Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chaturmukha Mahakala of the Sakya Tradition

In the Sakya Tradition this form of Mahakala cannot be shown to those that do not have the initiation. Unfortunately for Sakya other traditions have adopted this same practice and have loosened the restrictions. There are also numerous paintings and sculpture in museums and private collections around the world. This particular painting is very likely to be the earliest known painting of Chaturmukha Mahakala yet seen. Identifying the last of the lineage figures places the composition in the late 15th century. (See the Himalayan Art Resources website for more on this early painting of Chaturmukha, the Chaturmukha Main Page and Brahmanarupa Outline Page).

Mahakala, Chaturmukha (Four-faced Great Black One) associated with the Guhyasamaja Tantra along with the Twenty-five and Fifty Chapter Mahakala Tantras. This form of Chaturmukha with the side faces white and red in colour identifies this iconographic form as belonging to the 'Accomplishment' category from the Five Categories of Chaturmukha.

The painting was created by the Gelug Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. The subject and the lineage is Sakya up until it was incorporated into the Gelug Tradition. Within the Gelug Tradition it is a minor protector deity however within the Sakya Tradition it remains the 2nd of the two principal Mahakala protector deities - after Panjarnata Mahakala.

Lineage: Vajradhara, Nagarjuna, Balimtapa, Buddhajnana, Marmedze Zangpo, Shrideva, Drime Bepa, Ratnavajra, Ratnakirti, Risula Dakini, Nyen Lotsawa, Lama Nam Ka'upa, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, Sonam Tsemo, Dragpa Gyaltsen, Sakya Pandita and Chogyal Pagpa. etc.

This list of names from the Sakya lineage corresponds with the figures and names written in the top register. Due to the abrasions and losses on the painting only three other names can be read, Tsongkhapa, Gyaltsab and Kedrubje. The last two names belong to two important students of Tsongkhapa.

At the upper left is the meditational deity Manjuvajra Guhyasamaja. Chaturmukha Mahakala is the special protector deity associated with Manjuvajra Guhyasamaja. At the upper right side is the meditational deity Ekavira Vajrabhairava. This meditational deity was also special for the teacher Tsongkhapa.

The painting contains five forms of Chaturmukha. The name Chaturmukha means 'four faces.' The five forms are known as [1] Approximation, [2] Accomplishment, [3] Performing Activities, the [4] Four Families (or activities) and [5] Demon Faces.

The large central image of the painting depicts the Accomplishment Chaturmukha identifiable by the white and red faces on each side of the central face. Slightly to the right of the head of the central figure is a smaller Approximation Chaturmukha identifiable by the two green faces on the right and left. Immediately to the right of the trident staff is Demon Faces Chaturmukha identified by the wrathful blue face, the elephant face, the buffalo face and the lion face. At the bottom center and bottom left are two more forms of the deity likely to be the Performing Activities Chaturmukha at the bottom center and then the Four Families Chaturmukha at the left.

To the lower left of the large central Chaturmukha are two female attendant figures, black Dombini and red Rakshasi. On the right side are yellow Singhali and green Chandali.

Descending at the middle left are the Sakya protectors Panjarnata Mahakala, Shri Devi and the five figures known as the Putra Mising Nga. Descending at the middle right are four retinue figures belonging to the Demon Faces Chaturmukha.

At the bottom right is the protector deity Yama Dharmaraja - related to the meditational deity Vajrabhairava. Next to him is the wealth deity Yellow Jambhala. On the bottom left side, next to Chaturmukka, is Black Jambhala.

At this time, this is the earliest known Tibetan painting of Chaturmukha Mahakala. Based on the lineage and the last two figures one of which is Khedrubje Geleg Palzang [1385-1438], it is reasonable to assume that the painting was created at some point after his passing before the lineage became longer with the addition of later lineage teachers. A date of mid to late 15th century is perfectly reasonable based on the lineage figures and identifiable names.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Hevajra Chapel, Gonkar Monastery

Incredible detail images of the Hevajra Chapel of Gonkar Monastery, Central Tibet, have been added to the Ariana Maki Photographic Archive on the Himalayan Art Resources website. This monastery belonging to the Dzongpa Tradition of Sakya is known as the home base of Khyentse Chenmo who is believed to be the founder of the Khyenri style of Tibetan art.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Manjushri Lhakang, Sakya Town

The Manjushri Lhakang (temple) of Sakya Town in Tibet, is located in a small room above the building known as the Drolma Lhakang located a short distance from the main Lhakang Chenmo temple complex of Sakya. The Drolma Lhakang has three separate temple rooms. The first, on the ground floor, is called the Drolma or Tara temple although there is little inside that is specifically dedicated to Tara. To the right side of the main entrance, accessed through a separate door, is the Tangtong Gyalpo Lhakang. In June of 2007 this temple was under going extensive renovations. From an upper floor window murals of repetitive images of Tangtong Gyalpo could be seen on the walls. (See a map of the Tsang region of Tibet).

The Manjushri Lhakang is located on the 2nd floor of the two storied Drolma Lhakang building. The room has a single pillar in the middle and a couple of small windows. There is no shrine or furniture in the empty room. The four walls are painted with murals, floor to ceiling, depicting every form of Manjushri, peaceful and wrathful. The more important, or common, of the forms are painted large scale with the minor, or more obscure forms, smaller in size. Each iconographic form is accompanied with a name inscription. Some of the Manjushri forms have retinue deities which can be seen clearly in image #46875. The iconography of the paintings represent the many forms of Manjushri found in the Kriya, Charya and Yoga Tantras of Tantric Buddhism. One wall has sustained damage and the paintings have been effaced with cracks patched and filled. The general format and stylistic elements of the murals and comparing them with the more datable murals of Jonang Monastery, Tagten Damcho Ling, not far away would suggest a date of 17th century the creation of the murals. (The photos were taken in June of 2007).

Sakya Town, Cityscape Murals

These murals depict the town of Sakya prior to 1959. They are located in one of the corner towers of Lhakang Chenmo Monastery. Although recently painted they offer a glimpse into the Sakya of old. Most of the architectural representations and areas of the cityscape are accompanied by inscriptions. (SRG Archive 2007).

Protector Chapel, Lhakang Chenmo, Sakya

These are images of the main Protector Chapel in Lhakang Chenmo Monastery, Sakya, Tibet. There are of course many smaller protector chapels in other buildings but this is the main free standing Protector Chapel. It primarily contains masks of the different deities and a selection of Bamo masks. The large standing central image of Panjarnata carved in sandalwood was a gift of the elder Drolma Podrang Dungse Rinpoche.

Manjushri Cave, Sakya Town

The Manjushri Cave is located on the North side of Sakya slightly West of the large patch of white earth (sakya). The cave was made famous by Sachen Kunga Nyingpo when he was twelve years old and had entered into a strict six month retreat on the practice of Arapachana Manjushri. Early on there were obstacles but they were removed using the practice of Nila Achala, wrathful, blue in colour, in a kneeling posture. Towards the end of the retreat Arya Manjushri appeared to the young Kunga Nyingpo and spoke the four lines of the Separation of the Four Attachments (see below).

"With attachment to this life - there is no Dharma practitioner;
Attachment to samsara - no renunciation;
Attachment to self-purpose - no Enlightenment Thought;
If grasping arises - there is no view

The image on the left is a 2007 photograph of the cave entrance and the shrine inside. A building has also been constructed around the cave to help preserve it from the elements. Almost all of the buildings on the North side of the river are reconstructions from the 1980s to the present.

The Stupa of Bari Lotsawa

This Ushnishavijaya Stupa which is believed to have survived the destruction of the North Monastery was discovered under the rubble of the roof and walls. It is the stupa in which the mortal remains of Bari Lotsawa were placed after his death and considered one of the four precious and sacred sights of Sakya Town.

Sakya Monastery & Town

The Sakya Monastery & Town Page on the Himalayan Art Resources website has been updated with 600 images from the SRG Archive. Not all of the images have been divided into their subject or location themes. This will happen over the next couple of weeks. The Manjushri Cave has been added. This is the location where Sachen Kunga Nyingpo had direct communication with Arya Manjushri during a six month retreat. The Ushnishavijaya Stupa has been added. This is the final resting place for the body of Bari Lotsawa Dharma Drag. Both of these sacred sights are located in the same building on the North side of Sakya to the left of the white patch of earth. The protector chapel of Lhakang Chenmo, the main South Monastery, has also been added.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Kau Drag Dzong

Kau Drag Dzong is the most famous retreat center of Sakya. It is located just south of the Lhakang Chenmo temple and up a steep river gorge half way to the village of Kau - famous for its hot water and healing springs. Kau Drag Dzong was the hermitage of Lama Nam Ka'upa the student of Nyen Lotsawa. Sachen Kunga Nyingpo studied at this location with Lama Nam Kau'pa. These teachers are all well known for the practices of Chaturmukha Mahakala and the creation of the public, or generic, form of Chaturmukha as Brahmanarupa Mahakala. (See the Kau Drag Dzong page on the Himalayan Art Resources website).