Guru wearing saffron robe sits on lotus pedestal, hovering above landscape dotted with buildings and scenes

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.

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