin and span the 14th to 16th centuries.

In one cave complex called Mardzong, just south of the town of Lo Monthang, in the upper chambers a stash of 14th and 15th century manuscripts were discovered - after collating, amounting to thirty large Tibetan volumes. Predominantly belonging to the Bon religion, the remaining texts were Sakya and many of them relating to the Sakya system of Lamdre.

Furthermore, Mustang is the last remaining Sakya Kingdom in the world, although also containing a smattering of Nyingma and Bon communities. Two of the main temples in the capital walled town of Lo Monthang, in Upper Mustang, are a treasure of murals in the tradition of the great Tibetan murals of the Sakya Monasteries of Gyantse, Shalu and Sakya. For Sakya Art History Lo Monthang is equally important for the study of mandalas and the Tantric systems of Maha Vairochana and Sarvavid Vairochana, along with the visual culture of other Yoga Tantra systems.

If you have access to North American Television please tune in to PBS, November 18th, 8:00 p.m., to watch the National Geographic Special, Secrets of Shangri-La.

"Tune in to PBS November 18th, 8:00 p.m., to watch the National Geographic Special, Secrets of Shangri-La ( To see a trailer for the program, go to:"

Cast of Characters:
Liesl Clark: Director, Project Co-leader
Pete Athans: Chief Climber, Project Co-leader
Brot Coburn: Project Co-leader
Didi Thunder: Support Treks Mastermind
Renan Ozturk: Climber, Video, Draftsperson
Kris Erickson: Climber, Photographer
Sukrasagar Shrestha: Archaeologist
Mohan Singh Lama: Archaeologist
Prakash Darnal: Archaeologist
Dr. Mark Aldenderfer: Archaeologist
Dr. Charles Ramble: Anthropologist
Sirish Bhatt: Caves Draftsperson
Karl Swingle: HDV Camera
Edgar Boyles: HD Camera
Morgan Boyles: HDV Camera
Jean Dunoyer: Editor
Jaime Dunoyer: Assistant Editor
Luigi Fieni: Art Conservator, Photographer
Jeff Watt: Art Historian
Ian Alsop: Art History Advisor
Angela Simons: Archaeologist
Jiban Ghimire: Agent, Fixer
Ted Hesser: Climber
Jay Adams: Assistant Camera
Jyoti Rana: Sound
Korynn Rielly Kirchwey: Motion Graphics
Pixeldust Studios: Animation
Anne De Salles: Anthropologist
Olivia Ramble: Pecha Archivist
Charlotte Ramble: Pecha Archivist
Phoebe Coburn: Pecha Archivist
Tsewang Bista: Cultural Advisor
Indra Bista: Cultural Advisor
Ang Temba Sherpa: Sirdar
Tashi Wangyal: Horseman

Friday, November 13, 2009

Bodhi Magazine Fall Issue

The Bodhi Magazine put out by the organization of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche has published an issue dedicated to the Sakya Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. It is full of interesting teachings and histories. The most important section is probably the new translation of a rare Virupa biography. It was recently translated by Cyrus Stearns of Seattle, Washington. Dhongtok Rinpoche has also provided a biography of his teacher Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro. The entire issue is well worth looking at. They plan on publishing an issue dedicated to each of the four major schools - Sakya is the second of these issues.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Chinese Government & Google Blogs

The Chinese Government and Google have a dispute over which news feeds Google provides over its internet Blog service. Subsequently Google Blogs, which the SRG and HAR websites use, are blocked in China.

There are too many people in China using the SRG site to have it hobbled by international politics. Several different options will be looked at before deciding on a remedy. This blog accessibility problem will be a priority for the next few weeks.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wutaishan Mountain with Luding Khenpo

The SRG has had no recent updates because I am still away in China. Currently I am at Wutaishan Mountain the most holy location for the bodhisattva/deity Manjushri in China.

Luding Khenpo is also here and we spent the day along with a small group of students touring the main sites on the valley floor in the morning. In the afternoon we climbed the stairs to one temple to see a shrine presenting all five forms of Manjushri associated with each of the five peaks. The concept of five Manjushri forms and five peaks is said in the Tibetan tradition to be created by Chogyal Pagpa the preceptor to Kublai Khan of the Yuan dynasty. It is also said that Chogyal Pagpa was physically involved with the construction of the main stupa at Wutaishan.

Google blogs are not generally accessible in China and I won't be able to post images until I return to Hong Kong or New York on Friday. Don't ask me how I was able to post this entry. The internet has many country roads and back alleys.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

On the Road Again!

I'm off to Beijing China in the morning. There are two back to back art and archeology conferences that I am attending along with the opening of a new Tibetology institute attached to the Palace Museum (Forbidden City). As internet and time permits I will try and post content to the SRG website.

There are numerous sites that are special for the Sakya Tradition. The side temples of the Aniko Stupa in Beijing follow a Sakya iconography, namely the Marpo Kor Sum of the Thirteen Golden Dharmas. There is also rumoured to be a Mahakala Temple built at the time of Chogyal Pagpa and the Nepalese (Newar) artist Aniko. The central image was Panjarnata Mahakala the principal Buddhist protector of the Mongol Khans (and the Sakya Tradition) from the time of Kublai Khan. The giant, bigger than life size, sculpture is said to have disappeared during the Boxer Revolution in about 1900 but the temple is still standing although not open to the public. I heard that it is just outside of the Palace Museum at the south-west corner. I will try and visit this location and take some photos of the architectural structure. If the rumours are true it is possible that it was erected at the time of Chogyal Pagpa and perhaps under his direction.

To learn more about Buddhist and Tibetan art see the Beijing Quick Guide.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Small Navigation Change on the SRG Home Page

I have made a small navigation change on the SRG Home Page. The Blog, titled 'News/Updates/Blog' has been moved up from under RESOURCES to the first item under INTRODUCTION. The idea is to give a higher profile to the most active and changing part of the web site.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Visual Models for Arapachana Manjushri (Part 2: Variations)

There are four basic forms of Manjushri that are either called Arapachana by name or use the Arapachana syllables as the principal mantra for the deity. The first (1) is Arapachana, orange in colour, sometimes white. He holds a sword in the right hand and the stem of an utpala flower supporting the Prajnaparamita text in the left. The second (2) form is Manjushri associated with a famous Sanskrit praise, orange in colour. The third (3) form is Arapachana, white in colour, sometimes orange, with the two hands holding the stems of two utpala flowers supporting a sword and text. The fourth (4), Vidyadhara Pitika (not shown here), is similar to the second form except white in colour and with the left leg pendant.

All forms of Arapachana Manjushri are peaceful in appearance. There are also many other forms of Manjushri that are peaceful but do not use the Name Arapachana or the arapachana mantra. Also, not all forms of Manjushri are peaceful. The principal examples of semi-wrathful and wrathful appearance are Black Manjushri as semi and then the many forms of Vajrabhairava, Krishna Yamari, Rakta Yamari and Manjushri Nagaraksha.

On the illustrated example page provided above there are four additional images of Manjushri related to Arapachana. These are found on a mandala painting of Vagishvari Dharmadhatu. The painting depicts twenty-three peaceful forms of Manjushri, three wrathful forms known as Yamari, and three mandalas in total.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Visual Models for Arapachana Manjushri (Part 1: Background)

Manjushri is a very important 'general' Tantric meditation in the Sakya Tradition. Manjushri was important for the Five Holy Superiors of the Sakya School - the five early founders (jetsun gongma nga). He was especially important for both Sachen Kunga Nyingpo and Sakya Pandita. Both of these teachers had visions of Manjushri. Sachen heard the profound Mind Training teaching called the Separation from the Four Attachments directly from Manjushri during a six month Arapachana retreat. Sakya Pandita was even regarded as an early Tibetan emanation of Manjushri, while Sapan himself considered his own teacher, Dragpa Gyaltsen, to be Manjushri. Sapan was later to be included as the first of the Three Manjushris of Tibet along with Longchenpa Drime Ozer and Je Tsongkapa Lobsang Dragpa.

Sakya Pandita wrote a four line praise to Dragpa Gyaltsen addressing him as Manjunatha - the Lord Manjushri. However, this praise was not used or directed towards Dragpa Gyaltsen by Sakya Pandita's students but rather directed to Sakya Pandita himself who had become even more famous as a Manjushri emanation. Even today in the Sakya School this is the main praise/prayer addressed to Sapan.

"With wide eyes perceiving all things,
And compassionately achieving the good of all beings;
Having power performing acts beyond thought.
Guru Manjunata, to your feet I bow my head."
(Written by Sakya Pandita).

Padmasambhava made predictions about the rise of the Sakya Tradition and the holy location of the large patch of white earth at the place known as 'sakya.' Later, Jowo Atisha also made predictions when seeing the famous 'sakya' location and elaborated by saying that in the future there would be an emanation of Avalokiteshvara, Vajrapani and many Manjushri emanations arising from this geographic location. In Tibet the Sakya School also became known as the Manjushri Tradition. Generally, all male members of the Khon family, the hereditary leaders of the Sakya School, are each regarded as Manjushri emanations.

The three main Manjushri practices in Sakya are the (1) Arapachana (orange or white), (2) White (Sita) and (3) Black (Krishna) Manjushris. The function of the first two Manjushris is in the generation of knowledge, memory and ultimately the two forms of wisdom, prajna (sherab) and jnana (yeshe). Black Manjushri, included in the Thirteen Golden Dharmas, is for removing serious obstacles, hindrances, sickness and disease not curable or alleviated through other means.

The Arapachana form of Manjushri has a small number of different variations along with an orange version and a white version. The white form appears to be the original colour for Arapachana. It is not clear when or why the orange form developed and became the more popular form of the deity. There is the practice of the single deity and then there is the Mandala of Five Deities - Manjushri at the center surrounded by four accompanying figures. Even though Arapachana is classified as both a Kriya and Charya Tantra practice there is early evidence from the Bari Gyatsa of Bari Lotsawa Rinchen Drag that there were Perfection Stage (dzog rim) practices used to accompany the Generation Stage (kye rim) Deity Yoga. Perfection Stage techniques were generally a unique practice and characteristic of the Anuttaryoga Classification of Buddhist Tantra. The Sakya Tradition classifies the Manjushri Root Tantra, Manjushri Mulakalpa, as a Charya Tantra. (See a short essay on Tantra Classification).

The significant physical characteristics of Arapachana are the blue sword of wisdom held upraised in the right hand and the Prajnaparamita supported on an utpala blossom held in the left hand. Some forms of Arapachana describe him with the two hands in the Dharma Teaching gesture at the heart while holding the stems of two blue utpala flowers supporting the wisdom sword and Prajnaparamita book. The blue utpala flower is not a lotus. It is thought by some Western experts to be a blue lily flower.

Older archaic forms of Manjushri, depicted in painting and sculpture, place the Prajnaparamita text held to the heart in the left hand. A good example of the archaic form is the sculpture belonging to the late Dezhung Rinpoche Tenpai Nyima, previously belonging to Ngagwang Legpa Rinpoche. This form is also most often seen in early Indian, Kashmiri and Tibetan sculpture. Since the 15th or 16th centuries this variation is rarely described in the liturgical or practice manuals. See a brief explanation of the iconographic features of Arapachana. However, the most common and iconic form of Manjushri is when he is depicted holding the wisdom sword upraised to the sky, ready to cleave, symbolically severing the roots of ignorance. This is the form of the deity that is commonly practiced by the teachers of the past and the students and practitioners of today. The most special and profound practice is called the Sakya Uncommon Orange Arapachana Manjushri.

My favorite image of the deity which was also the form I was first introduced to many years ago was published by the London Buddhist Society (shown above). I am not sure who owns the actual painting, possibly the Society or perhaps the V & A Museum in London. The image here is a scan from the old folding note card. I believe what is well depicted here is the most important characteristic of the Arapachana form. That characteristic is the subtle right twist in the body created from the raising of the right arm holding the sword of wisdom. When this twist which occurs naturally is not depicted then the result is a very stiff and unnatural looking form (try it yourself while looking in the mirror). A big part of the charm of Arapachana is this youthful dexterity and suppleness described as a characteristic of the Indian deva and devi (gods and goddesses) forms found in classical Indian literature - a basis for Buddhsit Tantric texts. An important epithet for Manjushri is kumara, meaning youthful, Kumara Manjushri, or Kumarabhuta Arapachana Manjushri.

Manjushri Resources:
Manjushri Main Page on HAR
Manjushri Outline Page on HAR
Manjushri Tantra Classifications on HAR
Exhibition: Wutaishan, Pilgrimage to Five Peak Mountain
Wutaishan, Pilgrimage to the Five Peaked Mountain (
Origins of Manjushri
Manjushri Bibliography

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Where Does Sakya Fit in the Classifications of Tibetan Buddhism

Where does the Sakya Tradition and where do Sakya practitioners fit in the classification systems of Tibetan Buddhism? View the new page on the Himalayan Art Resources website to see the four main classification systems. Sakyas, like all of the other traditions, are unique. What is not generally known about the Sakya tradition is that early on they were known as the Nyingma Sarma, or the New Nyingma Tradition. The Sakya name and Sakya portion of the tradition refers to the location of the first temple in Central Western Tibet and the new Tantras coming from India in the 11th century. The actual individuals responsible for creating this temple and promoting these new Tantras from India were members of the Khon family which is one of the oldest recorded families in Tibet. Originally Bonpo, they became Buddhist in the 8th century, and disciples of Padmasambhava. They especially practiced the Eight Pronouncement Deities of the Nyingma Tradition. From the 11th century onwards they maintained both the old Nyingma practices, particularly the Vajrakila and the Samputa, along with the new Tantras from India and Kashmir such as the Hevajra, Chakrasamvara, Guhyasamaja, Kalachakra, and many others. The Sakya Tradition is a very early mixture of old and new Tibetan Buddhist practice lineages yet maintaining the distinct nature, practice and philosophic view of each of these traditions.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Visual Models of the Various Forms of Manjushri

Well, so far nobody has any other suggestions for visual models than what I have already put forth. Tomorrow I will present several different forms of Manjushri. Arapachana and Black Manjushri have the same body posture so I will offer my preferred choices for those. White Manjushri is an interesting form because it is so often confused with White Tara, White Prajnaparamita and Lokeshvara. There are some very good examples of White Manjushri to be found in the different collections.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Visual Models for Practice: Vajrayogini

Vajrayogini is one of the easier deities to find good images for. My favourite, in most cases, is an Eastern Tibetan painting, HAR #290, likely based on the Dege Parkhang block print of the same subject. It belongs to the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City. The full composition of the painting has Khyentse Wangpo at the top left (our left) and Loter Wangpo on the right. The painting is clear, with clean lines, and a reasonably well formed body. The subject is not an easy form to create with the head looking up to the sky and the body twisted to the left side. It is one of the more unusual of the Vajrayogini postures.

There are other good forms such as HAR #61139. The posture of this Yogini is a little more standard. Paintings like HAR #81541 are great as well because they have all of the lineage teachers portrayed above and the two other yoginis from the Marmo Korsum at the sides. This is not so unusual to see. However, this painting is particularly nice because it has the Sakya Trizin at the bottom left corner along with his son and seated in the right corner is his wife. The first of these paintings belongs to a private collection in New York State and the second belongs to a private collection in Washington, D.C.

Painting HAR #98956 is also quite good unfortunately we do not have a large image that we can look at. The form of the deity is well balanced. It has a shape similar to the painting of HAR #290 as shown above. This painting belongs to the Hahn Cultural Foundation in Seoul, Korea.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Visual Models for Practice

What are the best visual models for the different Sakya Generation Stage (kye rim) practices? This has always been an interest of mine ever since I first began to learn of Deity Yoga, also called Generation Stage Yoga. What do you think the best images are to model personal practice after?

I will offer two candidates, the first is Bhutadamara Vajrapani from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Of all the forms of Bhutadamara as a central figure this one appears to me to be the most animate, the most correct proportionally, and the most visually pleasing. Many of the forms don't quite look right. A common problem with many Bhutadamara paintings is that the two main arms extending to the sides are often too short. That is not an issue here. However, in this Natural History Museum image the left hand holding the vajra lasso seems more upraised than usual, but that is fine. There is nothing iconographically wrong with this. The Dege Parkhang line drawing of Bhutadamara is close in form to the image above but just doesn't have the animation and life that the Natural History painting has.

Why is Bhutadamara important in the Sakya tradition? This form of Vajrapani is described in chapter two of the Vajrapanjara Tantra, an exclusive explanatory Tantra to the Hevajra Root Tantra in Two Sections. Vajrapani with four arms is a special deity method for removing obstacles at the outset of Tantric practice and most specifically for practitioners of Shri Hevajra. In the Sakya Tradition any serious practice of Hevajra would be framed within the Lamdre system. Bhutadamara therefore is an essential practice for Lamdre and a required retreat, a minimum of one month in duration, prior to embarking on a six month Hevajra retreat. Again, within the Sakya Tradition Bhutadamara is generally recommended as an uncommon preliminary practice prior to other retreats and serious endevours such as Chakrasamvra, Vajrayogini and the other complex Anuttarayoga meditation practices.

Bhutadamara is not commonly depicted as a central figure in a painting. He is more often included amongst the secondary figures surrounding either Shri Hevajra or Panjaranata Mahakala in one of those two more popular painted compositions.

View all Bhutadamara images.

For practices other than Hevajra it is also suitable to do the practice and retreat of Nila Achala, blue in colour, and in a kneeling posture [see Outline Page]. Lobpon Sonam Tsemo wrote a long commentary on the practice of Nila Achala which is considered definitive even in these later times.

My second candidate for the best visual form, at the risk of being accused of cheating, is a Hevajra Torma Offering depiction in the Rubin Museum of Art. The reason it could be considered cheating is because it is the only one that I know of that exists. Even Sakya Lamas have been surprised when they see the image for the first time. It is not common to paint the front visualization for the Hevajra Torma ritual. The painting is extremely clear in its detail. When reading the Tibetan text and looking at the image at the same time everything in the iconography makes sense. The text was definitely the basis for the composition.

These are my two choices that I offer up as being the best visual models for those two specific subjects in Deity Yoga meditation. Do you have better examples? Do you have other visual forms you think should be highlighted, compared and discussed?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sakya Refuge Field Poster - Large Format

Does anybody remember this drawing from back in 1980? It was made for distribution during the Puruwalla Lamdre that began late in 1980 and continued into 1981. There were two sizes made, a smaller size on heavy card stock (legal sized paper in dimension) and then a full sized poster 30 inches in length, twenty-two inches across, printed on thin paper. It is I believe the most detailed Sakya Refuge Field created to date (in modern times). Every figure is inscribed with a Tibetan name inscription and both printings are legible. The composition includes famous contemporary teachers such as Lama Dampa Kangsar Rinpoche, Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro and Dezhung Rinpoche. In comparison, the large 15 or 20 foot painted tangka created for the same Lamdre event does not include even half the number of figures as the poster composition, deities or lamas. Two extra unnamed lama figures were even added in case somebody felt an important figure from an obscure lineage was not represented appropriately - basically write in the name yourself. One of the deities below Vajradhara, in an upper tier, is drawn incorrectly. This error will be clarified in due time so that the confusion does not perpetuate.

Upon my return to New York I will work to create a better image of the poster and remove some of the background noise created by scanning. A large format image can then be posted to the Himalayan Art Resources site. After that we can create a duplicate image of the Refuge Field and number all of the figures in the composition (lamas, deities, protectors). Then we can design an English language key for all of the names following the correct lineage chronology. Possibly a colour coding system can be employed where the three distinct Guru Lineages presented in the composition are differentiated. The deities can be treated with a different colour, as with the Thirty-five Confession Buddhas. Along the bottom, in an upward turning arch, the wrathful protectors can have there own distinguishing colour treatment making them stand apart from the other distinct groupings of figures.

Complex and layered compositions such as this are best simplified and decoded using a combination of overlaying names, numbers and colours. (See the example of the yoga postures in a Vajradhara & Eighty-four Mahasiddha painting and also see the Kalachakra and Vajravali Deities).

(Click on the image to get an idea of the detail. Download a 1.2 meg medium sized image. Download a 3.8 meg large sized image).

Refuge Field or Field of Accumulation Paintings:
See Field of Accumulation Outline Page on the HAR site
See Sakya Field of Accumulation Paintings

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Lamdre 1975 Group Photograph Missing

In March 2009 when I went to visit Sakya Trizin Rinpoche in Dehradun, and as I was patiently sitting in the waiting room prior to an audience, I noticed that all of the group photos of past Lamdre Teachings, given by Sakya Trizin, were framed and hung on the walls of the rather small room. They were not in any chronological sequence and not all were labeled. It was a guessing game. All that I could be sure about was which Lamdres and in which years that I personally had attended. The 1980 and 2000 group photos were accounted for but there was no sign of a photo for the 1975 Lamdre, the 2nd Lamdre that Rinpoche ever gave, after giving his 1st Lamdre teaching at Sarnath in the late 1960s. Also, there did not appear to be an obvious blank space or gap on any of the walls where a framed photo might have hung. It was a mystery!

Only minutes after that, during my time with Rinpoche I asked him why there was no group photo of the 1975 Lamdre hanging on the wall in the waiting room. He turned to me and said "There is no photo of the Rajpur Lamdre?" He also seemed puzzled. He left the room that we were in to go and look, I followed. Indeed, there was no 1975 group photo on the wall in the waiting room. We looked at other photos and reminisced for a minute or two; it might not have been that long. We left it at that, having more interesting things to talk about, rather than spending time with nostalgia and brief trips down memory lane.

Later however, this waiting room experience got me thinking about where my old photographs from India in the 1970s were. Well, a few days ago and five months later, in Vancouver I found the 1975 Lamdre group photograph and a number of others from the same time period and event. All of course are in black and white as was the standard for India at that time.

So, here it is, the missing photograph, not nearly as refined and elegant as those later Kodak and Fujichrome group photos. But it didn't need to be, remember, it was at this Lamdre where most of the young Sakya Lamas, prominent today, such as Luding Khenpo and Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche received their first Lamdre teachings and empowerments. The first Sakya College students from Mussoorie, the original location, were in attendance. Many of the young monks seated in the foreground of the photo are today the ones in charge of Sakya Monastery in Rajpur, or have gone on to become graduates of Sakya College, or become abbots, or have built, or become leaders in, other monasteries and centers throughout Asia and the rest of the world. It was a Lamdre full of promise, and a Lamdre to remember!

The top left photograph is the full group shot. The close-up is of Sakya Trizin with Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche standing to the left (on the right of Sakya Trizin) and Luding Shabdrung below that to the left (now he is Luding Khenpo). Directly behind is Chiwang Tulku with Zimwog Rinpoche at the lower right and Sherpa Tulku again to the right. In the upper right corner is Gyalse Rinpoche who unfortunately passed away unexpectedly in Australia some years ago.

The lower photo is a detail of me with a very white complexion. Slightly below and to the left is Sangye-la, dressed in lay attire and wearing a turtle-neck sweater. He was the main attendant of Sakya Trizin for as long as anybody can remember. So there you have it, the missing Lamdre group photo of 1975, but where is the group photo from the first Lamdre in Sarnath?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Lotsawa School Website

The Lotsawa School website is highlighting quotes of Sakya Pandita in Tibetan and English translation.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Simhanada Lokeshvara: A Golden Dharma

Simhanada is included as one of the practices in the Thirteen Golden Dharmas of Sakya. It was considered important by the early teachers and kept safe as one of the special practices passed down by Bari Lotsawa Rinchen Drag to Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158).

Originally taught by the Indians Chandragomi and Suvarnadvipa, it entered Tibet in the 11th century with Rinchen Zangpo, Jowo Atisha, Bari Lotsawa and others. The deity form and meditation practices are now found in all traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. A stone sculpture relief of the deity can also be found carved on a rock face in Hangzhou, China, at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Simhanada Lokeshvara was popularized in Mongolia and China by Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen (1182-1251) when he cured Godan Khan of leprosy using the special healing techniques of Simhanada Lokeshvara.

See the Simhanada Lokeshvara Outline Page on the HAR website.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Magzor Gyalmo, a form of Shri Devi

Magzor Gyalmo, meaning the Queen who Repels Armies, or the Queen who has the power to turn back armies, belongs to the larger class of enlightened protector deities known as Shri Devi, or Palden Lhamo in Tibetan. Magzor Gyalmo is a wrathful emanation of the peaceful goddess Sarasvati, popular in both Hinduism and Buddhism.

See Magzorma Outline Page.

Magzorma is one of the Sakya protectors whose rituals are done on a daily basis in all Sakya and Ngor Monasteries. She is the special protector for the Puntsok Podrang of the Khon Family and also for the Luding Labrang of Ngor Ewam Monastery. A similar two armed form of Shri Devi known as Dorje Rabtenma is the special protector of Shalu Monastery.

In Sakya the most important Shri Devi is Dudsolma with one face and four hands riding a mule. She is the companion of Panjarnata Mahakala and both of these figures are considered offspring of Ekajati (no not the Nyingma one-eyed, one-toothed Ekajati). Coming out of a different narrative tradition, Magzorma is either the younger sister or a servant of Dudsolma.

See the Himalayan Art Resources website for a longer essay on Shri Devi Magzor Gyalmo and a new Magzorma Outline Page.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Updates, Changes & Things of Interest

On the HAR website the Sakya Main Page has been updated with a short passage by Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro and a slightly revised version of the SRG Sakya History essay that I did years ago: Sakya History.

A new Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo Outline Page has been added: Ngorchen Outline.

A new Ngor Tradition Outline, which is really at the beginning stages, with a lot more to be added: Ngor Tradition.

A separate page for the Lama Dampa Sonam Gyaltsen Vajravali mandala painting set has been added. Learn more about the Vajravali, its history and art. When Khyabgon Sakya Trizin gives the Kalachakra initiation, such as for the opening ceremonies of the Ani Gompa in Dekyi Ling this past April, then he used the Vajravali version of the initiation. (See one of the best examples and possibly the oldest Vajravali painting known).

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Still In India

I am still away traveling in India. The Translator's Conference was over last week and I have been traveling and doing research since then. Most of the work has been non-Sakya related, however I am now in Manduwalla the home of Ngor Magon. The back end of the monastery where the monk's quarters are located is directly outside my bedroom window. I also plan to visit the new Gongkar Monastery about a half hour drive from here back towards Paonta Sahb and Chandigarh,and then visit Sakya Center in Rajpur.

The image above is a prayer to Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen composed by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. It is designed as a visual diagram that can be read in almost every direction. It is very large and painted at the entrance way to the old Dzongsar Institute main temple which is now Deer Park Institute. A new Dzongsar Institute has been built a few kilometers away. There are two other prayers done in the same way, a Shakyamuni and a Longchenpa prayer. I will upload these to the HAR database when I return to New York.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Translators Conference - Hosted by Khyentse Foundation

I will be attending the Translators Conference in Bir, India, during the month of March 2009. New updates to the SRG Blog may be few and far between. Be patient there is lots more to come with images from the major Sakya monasteries of Tibet, new biographies and links.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

New Websites & Blogs

The Jonang Foundation website is well worth looking at and book marking. It is the most important and reliable Jonang site so far on the internet. The Jonang, Bodong, and Shalu traditions are the closest Tibetan Buddhist schools to Sakya both philosophically and especially in Tantric tradition and lineage. Khyentse Chokyi Lodro went so far as to say that these three were branch schools of Sakya.

TBRC has a new Blog addition to their website. The website overall is intended for an academic audience as well as Tibetan Lamas and teachers. It is essentially written in Tibetan language or Wylie transliteration. The Blog is a great addition to the site by allowing everybody an insight into the workings of this vast bibliographic database.

Sakya Resource Centre: (NOT the Sakya Resource Guide). "The present site is devoted to the study of the Sakya school, one of the major religious traditions within Tibetan Buddhism. Launched by dedicated students (undergraduate and doctoral) of Tibetan studies who do research on prominent Sakyapa masters (see also Current Research Projects), the website provides access to scholarly resources and distributes free e-texts that are useful for religious-historical research on the Sakya tradition and its representatives. It highlights valuable research tools that are available via the web, and has begun to host a collection of significant texts in digital form. At present, our inputted text material focuses on the Sakyapa-s during the late fourteenth and fifteenth century, a period characterized by a still-ongoing doctrical exchange between the different traditions that gave rise to numerous saints and scholars. In future, we aim to provide a comprehensive research platform and plan to extend our text input activity and cooperation with researchers and institutions in order to build up a free digital text archive for research and reference into the Sakya tradition."

"For questions or suggestions pertaining to this website, please contact the Sakya Resource Centre at We also ask you to contact us if you notice any errors in the e-texts." (Taken from the SRC Home page).

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Thirteen Golden Dharmas (New Images)

A new set of images depicting the Thirteen Golden Dharmas has been uploaded to the Himalayan Art Resources website. These images are from a Mongolian version of the Rinjung Lhantab of the 4th Panchen Lama. The Rinjung is based on the text of the Jonang Lama Taranatha. He compiled a very large collection of sadhana practices many of which came from Sakya lineages. This collection is very good for looking at Sakya deities that are not commonly depicted such as Red Tara, Red Sarasvati, and the Twenty-one Taras according to the system of Suryagupta

All of the Mongolian images from the Rinjung Lhantab are slowly being uploaded and catalogued. This is a complete illuminated text currently belonging to the Volkerkundemuseum der Universitat Zurich, Switzerland and the same subject matter as contained in the publication Buddhist Iconography by Lokesh Chandra.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Two New Sakya Publications

Two new publications in the WSTB series (Vienna Studies in
Tibetology and Buddhism).

WSTB No. 68. Jowita Kramer "A noble Abbot from Mustang. Life and
Works of Glo-bo mKhan-chen (1456-1532)" (2008) 334p. ISBN:
978-3-902501-07-3. EUR 26.00

WSTB No. 69. Pascale Hugon "Trésors du raisonnement. Sa skya
Pan dita et ses prédécesseurs tibétains sur les modes de
fonctionnement de la pensée et le fondement de l'inférence" Édition et
traduction annotée du quatrième chapitre et d'une section du dixième
chapitre du Tshad ma rigs pa'i gter (2008) 2 vols; 854p. ISBN:
978-3-902501-08-0. EUR 52.50

Orders can be placed at the WSTB website.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Profile of the Web Author

A new profile has been added to the Himalayan Art Resources website. For those of you who care to know where I disappeared to for the last 10 years then look to the HAR website for a profile. It was primarily written by James Shaheen of the Buddhist Tricycle Magazine.

We are trying to give the HAR website and staff a higher profile so that we can be in a better position for grant applications and fund-raising. We live in difficult financial times and New York, the epicenter of North American finance, seems to be hit harder than other places. This is probably because it is also the center of financial corruption. On a positive note, New York is also the museum capital of the world and probably has more Himalayan and Tibetan art than any other city in the Western world. See the New York City Outline Page.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Zimwock Rinpoche Returns

After many years of leading a quiet life away from the spotlight Zimwock Rinpoche of the Tsar sub-school of Sakya (biography) has returned. Zimwock Tenzin Trinley Ling has been established as Rinpoche's seat in Kathmandu, Nepal. Zimwock and Chogye are the two principal Labrangs (houses) of Nalendra Monastery (history) in Phanpo, Tibet. The previous Zimwock was regarded as a Mahakala emanation and passed away in Dharmsala, India, in 1963. (For more information please see the biography of Chogye Tri Rinpoche. Also see the Project to Rebuild Nalendra Monastery).

Saturday, January 3, 2009

60 New Links

Over Sixty new links have been added to the SRG Links Page. Most of the links are for Sakya centers around the world, Tibet, India, Nepal, North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Some additional links under General Resources are of Sakya interest although a few should be re-located to other pages of the SRG rather than on the Links page. I will move these later when I have more time.

A new section listing Search Engines has been added to the Links Page. I always find it amazing that the different search engines can serve up such different results. On Google the SRG site usually comes up in the top five. On the Yahoo search engine I am lucky if the SRG is in the top two hundred listings. Sometimes the technology seems quite random. However, the technology and hard drive space supporting the image search engines are quite interesting and they produce vast results, almost overwhelming. They open up a new window onto the visual culture of Sakya, the teachers and students, rituals, monasteries, sacred landscape and architecture. The only thing missing is a good editor.

The Tibet Album and Sakya Photos

"The Tibet Album presents more than 6000 photographs spanning 30 years of Tibet's history. These extraordinary photographs are a unique record of people long gone and places changed beyond all recognition." (Publisher).

There are some interesting old photos of Sakya worth looking at especially in light of the extensive renovations that have been done at Sakya Monastery (Lhakang Chenmo) in the last few years.