Monday, November 22, 2010

Sakya Paintings: The Field Museum, Chicago

The Field Museum of Chicago has a large collection of paintings and sculpture collected between 1908 and 1909. Displayed here are the few Sakya paintings and subjects found within the collection.

Three Ngorpa Lamas

A recent upload to the HAR website of three Ngorpa Lamas. Two of them are Great Abbots of Ngor Monastery and the third was a famous retreat practitioner from Kham.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bhutadamara Vajrapani

I know I have posted this image of Bhutadamara in the past but this image today is a different scan and possibly better than the previous images. As we all know it is very hard to find good iconographic representations for Bhutadamara. I believe this image is probably the best painted example currently known to exist. The physical painting itself belongs to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City (see full painting).

A new Bhutadamara painting from the Field Museum in Chicago has been added to the HAR webpage - HAR #54374.

Bhutadamara Vajrapani:

In Vajrayana Buddhism there are the three famous bodhisattvas, elevated to ishtadevata - Buddha status - which represent the essential characteristics of all the buddhas of the ten directions and three times. Manjushri represents wisdom, Avalokiteshvara compassion and Vajrapani power. All three of these deities have many Tantric forms and practices associated with them.

According to Vajrayana, Vajrapani is the caretaker and guardian of all the Tantra teachings and texts taught either by Shakyamuni or in the form of Vajradhara. Vajrapani is also the special deity for removing the various types of obstacles that arise during intensive Tantric practice.

The practice of the specific form of Vajrapani known as Bhutadamara is found in the Kriya, Charya and Anuttarayoga Tantras. Within Anuttarayoga it arises from the exclusive explanatory tantra to the Hevajra called the Vajrapanjara Tantra (chapter two).

Within the Sakya School in general and the Lamdre Tradition in particular Vajrapani in the form of Bhutadamara is the foremost practice for removing obstructions on the path of a practitioner. The basic meditation and explanatory teachings of Bhutadamara used in the Sakya Tradition are based on the ritual text (sadhana) of the Indian Pandit Trailokyavajra and the teachings coming down through Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, the sons Sonam Tsemo and Dragpa Gyaltsen, and Ngorchen. The standard meditation text is written by Ngorchen Konchog Lhundrub, (1497-1557). The Tibetan commentary most commonly used was written by the great Zhuchen Tsultrim Rinchen and called the Shining Sun. A shorter commentary was written by the Tsarpa teacher Zimwog Lhagsam Zangpo.

Historical Background from the Shining Sun Commentary

"...generally it is said, in the precious Tantras of the great secret Vajrayana there are immeasurable deities of great accomplishment and deities for accomplishing the increase of activities; this is the main [method] of the deity accomplishing the increase of activities, making firm the common attainments. Practicing this is also the method for the arising of the supreme attainment. This is special for pacifying obstacles, daemons, hindrances, bhutas, rakshas, and the like - commonly, and the four maras which are obstructions to enlightenment - [specifically]. All the great superior teachers [of Sakya] say; 'before entering any retreat it is foremost to do the Achala or Vajrapani retreat first.' To elaborate, of the six great [Vajrapani practices]: the Powerful [1] Great Wheel [Mahachakra], [2] Fierce Garuda, [3] Dharma Protector for the Benefit of Beings, [4] Tantra of the Great Stick, [5] Mantra of the Wrathful Acharya and the [6] Subduer of Daemons, the latter one, the Subduer of Daemons Bhutadamara is the most well known and found in many Tantras. The [long] Bhutadamara Tantra of 160,000 verses has remained in Oddiyana." [(See Kriya Tantra Toh.747, for the short Bhutadamara Tantra)].

"...of the many mahasiddhas to come to Tibet, Acharya Tathagata Rakshita made famous the teachings of the short Charya Tantra of Bhutadamara. In the Vajravali of Acharya Abhayakaragupta there are three mandalas of Bhutadamara, these, extracted from the Tantras contain the essence letters, the long mantra is not taught. Both Trailokyavajra and the Omniscient Buton Rinchen Drup wrote from this Charya Tantra..."

", for the Non-dual Anuttara uncommon explanatory Tantra to the Hevajra, called the Vajrapanjara, it is said; Trailokyavajra's greater and lesser Bhutadamara meditations are based on this - which is found in the Sadhanasamgraha [Sadhanamala]. For the lineage of Atisha the text is found in the Narthang Gyatsa, a very famous collection of teachings. Also, there are the texts of Ngorchen Konchog Lhundrub and Panchen Drangti who wrote the abridged Sadhanasamgraha. Again, Lhachen Shakya Palwai who actually saw the face of Bhutadamara wrote a meditation and initiation text. From the various meditation texts, that of Ngorchen Konchog Lhundrub is used as the basis for the explanation of the practice." [from the commentary of Zhuchen Tsultrim Rinchen].

Jeff Watt, 12-1998 [slightly updated 11-2010]