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