Padmasambhava and his eight manifestations
- Kham region, eastern Tibet
- 19th century
- Pigments on cloth
- Catalog Number
- Rubin Museum of Art
- Purchased from the Collection of Navin Kumar, New York
Padmasambhava is a legendary Indian master who is believed to have helped the Tibetan king convert his land and his people to Buddhism. Biographical paintings of Padmasambhava usually depict key episodes from written accounts of his life. Compositions are often structured around portrayals of his various forms, or manifestations, and favor visual coherence over chronology.
In this painting, vignettes illustrating scenes from Padmasambhava’s life are dispersed among larger figures representing his eight manifestations, all of which surround the central figure. The episodes of his life depict him as an ascetic and scholar in India and as a tantric master who subdues powerful opponents, humans and demons alike.
Ritual informs the structure of religious life in the Himalayas, defining the daily routine of practitioners and shaping a range of community-based activities.
In Himalayan cultures religious merit is the overarching reason for creating, commissioning, dedicating, and using religious works of art.
Religious rituals and the commissioning of art can serve everyday secular needs, the most common being wealth, health, and long life.
Tantric practitioners strive to transform themselves by using meditative and ritual tools with the ultimate goal of enlightenment or awakening.
Instructive paintings can illustrate religious doctrines, medical and astrological charts, or images of ritual implements and meditative postures.