Return to Previous Page


Buddhas of the Past, Present, and Future with Mahasiddhas and Monks
Buddhas of the Past, Present, and Future with Mahasiddhas and Monks, Early 18th century
Tibetan
Colors on cloth; cloth mounting
Image: 28 5/16 x 18 inches (71.9 x 45.7 cm) Mount: 50 x 28 inches (127 x 71.1 cm) Frame: 57 3/4 × 35 3/4 × 2 3/4 inches (146.7 × 90.8 × 7 cm)
Gift of Mrs. Charles E. Klontz, 1970
1970-151-1
[ More Details ]

Monastic Rituals

Although monks and nuns are a demographic minority in Tibet, the vast majority of Tibetan art depicts monks involved in some form of ritual. One reason for this predominance is that monasteries and high-ranking clerics have historically been the greatest patrons of the arts, much as they were in medieval and Renaissance Europe. Another reason is that scholastic lineages are crucial components to Tibetan-Buddhist worship. As shown here, portraits of specific academics appear in the top of most Tibetan paintings to emphasize the unbroken passage of oral teachings from religious masters to devout students. Indian scholar-saints (called mahasiddhas) are portrayed above the central Buddha image. The six Tibetan monks at the bottom perform a basic invocation ritual to the visions above them. Long, red, still-smoking spo incense sticks; a katak scarf; and a golden mandala—symbols of smell, touch, and the universe respectively—are offered. The monks' blue begging bowls represent requests for Buddhist blessings and teachings, while the heap of multicolored gems denotes the rewards of Buddhism.

More elaborate monastic rituals are illustrated at right in the biographical painting of Tsongkhapa (1357–1419), founder of the Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) order of Tibetan-Buddhism, depicted in the center. This is only one of what was originally a set of at least sixteen paintings that annotate episodes of his life. Each event is numbered with this painting displaying episodes 107–116—beginning in the lower left corner and moving clockwise around the central portrait. Numerous monastic rituals are depicted—reading books, pouring libations, envisioning deities, and offering triangular ritual cakes called torma. Gift-giving rituals are also shown. For example, in the lower left, wealthy traders offering white katak scarves, bolts of multicolored silks, and heaps of jewels to the enthroned Dharmaraja, a religious king.

Pictorial Biography of Tsongkhapa
Pictorial Biography of Tsongkhapa, c. 19th century
Tibetan
Colors on cloth; cloth mounting
Image: 26 x 17 1/2 inches (66 x 44.5 cm) Mount: 46 x 26 1/2 inches (116.8 x 67.3 cm) Framed: 54 1/4 × 35 3/4 × 3 1/4 inches (137.8 × 90.8 × 8.3 cm)
Gift of Natacha Rambova, 1960
1960-131-7
[ More Details ]

Return to Previous Page