Mandala: Sacred Circle in Tibetan Buddhism

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FOREWORD BY H.H. THE XIV DALAI LAMA Mandalas are an aspect of Tantric Buddhism that, due to their colorful complexity, have attracted a great deal of interest. Taking a variety of forms, from simple diagrams and more elaborate paintings on cloth to complicated patterns of colored sand and large threedimensional carved structures, mandalas have a profoundly symbolic value. We Tibetans regard them as sacred. Although some mandalas — for instance the symbolic representation of the Universe made of heaped grains — can be openly explained, most are related to Tantric doctrines which are normally supposed to be kept secret. Consequently, many speculative and mistaken interpretations have been published by people who viewed them simply as works of art or had no access to reliable explanations. Because the severe misunderstandings that can then arise are more harmful than a partial lifting of secrecy, I have often encouraged the writing of more accurate accounts. In this work about mandalas, Martin Brauen has taken pains to consult authentic sources and organize his material clearly so that it can be easily understood. He explains the basic aspects of the Buddhist path, which provide the context for the use of mandalas. These include a strong wish to put an end to suffering,

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a strong wish to attain Enlightenment for the sake of others, and a correct view of Reality. He describes different kinds of mandalas, those which represent the outer universe, those which refer to a meditative view of the human body, and those visualized in the practice of deity yoga. This is preliminary to an explanation of the K≤lacakra Mandala. The K≤lacakra system was one of the last and most complex Tantric systems to be brought to Tibet from India. In recent years many Westerners have become acquainted with the K≤lacakra tradition, as various lamas have given the K≤lacakra initiation to large groups of people. I myself have given it several times in Western countries as well as in India. Moreover, there are already a number of reliable books concerning aspects of the K≤lacakra system available in western languages, to which this is a welcome addition. I congratulate Martin Brauen for his sincere efforts to make a difficult subject clearer to others and offer my prayers that his good intentions will be fulfilled.




FOUNDER’S STATEMENT The search for order in this chaotic universe of ours has occupied my thoughts more and more as time passes (although I must admit I have been known to cause my fair share of chaos). I am drawn to the Buddhist mandala for its intricate and inspiring representation of an orderly cosmos. The mandala, as so finely explained in the chapters of this catalog, is in its most basic form a palace of a buddha, a diagram of the god in the center of his buddhafield, with all associated deities and beings around him. It is a ritual object, an image for contemplation, and, more to my heart, the subject of often breathtaking art. The Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung famously adopted the mandala to illustrate his theories of the human mind. For Jung the circle and the quaternity – as

DONORS The exhibition, catalog, and related programs are supported by a grant from The E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Cassinelli-Vogel-Stiftung, Zürich; Zürcher Hochschul-Verein; Tania Pouschine; and Sandor P. Fuss.

in the Christian Cross – are symbols deeply rooted in the human soul, symbols that apparently emerged independently in several different times and places. This view allowed him to appropriate the mandala without concerning himself too much with its Indian and Tibetan traditions. He gave us a universal mandala, a map that at once revealed the human mind and the infinite. Yet we still have much to learn from the Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu concepts and use of the mandala, and with this in mind I am extremely grateful to Martin Brauen for this catalog. I encourage all readers to pay as close attention to the images as to Martin’s excellent scholarship – there is great reward in the calm contemplation of the art. Donald Rubin, New York

This book could only have come about with the energetic help of numerous institutions, the people working in them, and many others, who researched, translated, discussed specific questions with me, took photographs, produced models and drawings, helped with ideas, procured funding, reviewed the manuscript, and so forth. A considerable amount of this additional work was undertaken by Martin Willson, the translator. Peter Nebel, former photographer at the Ethnographic Museum of Zürich, and Susanne Grieder and Andreas Brodbeck. In addition to recognizing their hard work, I would like to thank the book designer Silke Nalbach and the publisher Dirk Allgaier. At the Rubin Museum of Art, thanks must go to my assistant Kavie Barnes, Helen Abbott, Vincent Baker, Michelle Bennett, Amy Bzdak, Helen Chen, Dudu Etzion, Alisha Ferrin, Deborah Fisher, Alex Gardner, Cate Griffin, Sophie Hawkins, Louis Hwei Ming Ho, Jenny Hung, Asha Kaufman, Jonathan Kuhr, Bonnie B. Lee, Neil Liebman, Tim McHenry, John Monaco, Shane Murray, Anne-Marie Nolin, Aoife Pacheco, Bruce Payne, Andrea Pemberton, Christine Pigott, Ramon Prats, Alanna Schindewolf, Brian Schneider, Marcos Stafne, Taline Toutounjian, Katherine Eirene Ulrich, and Rachel Pacheco Weingeist. Bruce M. White photographed much of the art shown in this publication. Others who contributed are Nathalie Bazin, Alexander Berzin, Robin Brentano, Hansjoerg Mayer, Bhuchung Nubgya, Anne Chayet, Tenzin Geyche Tethong, Doro Roethlisberger, and Fabio Rossi

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My special thanks go to H. H. the XIV Dalai Lama, who showed his interest in the present publication by providing a foreword.

Thanks to the following lenders to the exhibition: American Museum of Natural History, New York Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zürich Sandor P. Fuss Thyssen-Bornemisza Collections Historisches Museum, Sammlung fuer Voelkerkunde, St. Gallen Thomas Isenberg Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas Navin Kumar Arnold Lieberman The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Namgyal Monastery, Dharamsala Collection of Paris, National Museum of Asian Art, Musée Guimet Philadelphia Museum of Art The Pritzker Collection Private Collection Tibet House, New York Zimmerman Family Collection Special thanks go to Shelley and Donald Rubin and to the authors of the plate section: Karl Debreczeny, New York Amy Heller, Nyon Edward Henning, New Delhi Christian Luczanits, Hinterstoder Ariana Maki, New York Marylin Rhie, Smith College, Northampton, MA Michael Sheehy, New York Jeff Watt, New York Most heartfelt thanks are also due to my family, especially my wife, Sonam Dolma, and her mother, Kunsang Wangmo, who have actively assisted me in many ways over the course of this writing project. Martin Brauen, New York





APPROACHING THE MANDALA The mandala is fundamentally something secret. If you are interested in it in order to acquire reputation, and feel pride in showing what you have worked out to others, you do not have the right attitude. If however your work springs from efforts to offer help to other people, that is the right attitude of mind, which will contribute to the liberation of yourself and others.

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The concept of the mandala is extremely complex, and it is hard to do justice to the word in a short definition. In dictionaries mandalas are described variously as magic circles, round ritual geometric or symbolic diagrams, or typically, circles that surround a square with a central symbol, which may be a numeral. Alternatively, mandalas are explained as symbols of the cosmic elements, as models for certain visualizations, as aids to self-discovery, or as aids to meditation on the transcendental. All these definitions are correct as far as they go but are not nearly precise enough, as will become apparent in this step-by-step approach to understanding the mandala. As a rule a mandala (dkyil ’khor) is a strongly symmetrical diagram concentrated about a center; it is built up of concentric circles (’khor) and, in most cases, squares possessing the same center (dkyil). In one text


the center is said to correspond to nirvana and the circle to the world.1 Almost all mandalas familiar to us today display one or more concentric circles in the center. The basic construction varies only slightly. About a round, central disk, in the middle of which there sits or stands a deity (sometimes with a partner), four, eight, or ten deities — occasionally six or twelve — are set in an additional circle. These surrounding figures are the assembly or entourage of the central and most important deity of the mandala. According to one Tibetan text, a mandala can belong to one of four main categories on the basis of its center: lotus, wheel, disk divided into nine cells, and triangle. The type of center seems to reflect the purpose of the relevant mandala ritual: the lotus for pacification, the wheel for prosperity, the disk for subjugation, and the triangle for destruction.2




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Center as lotus flower, detail of Plate 15


Nine-cell center, detail of Plate 18


Center as wheel, detail of Plate 3


Center of two interlocking triangles, Plate 22

When the lotus flower is at the center of the mandala, the principal deity is situated in the center of the flower, and the surrounding secondary deities sit or stand on the flower’s petals, arranged to form a circle (Fig. 1.1). In the case of a mandala with a wheel in the center, the principal deity is on the hub of the wheel and the secondary figures are on the spokes (Fig. 1.2). The wheel can take the form of the wheel of the law (dharmacakra) or, in the case of a wrathful deity, of a sharp-edged wheel (cakra) used as a throwing weapon


(Pl. 34). In the third center pattern, the disk, the innermost circle is divided by a grid of four lines into nine cells, each one reserved for a deity (Fig. 1.3). This is the pattern, for example, of the Vajradh≤tu (Pl. 6) and Guhyasam≤ja Mandalas (Pl. 12) or of the Sarvavid Buddha Vairocana Mandala (Pl. 17). In the case of the fourth type, there is simply a downward-pointing triangle in the middle or else two interlocking triangles forming a hexagram (Fig. 1.4). In the center of these geometric figures lie one or

more circles, serving as support for the central deity. Further circles surround the triangle or triangles outside. The square area is completely absent in these mandalas, which are mostly dedicated to a ≈∂kin∑ such as Vajrayogin◊ or Vajrav≤r≤h◊ (Pls. 22, 23). Among the plethora of mandala representations, there are a number in which the deities are only hinted at, for instance by their symbols (Samaya Mandala), by their seed syllables (B◊ja or Dharma Mandala), or by dots or small circles (Fig. 1.5). Some mandalas may be

completely empty, and these naturally demand greater powers of imagination.3 Two-dimensional mandalas are either painted on a cloth ground or made on a flat surface by sprinkling colored powders (Fig. 5.33). Whereas the latter type are dismantled at the end of the relevant mandala ritual, painted mandalas can be stored away for future use.




1.5 Mandala of Buddha ∑∂kyamuni and the Sixteen Arhats China or Mongolia; 1700-1900 Ground mineral pigment on cotton 14 ½ x 14 ¾ in. (36.8 x 37.5 cm) Rubin Museum of Art C2006.66.270 (HAR 420) In this symbol mandala, a mandala without actual figures, Buddha ≤kyamuni and the sixteen arhats are represented by lotus cushions placed on top of a circular sixteen-petal pink lotus blossom. Symbol mandalas are not unusual and often accompany ritual texts for new meditation practitioners initiation. The mandalas were created in sets that would number from as few as twenty to several hundred, depending on the companion source text. Ritual mandalas were generally made from sand or appliqué textile or were painted or embroidered. Painted mandalas can depict actual deity figures, symbols, letters, or simply the seats beneath the deities, as in this mandala. At the center of the mandala is a small lotus atop a lion-supported throne, which symbolizes the historical Buddha ≤kyamuni. Sixteen small lotus seats represent the sixteen great arhats. At the four sides of the square enclosure are four T-shaped doors, each with an additional lotus seat representing the location of the Four Guardian Kings of the Directions: Vai√ravana, Dhtar≤∂ra, Virudhaka, and Vir�p≤k∂a. Directly below the sixteen-petal lotus blossom is an additional single lotus seat for the attendant to the arhats, Upasaka Dharmatala. Another figure commonly associated with the arhats is the Chinese patriarch Hvashang. He is absent from this mandala, however, because the source text upon which this ritual practice and mandala are based is derived from the Kashmiri Buddhist tradition, which does not include Hvashang. In Tibetan Buddhism, there are two lineages that brought this form of ≤kyamuni and arhats mandala to Tibet. The first is attributed to Jowo At◊√a in the eleventh century CE and the other to ≤kya√r◊ Bhadra of Kashmir about 1200 CE. The practice is common to all traditions of Tibetan and Himalayan Buddhism and is regularly performed in morning services in monasteries and temples. Elaborate forms of the ritual practice are performed in the spring during the Saga Dawa (Wesak) month, which commemorates Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and parinirvana. Jeff Watt

© Arnoldsche Art Publishers THE OLDEST MANDALAS According to Denise Leidy, 4 the oldest pictorial representation of a Mandala of the Five Buddha Families can be found in the caves of Yungang, Shanxi Province, China (5th century), where the central Buddha figure can be identified as the historical Buddha ≤kyamuni in the form of Vairocana. The colossal statues in the other four adjoining caves would then be the other four Tath≤gatas. The oldest drawn mandalas known to us come from the caves at Dunhuang in northwestern China (9th-10th century CE); they already show the typical basic structure of central circles surrounded by a square. Mandala representations created later than those found in Dunhuang are considerably more complex. As a rule they display several concentric circles in the center, a square area, and further circles surrounding this area.


Another early basic form of mandala depicts the Eight Great Bodhisattvas (Maitreya, ≈k≤√agarbha, Samantabhadra, Padmap≤≥i, Vajrap≤≥i, Mañju√r◊, K∂itigarbha, and Sarvanivara≥avi∂kambhin) standing around the seated Buddha.5 The motif of the eight bodhisattvas assembled around the Buddha was represented in the eighth century in the well-known Japanese mandalas of the Shingon School, the Mandala of the Womb World and the Mandala of the Diamond World. It is also found in some early Tibetan Buddhist pictures, whose mandala structure is not obvious at first glance. In these representations four bodhisattvas stand on each side of the central figure of a Buddha (often one of the five Tath≤gatas). In the mind’s eye of the initiated observer, however, these bodhisattvas do not appear standing to the left and right of the central figure but are arranged in a circle around him.









Meaning of name

The Immutable

The Jewel-born

Infinite Light

Accomplishing What is meaningful



Deep blue















Garuda or bird-man



Earth Touching (bh∏misparπa)

Gift Bestowing (varada)

Meditation (dhy∂na)

Fearlessness (abhaya)

Turning the Wheel of Dharma (dharmacakra)


Matter (r∏pa)

Sensation (vedan∂)

Perception . (samjiñ∂na)

Volition . (samsk∂ra)

Consciousness (vijñ∂na)

Seed Syllable


. tram



. om


Mirror-like (∂darπajñ∂na)

Equalizing (samat∂jñ∂na)

Disciminating (pratyavekπan∂jñ∂na)

All-Accomplishing (k√tyanu�h≤tanajñ∂na)

Ultimate Reality (dharmadh∂tujñ∂na)









Jewel (ratna)

Lotus (padma)

Crossed Vajra (viπvavajra)

Wheel of Dharma (dharmacakra)

© Arnoldsche Art Publishers 1.6 Mandala center showing the five colors typical to many mandalas: white (center), blue (east), yellow (south), red (west), and green (north), detail of Plate 17

THE PALACE AND ITS CENTRAL AREA In the great majority of mandalas known to us, the innermost sacral area is surrounded by a square. Each of the four outer sides of the square is interrupted in the middle by a T-shape. These represent entrance gates, since the square in the mandala is none other than a building or the ground plan of a palace.6 This square area at the center of the mandala consists of lines connecting the opposite corners of the square to create four triangles of equal size whose points meet in the center of the mandala. Each triangle corresponds to one of the cardinal directions and displays its characteristic color. The center is considered to be the fifth cardinal point. (In Tibetan


Table 1 Common Correlations in Mandalas (except in the tradition of the K∂lacakra tantra)

paintings, the east — which is white in many mandalas but black in the K≤lacakra Mandala — occupies the bottom part.7) The number five is closely linked with the mandala in other ways; upon the number five an ingenious, complicated scheme of ordering is constructed in which the five Tath≤gatas, the Five Buddha Families,8 are connected with the five elements, five colors, five animals, five wisdoms, and so on (Table 1, Fig. 1.6). Another mandala type consists simply of concentric circles, such as the Candra Mandala and the Surya Mandala in the present publication (Pl. 4). In a variant of this type the outermost circle of the mandala displays four, or alternatively eight, T-shaped gates. A particularly fine example of such a mandala with a

round palace, inside which, incidentally, there is a second, square palace, is the Mandala of Mañju√ri Dharmadh≤tu V≤g◊√vara (Pl. 18 ) and the Amoghapa√≤ Mandala (Pl. 15) in the collection of the Rubin Museum of Art. A rather rare type, mentioned here to complete the picture, is the mandala comprising a large palace inside of which lie several smaller palaces.9 Generally the walls of the palace are adorned with strings of pearls and the roofs with umbrellas, banners, vases, pennants, or other objects (Figs. 1.7, 1.8). However, in a few mandalas belonging to the Anuttarayoga Tantra class, entrails hang on the walls. These are mandalas of certain wrathful deities, whose palace roofs are sometimes adorned with swords, yaktail

fans, animal figures and impaled corpses — in place of umbrellas, banners, and so on (Fig. 1.9). An example of such a mandala is that of Black-cloak Mah≤k≤la (mGon po ber nag can) in the present publication (Pl. 35). As a rule, the square palace area rests on a crossed vajra (viπvavajra), which forms the adamantine foundation of the mandala palace. The four points match the colors of the corresponding cardinal directions. The crossed vajra is particularly visible in three-dimensional mandalas (Fig. 1.15).10




1.7 Umbrella and banners on a round mandala palace wall, detail of Plate 18

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1.8 Vases on a square mandala palace, detail of Plate 15

1.9 Yaktail fans and impaled corpses on the roof of a mandala palace, detail of Plate 35


1.10 Fragment of a Mandala Nepal or Tibet; ca. 14th century Gilded and painted copper alloy 14 x 21 ¼ in. (35.6 x 54 cm) Lent by the Nyingjei Lam Collection L2005.9.80 (HAR 68444) This fragment depicts a small portion of the outer circles of a mandala (from bottom to top): lotus petals, a cemetery, a vajra chain, and flames. It most probably belonged to a rather large three-dimensional mandala or to a mandala on the ceiling of a temple, later destroyed. The left side shows part of the eastern cremation ground with Indra (akra) sitting on an elephant. Indrabh�ti (?) (left) and a n∂ga (right) look on adoringly among scattered skeleton parts. Above the elephant head can be seen a round st∏pa. This scene is broken up by a tree, an important attribute of every cremation ground. The adjacent scene shows either more of the eastern cremation ground or another charnel ground. Also depicted here is a human corpse upon which someone rides. The metalwork shows great craftsmanship in the beautifully elaborated details, such as the leaves of the tree, the well-formed bodies, and the blazing flames.





Western charnel ground (15th century), detail of Plate 27


1.11 Charnel grounds arranged outside the mandala circles in a very early mandala (ca. 1100), detail of Plate 3 1.12

Western charnel ground (ca. 1375), detail of Plate 11


In Tibetan mandalas familiar to us today, the square palace is encompassed by three or four circles. There is reason to assume that in very early mandalas outer circles were absent, and there were only concentric circles inside a square domain. Outer circles were probably not added until the eleventh or twelfth century. The oldest complete, painted Tibetan mandalas known to us date from the early twelfth century (wall paintings in the Translator’s Temple [Lo tsa ba lHa khang] in Nako/Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh, India), and these do display the outer circles. In addition, mandala drawings that were found at Dunhuang and from the Garbhadh≤tu and Vajradh≤tu Mandala set that appeared in Japan in the late eighth century seem to confirm this hypothesis. We can at the moment only speculate as to exactly when and why the form changed so fundamentally.

The three circles or rings that usually complete a mandala on the outside are, from the inside outward, the lotus flower, the vajra, and flame circles (Fig. 1.10). The lotus flower circle represents a large lotus flower that serves as a support for the mandala (the palace and its divine occupants). The blue circle with vajras marked along it points out that the entire sacred realm of the mandala is separated, and thereby protected, from the surrounding world by what can be described as a kind of adamantine cap, bell, or “vajra cage.” And, as if this protection were still not enough, around every mandala a circular fire blazes to keep all negative forces far away from the inside of the mandala. In a relatively large number of mandalas — especially those of the Anuttarayoga class — a fourth circle in which the eight charnel grounds are depicted, is added to the first three (Figs. 1.12, 1.13). The presence of the eight charnel grounds is a simple — though not altogether infallible — criterion to help establish if a given mandala is one of the Anuttarayoga class.





Cremation Ground


bSil ba’i tshal


Guardian (dikpāla)


white, bull’s head

Indra (dBang po), yellow white bull (elephant) mount, wields a vajra


Ku la rdzogs

black, buffalo’s head

Yama (gShin rje), black [blue] gray buffalo mount, wields a club



Lang kar brtsegs-pa

red, makara’s (sea monster) head

Varu≥a (Chu lha), white reddish makara mount, wields a snake noose

Padmavajra (Vir�pa)


Padma brtsegs

green, horse’s head

Kubera (gNod sbyin), yellow red [green] horse mount, wields a club



lHun grub gter

black, ram’s head

Agni (Me lha), red white ram [orange goat] mount, wears a garland of skulls



gSang chen rol

blue, human’s head

Nairta/R≤kshana (Srin po nag po), reddish-brown sits on yellow corpse wields a sword



He chen brdal

green, stag’s head

V≤yu/M≤ruta (Rlung lha), green-blue stag [brown antelope] mount, holds flags


variegated, wolf’s head

I√ara/Mahe√vara (dBang ldan), white wolf [orange bull] mount, wields a trident


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1.14 The Mah≤siddha πomb◊ Heruka with his consort. Below them circles of flames, vajras, lotus petals, and the southwestern charnel ground, detail of Plate 29

· D∂kinı̄

’Jigs rten brtsegs

Table 2 The Eight Cremation Grounds There are different sets of eight names and descriptions for the eight great charnel grounds depending on the Buddhist and Hindu Tantric literature consulted. This list is based on the Tibetan text of Ka thog Rig ’dzin. [in brackets minor variations].

There are only a few Anuttarayoga mandalas in which no charnel grounds are depicted.11 Each charnel ground contains the same basic elements: a mah∂siddha (yogin), ≈∂kin∑, protective deity, st∏pa, tree, cloud, forest, hermit, ocean, mountain, and n∂ga (Fig. 1.14). Such representations of charnel grounds remind the person meditating of the transitoriness of all existence.


For is there any place more suitable than a charnel ground to meditate on the fleeting nature of existence? That in early mandalas these charnel ground scenes were not depicted in a separate circle but in the whole area outside the mandala is indicated by a Cakrasa≠vara Mandala ascribed to the twelfth century, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Pl. 3, Fig. 1.11).




OTHER MANDALAS The term “mandala” also indicates other structures: among these we know of simple circles or disks containing a sacred center or forming the base of one, for example the disks of the five elements that constitute the lower part of the K≤lacakra universe, or the disks of moon, sun, and the two planets R≤hu and K≤l≤gni that serve as a throne for a deity. The palace that is home to the deities is also called a mandala, as are the deities who reside in it, assembled in a clearly ordered pattern. The term “mandala” can, moreover, be applied to the whole cosmos when the entire purified universe is mentally offered in a special ritual. Numerous scroll paintings depict mandalas that are not recognizable as such at first sight. The characteristic type of mandala in such paintings becomes clear when the paintings are analyzed, and the mandalas are thereby revealed as three-dimensional, symmetrical structures, concentrated about a center. A series of several scroll paintings that belong together can also be interpreted as a kind of mandala, as for example a series of the five Tath≤gatas, with Vairocana in the middle and two Tath≤gatas on the left and two on the right. (Pls. 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) Even the individual deity can appear as a mandala: thus K≤lacakra dominates the mandala of the same name. Like his partner Vi√vam≤t he has four faces, each looking toward one of the four cardinal directions. His arms, together with those of his partner, describe a circle about an imagined center at the level of the heart (Fig. 5.34). Eventually, in the context of the picture of the person in the K∂lacakra Tantra, we shall find out that the human being, too, is seen as a mandala. For instance, each of the wind channels, which according to Tantric conception flow inside the body, is linked to a particular direction, element, aggregate (skandha), and color, thereby forming a mandala. According to the DharmamaΩ≈ala S∏tra, the human body is regarded as a type of fivefold mandala represented symbolically by the trunk and the four limbs.12 In the so-called Inner


Mandala, one’s human body is seen as a mandala that is offered to one’s spiritual teacher (guru) and to the Three Jewels (Buddha, Buddhist teaching, and the community of monks).13

THREE-DIMENSIONAL MANDALAS An important Tibetan source14 mentions four kinds of mandalas. Two are outer mandalas: those made from colored powder and those painted on textiles. Then there are the mandalas formed in meditation. Finally, there is the body as a mandala. This enumeration omits three-dimensional mandalas, which is hard to understand, since spatiality is the most striking feature of the basic structure of mandalas. Another source, the DharmamaΩ≈ala S∏tra, mentions mandalas of gold, silver, shell, stone, horn, wood, and clay, besides those painted on cloth or made of colored powder.15 In fact, evidence of three-dimensional mandalas can be found at several places where Tibetan Buddhism spread, including the Potala Palace in Lhasa (where there is a K≤lacakra Mandala); the Xuguang Ge (Yuanting Si) of Pule Si in Chengde (Jehol, China) (Fig. 5.9);16 and Zangdog Palri Monastery in Kalimpong (West Bengal), to mention only a few examples. In order to elucidate the intrinsic three-dimensionality of all mandalas, in this book we depict the structure of a three-dimensional mandala as well as some of its typical details (Fig. 1.15, 5.6, 5.7, 5.8, 5.9). The lotus mandalas also belong to this category of threedimensional mandalas (Pls. 20, 25, 31). Since the beginning of the 1990s, a new generation of three-dimensional mandalas has been created with the help of computer programs. Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York, for instance, agreed to help the Tibetan monk Pema Chogyen create a three-dimensional mandala of Vajrabhairava.17 At the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich, the author of this book and Peter Hassler created the first computer animation of a three-dimensional K≤lacakra Mandala and of the K≤lacakra cosmos (Fig. 5.6).18 Since then, more

© Arnoldsche Art Publishers 1.15 Three-Dimensional Mandala of Guhyasam∂ja Nepal; 20th Century Metal 33 x 52 x 52 in. (83.82 x 132.08 cm) Collection of Namgyal Monastery, Dharamsala, India

computer-animated mandalas have been produced: 19 Kimiaki Tanaka has designed sixty-five two-dimensional mandalas; 20 and recently Kavita Bala from Cornell University and her team have made a computeranimated K≤lacakra Mandala, which is – thanks to newer technology – far better than the one made many years ago at the University of Zurich.21

The advantage of this new technology is that in computer-generated three-dimensional mandalas certain details and features can be shown better than in pictures or in three-dimensional models of wood or metal: transparency and luminescence. The new technology also allows a mandala palace to be entered and explored, not just in the imagination but virtually.




MANDALA CYCLES AND COMPENDIA In the course of the development of Tibetan Buddhism, a great many different mandalas have been created, which form cycles on the basis of the interrelations of their contents, or have been combined in hierarchically structured compendia. Under the heading of Yoga Tantras, there are two early cycles or groups of mandalas going back to the eighth century. One group is centered on the Vajradh≤tu Mandala, which encompasses many sub-mandalas (among others the Trailokyavijaya Mandala) that are closely connected in content and structure to the principal mandala. For the most part, this mandala cycle is represented only by its principal mandala, as in the Ni�pannayog∂val∑ of Pa≥∑ita Abhay≤karagupta. In Alchi Sumtsek, however, a number of the sub-mandalas were depicted, and the complete cycle was rendered in numerous yoga tantra mandalas in Shalu and the Gyantse Kumbum. The Sarvadurgatipariπodhana cycle also comes from the eighth century. The majority of its sub-mandalas consist of diverse groups of deities in protective function. The principal mandala is dedicated to Sarvavid Buddha Vairocana, who displays four faces looking into the four cardinal directions and whose hands lie on his lap in the gesture of meditation (Pl. 17). Also belonging to the numerous sub-mandalas are a mandala of a teaching, crowned ≤kyamuni, and one of Amit≤yus. There are up to twelve sub-mandalas, depending on the version and interpretation.22 Better known, however, are the compendia, some of which are very comprehensive. One collection goes back to the Indian Tantric master Abhay≤karagupta, who lived in the late eleventh or early twelfth century. This includes twenty-eight, forty-two, or fifty-five mandalas, depending on the version, and is known by the name Vajr≤val◊ (Garland of vajras) (Fig. 1.16).23 Four mandalas of this tradition are depicted in the present publication (Pls. 11, 12, 13, 14). Another collection was created by Mitrayogin, an Indian Tantric master who traveled to Tibet at the


invitation of a Tibetan spiritual teacher and lived and taught there in 1198 to 1199 in a monastery in Tsang — and transmitted to his students above all his entire knowledge of mandalas. The collection that goes back to him includes 108 mandalas and is called Mitra’s One Hundred. A further mandala collection is based on the much later Compendium of Tantras (rGyud sde kun btus), the source text for a collection of 139 mandalas that were drawn and painted in a monastery in eastern Tibet between 1870 and 1892.24 And finally, we must mention a collection of mandalas of the Bonpo tradition collected in Kathmandu under the guidance of Lopön Tenzin Namdak. This collection of 131 mandalas, named the Tritan Norbutse Collection, is now kept in the National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, Japan.25 To sum up, the Sanskrit word “mandala” means any circle or discoid object. It did not acquire its current specific meaning until the advent of Tibetan Buddhism, and its use in this context is discussed briefly below and in the following chapters. It became a highly complex meditational object, which did indeed comprise several concentric circles, but on top of that had a profound symbolism, which we shall lay bare in this book in text and pictures.

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TIBETAN BUDDHISM: A SHORT BUT DEMANDING PATH All forms of Buddhism use images to teach and inspire, from pictorial narrations of the life of the Buddha to representations of deities for worship. Tibetan Buddhism relies on the visual with an intensity that far exceeds other forms of the religion. Understanding the absolute nature of reality to be devoid of all characteristics and yet fully manifest in everyone and everything, Tibetan Buddhist practitioners engage in special practices in order to realize the pure in what was previously viewed as impure, realizing buddhas where before they knew only of ordinary beings. Vastly

1.16 A very fine example of a mandala, based on the compendium “Vajraval◊,” detail of Plate 13




complex pictorial representations of the Buddhist conception of the world and its deities serve as aids to the meditator. Figures of deities – be they painted on walls or cloth or fashioned out of metal, wood, or clay – are endowed through consecration to stand in for the deities they represent, enabling the practitioner to properly visualize the reality he or she strives to embody. In the Tantric Buddhist view, there are numerous correlations between religious practice and the structures and processes in the universe and in individual persons, which it is necessary to understand and actively use. Knowledge of Tantric Buddhist cosmology and anthropology is indispensable for an understanding of the mandala. As is often stressed in oral teachings, Tantra should not be offered to students as something complete. Rather, starting from certain basic data and insights, students are expected to work on the subject intensively themselves. The present book accordingly demonstrates some possible ways of approaching Tantra, not with the idea of transmitting incontrovertible truths but as a stimulus for the reader to find his own way to analyze the Tantric understanding of the world and the person. To think that in Tantric Buddhism the ultimate goal can be easily attained, that is to say at once and without great efforts, is a well-known fallacy, which some Tibetan authors also share.26 Tantric Buddhism does indeed place at the practitioner’s disposal a short-cut path to release from the cycle of existence, but the short-cut is just as laborious as the “normal” path, if not more so. The material reappraised in this volume verifies how complex, many-layered, and averse to conventional thinking the Tantric path is. Explaining the ultimate truth that Tantric Buddhism is about emptiness (see Chap. 2), as well as the complex path (deity yoga) that leads to it, is a seemingly impossible task. It is a matter of approximating something that cannot be expressed in words, which the seeker him- or herself will have to discern through arduous effort and under the guidance of an experienced spiritual teacher (guru). With some justice it is


claimed that Tantric Buddhism is a path only for those endowed with considerable spiritual capacity.27

THE K≈LACAKRA MANDALA AS AN EXAMPLE Different traditions exist within Tantric Buddhism, each with its own, partly divergent, teachings and rites. The repertoire of symbols, deities, and mandalas is similarly extensive. In the present publication we will focus in the main text primarily on the K≤lacakra Mandala (Dus kyi ’khor lo) ritual and tradition, which belong to the highest class of Tantra, the Anuttarayoga Tantras. This particular mandala was selected because the author has himself experienced this ritual and has received permission to document much of it in detail, including the preparatory rituals, the production of the mandala in colored powder, the initiation into the mandala ritual, and the destruction of the mandala; and because important publications on the K≤lacakra ritual by several Tibetan lamas have appeared. Some new text has been added, based on publications that have appeared since the first edition of this book. While the main text is largely the same as in the first edition, the color plates and their descriptions are completely new. They demonstrate the diversity and richness of the different mandala traditions. Statements that refer primarily to the K≤lacakra Mandala do not always apply to other mandalas. The symbolism and basic construction of the K≤lacakra Mandala differ from those of other mandalas. The rings encircling the palace in the K≤lacakra Mandala are components of the cosmos — five great disks bearing the universe, namely space, air, water, fire, and earth. In many other mandalas such reference to the universe is not immediately evident. Moreover, the coloring inside the K≤lacakra Mandala — black in the east, red in the south, yellow in the west, and white in the north, and green and blue assigned to the center — and the assignment of particular symbols, aggregates,

and elements, differ from that in other traditions.28 In the K≤lacakra tradition the eight charnel grounds, a component of many mandalas of the Anuttarayoga Tantras, are often only hinted at, as wheels in the air and fire circles, and are not described in detail in this publication. Since the ritual of the K≤lacakra Mandala belongs to the Anuttarayoga Tantra class, in principle two major phases may be found within it: the generation and completion stages. The first phase is one of ripening, in which the completion is prepared for and rehearsed. This is done through a slow recognition and experience of the various analogies to the dying process and an anticipation or imitation of its individual phases but also of the process of becoming and the complex yoga practices of the completion stage closely

related to them. As stated, the whole meditation process contains analogies to dying and being reborn and is therefore like a spiritual rebirth. The death process is understood and cultivated in detail. From this follows the overcoming of the fear of death. At the same time it becomes possible to experience consciously the “clear light” that shines at the moment of death. However, the analogy between human life and the path of meditation goes beyond the parallels just referred to: just as an embryo germinates in the womb and develops into a fetus and, after birth, into infant, child, and adult, so the Tantric practitioner progresses through an analogous development, with the difference that he goes through it all deliberately and consciously, and thereby creates for himself the prerequisites for perfect enlightenment.

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Despite their partly divergent views and rituals, the different Buddhist schools and traditions of teaching share certain basic assumptions, in particular the theory of selflessness. What we in the West consider to be an individual, in the Buddhist view comprises five socalled aggregates or heaps (skandha). These are the skandhas of forms (corporeality, materiality, matter),1 of feelings, of perceptions, of mental factors (volition, mental formations), and of consciousnesses (events of consciousness), which combine with each other in mutual interrelation. The five skandhas are transitory and subject to constant change, thereby also implying the transitory nature of human beings. That which is transitory can, moreover, possess no eternal soul or — as Buddhists also say — no permanent self. In the West the individual is thought to possess a content, a core, which for Buddhists is a wrong view, the root of all our misery. The concept of “I” and of “self” leads to craving, which continually gives rise to new dissatisfaction, anguish, and sorrow. As a consequence of this realization, the delusion of self has to be abandoned.


If a person escapes from the shackles of the self, he or she escapes also from craving and with it from sorrow and comes closer to the state known as nirvana, which for Buddhists means freedom from bonds, freedom from attachments, freedom from craving. This state of freedom and independence permits an active life and a feeling of closeness to others to arise — giving up the self makes sense only if it goes along with a turning toward other living beings. All Buddhist schools agree on the ideal of selflessness. Differences exist in the method, the way (y∂na) in which the experience of non-essence can be attained. To simplify greatly, one can distinguish between the two ways: the S�tra- or P≤ramit≤y≤na (Way of the Perfections) and the Tantra- or Mantray≤na (Way of Sacred Formulas). The system of the s∏tras relies on texts that emphasize instruction and time-consuming intellectual analysis of oneself and one’s surroundings, and the system of the tantras is based on texts that explain how with demanding, partly secret, ritual practices, above all with deity yoga, one can rapidly, though with greater risk, realize the ultimate goal of essencelessness, or emptiness.



2.1 Woodblock Himalayan region; 19th century Wood 10 x 10 1/2 x 7/8 in. (25.4 x 26.7 x 2.22 cm) Rubin Museum of Art C2006.75.5


An unfolded amulet, print of Figure 2.1

© Arnoldsche Art Publishers Such woodblocks are used to make prints, which are folded and wrapped with colored string. These amulets protect the bearer from sickness and other obstacles.

The buddhas are said to have shown various ways to liberation according to the character, inclinations, and needs of suffering people; thus Buddhists account for the different orientations of the separate schools. Tantray≤na, the Vehicle of Tantra, from which stem the mandala rituals, is usually divided into four classes: Kriy≤ (action), Cary≤ (performace), Yoga and, as the highest class, Anuttarayoga Tantra.2 Anuttarayoga Tantra (unexelled Yoga Tantra) is further divided into two: male, or father, in which particular stress is put on method or the path, and female or mother Anuttarayoga Tantra, which pays more attention to wisdom. The K∂lacakra tantra belongs to female Anuttarayoga Tantra.


The four classes of Tantras were developed in succession: Kriy≤, Cary≤, Yoga, and inally Anuttarayoga Tantra. In this book we show examples of mandalas of all four classes of Tantra, the last of which, Anuttarayoga Tantra, gave rise to by far the greatest number of mandalas. This tradition places great value on complicated mandala representations and mandala rites.3 Sometimes ≈mn≤ta (gDam ngags) is named as a further class of mandalas: mandalas related to particularly efficacious practices for specific purposes and needs, like bestowing of long life and good fortune.4

2.3 Paper amulet, ink, colored strings Tibet; 20th century Paper, cotton threads Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich Inventory #14718




© Arnoldsche Art Publishers

2.4 Yantra Nepal; 17th century Bronze 11 x 11 x 11 in. (27.9 x 27.9 x 27.9 cm) Rubin Museum of Art C2006.66.58 (HAR 700053) 2.5 Diagram dedicated to Palden Lhamo Tibet; 18th century Pigment on cotton and silk 46 ½ x 46 ½ in. (118.1 x 118.1 cm) Collection of Arnold Lieberman

Yantras are frequently confused with mandalas. Their structure resembles that of a mandala (several circles, square area with four gates, orientation toward a center). Functionally, too, they are not easily distinguished. Whereas yantras are often line drawings, the more complex mandalas are normally colored. Additionally most yantras contain seed syllables or short commands and, if drawn or printed on paper, after the relevant ritual they are often worn as an amulet, eaten as medicine, or buried as a magical protective diagram. Engraved with a layered set of sacred triangular diagrams, this yantra would typically be found in a temple or sacred space and used as a focus for devotion. The series of intersecting lines create triangles that represent feminine and masculine energies in union. These commingling energies are surrounded by a lotus circle, a sea of blood, a ring of fire, and four T-shaped doorways symbolically resting on double vajras on the four sides of the yantra. This object, blending both Hindu and Buddhist symbols, is a composition unique to the Kathmandu Valley.


A sort of yantra, this charm diagram lies on flayed human skin and, according to the text in the second circle, is dedicated to Palden Lhamo (dPal Idan lHa mo). The petals of the yantra are inscribed with a number of seminal syllables (the well-known “Om Ah Hum” are at the very core of the yantra), but it is the circular inscription that bears Palden Lhamo’s incantation mantra (srung), Bhyo, which is repeated a number of times. Smaller mantra circles (srung ’khor) are typically folded, wrapped with colored thread, and worn around the neck (Fig. 2.3). The inscription on this large piece suggests that it was possibly used as a canopy in a ritual for the protection of s∂dhana practitioners (s∂dhaka), masters and disciples and donors.




2.6 Thread-cross palace dedicated to Green T∂r∂ Namgyal Monastery, Tibet; 20th century Cotton thread and wood 41 x 19 x 19 in. (104.1 X 48.3 X 48.3 cm) Collection of Tibet House U.S. 98NM001 Photograph by Evi Abeler The basic form of a thread-cross (nam mkha’, literally, sky) is made by two sticks that are bound together to form a cross. The sticks are then connected with thread in the colors blue, green, red, white, and yellow, symbolizing space, air, fire, water, and earth. The resulting objects are colorful cobweb-like structures. The sequence of colors and the shape depend on the use of the thread-cross. The three-dimensional thread-cross palace (khang bzang nam mkha’) serves as the seat or dwelling of a specific deity or group of deities. This one is dedicated to the merciful goddess sGrol ma (T≤r≤), whose help is engaged in order to avert various kinds of evil. In a text related to a thread-cross palace dedicated to T≤r≤ it is said that the thread-cross ritual is profound and powerful in averting curses, drought, evil omens or bad dreams, fierce and spiteful gods and ogres, the harm and torment of great demons, poxes, epidemics, loss, diseases of livestock, and any harm that might come from evil years, months, days, times, planets, or stars. The thread-cross ritual is complex and needs a lot of additional items, like offerings made out of dough, or tormas (gtor ma), substitutes that represent the person in whose favor the ritual is done, butter lamps, grains, different kinds of foods, gems, etc. Often these items are laid out in concentric circles around the thread-cross palace. Therefore such thread-cross palaces are also called mandalas. Unless the thread-cross palace is used as the permanent seat of the deity – for instance in a temple – it will be destroyed after the ritual by throwing it into a fire.

2.7 (page 38–39) Two Mandalas with Fettered Effigies Central Tibet, Lhasa (?); ca. 1665 Ink and pigments on paper 2 pages, 6 ¼ X 17 inches (15.9 x 43.2 cm) each Collection of Thomas Isenberg TC 381 No. 34

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Here, two leaves aligned vertically illustrate a pair of mandalas, each attended by a human effigy with his hands shackled in chains. The diagram on the top refers to a ritual intended to combat, or to ward off, diseases. The figure bears an inscription at his right foot: “On this place [should be erected] this four-fold mandala of disease [presumably disease suppression] and one should hold one’s teeth together and squeeze them tightly together a few times.” Within the yellow circle of the mandala is written the seed syllables of an incantation in Tibetan, accompanied by the instructions to “write these [syllables] slightly imperfectly and depict the effigy slightly pressing its teeth together.” In Tantric iconography clenched teeth are a sign of wrath directed against the specter of illness. At the heart of the red disk in the center of the mandala is inscribed the single syllable “Ni,” which causes demonic forces (in this case, those of disease) to take on tangible form, and, thus embodied, to become vulnerable to the purifying power of the ritual. Written between the legs of the bottom figure is a mantra followed by an inscription. The inscription reads: “On this very place of Phagmo Drupa, to enable these mantras to be placed above the head, the teachings which have been spoken of as well as these very mantras, must be placed within a vajra enclosure and written down on a waxing moon shape and the long mantra itself must be written, generally speaking, upon two circles.” Within the mandala, arranged in two circles – one green, the other red – is probably the long mantra mentioned in the inscription. At the center are shorter mantras, written in a crescent design (the “waxing moon shape”) and enclosed by two interlocking squares with a vajra at each of the eight points. Phagmo Drupa was the founder of Densatil Monastery, in the twelfth century, which suggests a possible location for the performance of this particular rite. Louis Ho (based on translations and comments by David Templeman) 2.6





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EMPTINESS: ALL PHENOMENA ARE “OF THE SAME TASTE” Tibetan Buddhists regard what is generally called reality as being without essence, without a stable core or — to use a Buddhist expression — as empty. Out of the wrong interpretation of perceptions and human longings arise contradictions, which the Buddhist wants to recognize with the aid of meditation. The meditator grasps that his or her reality is not real, that another reality exists instead: emptiness, or the void (π∏nyat∂).5 Emptiness is a central, exceedingly complex concept of Mah≤y≤na philosophy. From among the various concepts of emptiness, we will draw on the widely held concept of the Pr≤sa∏gikam≤dhyamika School, which regards phenomena and beings as empty, in so far as they have no inherent or objective existence of their own, that is, no existence inherent in the object. It is not a matter of the complete non-existence of a phenomenon but of the lack of a self.6 The Pr≤sa∏gika concept does not put in question the world of things and people around us but rather the way we see the world. Two examples may be used to illustrate the theory of emptiness. Tibetan texts often cite the example of a speckled, coiled rope that is not clearly recognizable and may bring to mind the thought of a snake — though in reality the snake is only imputed by thought. With this example the Pr≤sa∏gika School wishes to prove that phenomena, appearances as separate entities with their own inherent existence, are only a result of our thought or consciousness, which carries out classifications and descriptions. Another example is provided by the well-known puzzle pictures in which blotches, lines, and dots yield next to no meaning and cannot be interpreted. After looking and searching for a long time, you suddenly recognize some content, for example a face or a shape. But the blotches, lines, and dots of the first phase — of non-recognition — are exactly the same as those of the second phase — that of recognition of content. Nothing has altered; evidently it is the viewer who has changed. With his consciousness he has analyzed, dis-


tinguished, and organized the dots, lines, and blotches. He has made discriminations and bestowed content and meaning on that which is empty. This demonstrates not only how with our discriminating, analyzing consciousness we create independent entities from that which is empty but also how hard it is to return these entities to the undifferentiated state. Who does not know the difficulty of dissolving a puzzle picture back into mere dots, lines, and blotches once one has made out its hidden content? Order cannot be led back into disorder, or only with great effort. But this is precisely what someone meditating on emptiness must succeed in doing, because reversing the process of ordering, differentiating, and constituting (seeming) entities means recognizing the emptiness of all appearances.


Deriding the doctrines of Sutra and Mantra, Proclaiming the secret to the unripened, … Not observing the pledges, and deriding women.7 The practitioner encounters one particular ethical precept again and again: the demand to cultivate the so-called Mind of Enlightenment (bodhicitta; byang chub kyi sems), the altruistic mind of realization of emptiness that is guided by the wish to attain complete and perfect enlightenment for the benefit of others.8 “Selfless” means on the one hand without self, or without any self, and on the other being unselfish, willing to make sacrifices, altruistic and devoted to others, and thereby implies a demand for social action.9 The ultimate goal is not one’s own liberation from the cycle of suffering but the liberation — and so happiness — of all living beings. Regarding this, the K∂lacakra Tantra says:

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Contrary to the view, widely held in the West, of the Tantric practitioner as disregarding all conventions without restraint, the person who has opted for the Tantric way must, like other Buddhists, observe numerous ethical rules. These include the basic Buddhist rules not to kill, lie, steal, commit adultery, or take intoxicating drink; and in addition, to keep the ten principal virtues (p∂ramit∂) of giving, morality, patience, energy, etc.; and to avoid the so-called eighteen basic offences against the Bodhisattva Vow (for instance, praising oneself and disparaging others; not passing on the Buddha’s teaching; not forgiving someone who has apologized; and giving up the teaching). Furthermore it is necessary to avoid the fourteen basic offences against the Mantra Vow even at the cost of one’s own life: Scorning and deriding the Lama (bla ma), … abandoning love, Giving up the aspirational and practical altruistic intentions,

From this time until Enlightenment I will generate the altruistic intention to become enlightened (Bodhicitta). I will generate the very pure thought, and abandon the conception of an [inherently existent] I and mine. … I will achieve the perfections of giving, ethics, patience … I will cultivate [love wishing] that sentient beings have happiness, [compassion wishing] that they be free from suffering, joy in their abiding forever in bliss, and the equanimity of equality.10

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE GURU The relationship between the disciple and spiritual teacher (guru; bla ma) is of the greatest importance. This teacher can protect the adept from danger, from coming into contact with ideas and practices for which he or she is not yet ripe. The teacher should thus lead his disciples individually. Various teachings, particularly secret ones, are not fixed in writing but are transmitted orally from teacher to teacher; because of this, the disciple is dependent on his or her teacher. Having at his disposal inner and outer qualities, the


teacher is in a position to initiate, to draw mandalas, and to meditate on them; he is practiced in techniques of concentration, knows how the symbolic hand gestures and ritual dances should be performed, and is experienced in the three lower classes of tantras, in burnt offerings, and many other ritual practices. The importance of the teacher is illustrated by the following analogy, which is said to go back to the great Sakya Pa≥∑ita. “However strongly the sun shines, the wood you wish to set alight will never catch fire on its own. To kindle fire you need a lens to focus the rays. In the same way, you can attain the blessing of the mighty Buddha only through the mediation of a guru.” 11 Sakya Pa≥∑ita also held that worship of one’s guru for the duration of just a fingersnap outshines the merit that accrues during a thousand aeons of practicing the six perfections.12 A legend shows how the guru outweighs even one’s personal protective deity. N≤ropa, the teacher of Translator Marpa, once appeared to Marpa as the yi dam Hevajra. He gave his disciple the choice of prostrating to the deity or the teacher. Marpa decided in favor of the protective deity — a mistake, since all emanated deities ultimately count as emanations of the guru.13 So the meditator on deity yoga sees in each visualized deity his own spiritual teacher, “undifferentiable from the Supramundane Victor, the great K≤lacakra,” 14 as it says in the guru yoga of the K∂lacakra Tantra. The disciple entrusts himself completely to his teacher, the Great Protector, as only he can show the path to supreme enlightenment, reveal the sacred words, and endow the disciple with precious bodhicitta.15 The root of all causes producing Happiness now and hereafter, is the practice Of relying in thought and action Upon the Sacred Friend who reveals the Path. Seeing this, follow him at any cost And please him with the offering of practice. 16 This is the advice of Tsongkhapa, the famous reformer of Tibetan Buddhism.




OUTER MANDALA: THE COSMOS © Arnoldsche Art Publishers


According to the Abhidharmakoπa, a text written by Vasubandhu (4th/5th century), the universe comprises a virtually infinite number of world systems. Each of these systems consists of a gigantic cylindrical plinth, and on the plinth’s surface, structured of water and mountains, there rests a heavenly realm. A thousand million such world systems or world units stand on a vast cylindrical base of air, whose height according to the Abhidharmakoπa is 80,000 yojanas but whose diameter is so great it cannot be expressed in number.1 Before primeval times the power of the collective actions or collective karma of earlier living beings caused an incredibly strong wind to arise from all of the four directions. It filled the empty space and helped form clouds, from which water poured forth torrentially. From the water, the raging hurricanes shaped the lowest “building block” of a world system: the gigantic cylindrical base. The winds moved more and on the stirred water created foam, which grew ever thicker, heavier, and more yellow. In this way another

component of the world cylinder was formed: the golden earth, in the center of which rose a four-cornered mountain column, made from the most precious constituents of the whisked masses of water, namely gold, silver, lapis, and crystal: Mount Meru, whose four sides each have four terraces. Around it, further whisking formed out of the elements of medium quality seven golden mountain walls. Moving away from Meru, each mountain is half the height of the previous one. Between the mountains the rain caused great seas of fresh water to develop, which collectively bear the name Inner Ocean. On the other side of the outermost and lowest golden wall stretches an enormous salt-water sea, the Great Outer Sea, in which float twelve continents — land masses formed in the third whisking. The rim of the golden earth-disk is encompassed by an eighth mountain wall, made of iron (Figs. 3.1a, 3.1b, 3.2). The world of human beings lies in the middle southern continent, Jamb�dv◊pa (Fig. 3.9), which lies on the southern side of Mount Meru, whose lapis color is the same as that of the sky.2 This explains why people are unable to see the shape of Meru, the mountain of the world, from their continent.




9 8 7 6 1

3 5

W 3.2







4 3.3



3.2 Cross-section through the upper half of an abhidharmakoπa world system: (1) the middle southern continent, where human beings reside, with, in enlarged detail; (2) Mount Kailash as the source region of the four great rivers: Sutlej, Indus, Brahmaputra, and Karnali; (3) the Himalayan mountains, and (4) nine lesser mountains right in the south. Beneath the southern continent lie the hells (5). Above Mount Meru (6) stretch the 25 heavens: (7) the four heavens of the ‘desire realm’ – to which the part of the cosmos beneath these heavens also belongs; realm (8) the 17 heavens of the “form realm”; and (9) the four heavens of the “form realm.” Drawing by Andreas Brodbeck 3.3 This reconstruction of a “cosmos cluster” starts conceptually from the assumption that separate world systems all lie in the same layer of space.1 The relevant Buddhist texts give no information about whether additional cosmos clusters exist above and below the plane illustrated here. Model and photograph by Peter Nebel

© Arnoldsche Art Publishers 3.1a



3.1a Scale model of a cosmos according to sources going back to the abhidharmakoπa. The uppermost part of the cylinder (salt and fresh water seas) has a height of 80,000 yojanas (ca. 600,000 kilometers or 360,000 miles); in the abhidharmakoπa 1 yojana is equal to 7.5 kilometers or 4.5 miles), the part below it consisting of gold is 320,000 yojanas high (ca. 2.4 million kilometers, 1.5 million miles), and the lowest region, full of water, measures 800,000 yojanas (ca. 6 million kilometers, 3.6 million miles); the radius of the cylinder amounts to 600,000 yojanas (ca. 4.5 million kilometers, 2.7 million miles). The continents in the ocean that washes round the mountain depart from scale, being magnified twenty times in the representation. An eighth mountain wall at the rim of the gold disk — the iron mountain — encloses the round ocean and ends only just above sea level. The rectangular pieces above Mount Meru stand for the three lowest of the 25 heavens above the world mountain. According to one tradition, the distance separating them doubles from layer to layer.1 Model and photograph by Peter Nebel (after La Vallée-Poussin 1923–31:II; Berzin, n.d.; Kloetzli 1983) 3.1b Plan view of the cosmos according to the abhidharmakoπa. The twelve continents are shown enlarged 25 times: 1 eastern continents; 2 southern continents; 3 western continents; 4 northern continents. Drawing by Peter Nebel 1 This model deviates in certain respects from other Western redrawings. In the reconstruction of Keilhauer & Keilhauer (1980), Meru stands on a hemisphere, the seven mountain walls are each as high as their respective distances from Mount Meru, and the hells are beneath Mount Meru – details that do not agree with the abhidharmakoπa.


This has a height of 1 600,000 yojanas and shows an almost infinite diameter.

At half the height of Meru, barely above the mountain wall nearest the world mountain, the sun and moon travel their orbits borne by the wind. In the middle of the square summit plateau of Meru lies the city Sudar√ana, or Beautiful to See, also laid out in a square. In the center of this stands Vaijayanta, the palace of the leader of the thirty-three chief gods who live in this realm of the world. The strongly symmetrical layout is evident: the mountain top is subdivided into four regions, which correspond to the four directions and are orientated toward the center — a plan typical of any mandala representation. The idea of a city at the center of the world is also found in other cultures. Thus for instance in the world view of medieval Europe, Jerusalem was accepted as

the “navel of the world,” and Islam regards Mecca as the center of the earth.3 The Buddhist world system clearly values upper regions more highly than those situated lower down. Thus above the heaven of the thirty-three gods (on Mount Meru) float further heavens or castles (vim∂na), stacked concentrically one above the other so that the purer they are the higher they are. Their arrangement and dimensions vary in the statements in the texts, but pictorial representations and writings alike lead us to assume that the heavenly strata become wider and thicker with increasing altitude (Fig. 3.2). Presumably the interval between successive heavenly strata also increases toward the top, though the pictures from Tibet and the Himalayas known to us are





© Arnoldsche Art Publishers 3.4a Abhidharmako≤a cosmos Tibet; ca. 19th century 36 3⁄8 x 23 5⁄8 in. (92.5 cm x 60 cm) Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich Inventory #13560 Photograph by Peter Nebel Side view of a single world system. In the center is the world mountain Meru, with its white, eastern face turned toward the viewer. In the great outer ocean (outside the seven mountain walls) in each of the four cardinal directions, lie three continents (the western ones not being visible, as they are concealed by Mount Meru). The middle southern continent in the south (left of the mountain) is Jambudv◊pa, where human beings live. On the terraces on the sides of Mount Meru live the demigods and lesser gods. On top of the mountain one can make out the city Beautiful to See, or the palace Vaijayanta that stands in its center with the 33 gods who rule this region of the world (in the center, Indra or akra, around him 32 [28 + 4] other gods). In the lower part of the picture, five goddesses make offering of the five sense organs (from left to right: incense for the sense of smell, music for the sense of hearing, a mirror for the sense of sight, fruit for the sense of taste, and fabric for the sense of touch). Beneath are the seven precious things, the eight lucky symbols, and on the plate right at the bottom, symbols of wealth. 3.4b Model of the cosmos according to the abhidharmakoπa, showing the spatial arrangement of the world mountain and the twelve continents. For this a reproduction of Figure 3.4a was cut up into separate components and built up three dimensionally; elements of the picture not belonging to the cosmos remain excluded (flowers, emblems to either side of Meru); the seven mountain chains surrounding Meru also appear as a single wall. Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich Model by Urs Wohlgemuth and Martin Brauen Photograh by Peter Nebel 3.4a





3.5 Cakr∂vala: Buddhist world system Tibet; 17th century Pigments on cloth 43 ¼ x 33 ½ in. (110 x 85 cm) Private Collection Courtesy of Fabio Rossi, London The Cakrav≤la is the Buddhist world view as described in the fifth-century Abhidharma literature. Though there are different theories on number and arrangement, the format depicted here is typical of most interpretations. According to the Buddhist creation myth, the collective karma of previous living beings created a strong wind that produced rain clouds. The resulting water formed a cylindrical building block, on top of which formed the golden earth. In the center of the earth disk rises Mount Meru, as seen in the center of the picture, enclosed by four terraces. Mount Meru is surrounded by seven rings of gold mountains (shown below the terraces), each half the height of the one immediately enclosed, and within each mountain ring is an ocean of clear water. The outer ocean, in which the twelve continents sit, is salt water. The entire perimeter is delineated by an eighth mountain ring of iron (seen along the picture’s outer edges). The sun, shown to the left of the third terrace, and the moon, shown to its right, revolve around Meru, along with the planets and stars. Mount Meru is the dwelling place of gods, including the Four Great Kings of the upper terrace who guard the four directions. The city of Sudar√ana on the mountain’s flat surface contains the palaces of thirty-three gods including the chief god Indra, whose palace is prominently displayed with a large ornamental roof. Above the mountaintop, in the shape of an inverted triangle, are the twenty-five realms of the gods in increasing size, though not to scale. The four heavens directly above Mount Meru are within the desire realm of the world. Above that is the form realm, which consists of seventeen heavens subdivided into four levels of meditative concentration. At the very top are the four gods of the formless realm, though being formless, they have no location. The twelve continents are arranged in the four directions in clusters of three (a major land mass surrounded by two minor ones). The most detailed continent, just below Mount Meru, is Jamb�dv◊pa, the major southerly continent and the land of human beings. Myth blends with geography here, as many real places in India, China, Tibet, and modern Pakistan can be identified within. The golden ground rises up in the center to form Vajr≤sana, the place where bodhisattvas reach enlightenment (this is associated with Bodhgaya, in modern India). Here, the Buddha can be seen sitting in a st∏pa on the mountaintop. To the northwest of Vajr≤sana is Lake Anavatapa, usually identified as the lake by Mount Kailish in southwestern Tibet. Beside this lake grows the Jambu tree, from which the continent derives its name. Though real places are identifiable, the geography is not totally accurate. The large mountain on a circular pedestal in the top right of Jamb�dv◊pa is Wutaishan, the northern Buddhist mountain in China. Wutaishan is actually located much farther north, and the town of Lithang is west of the town of Dartsedo, which is shown here south of Lithang and southwest of Wutaishan. It is important to note that this part of Jamb�dv◊pa, of eastern Tibet and Sichuan, is still the most detailed and annotated. By contrast, the southern part of Jamb�dv◊pa is sketchier and has fewer labels. In the extreme lower left corner of Jamb�dv◊pa is another walled area containing a st∏pa, recognizable as the famous great st∏pa of Dh≤nyakaaka. Located near Amar≤vati in Andhra Pradesh, this was an important area for the development of Tantric Buddhism and is the site where the Buddha is said to have taught the K∂lacakra tantra. (Dh≤nyakaaka should be on the eastern side of India.) The lower right region of Jambudv◊pa has not been identified. The words “remote island” are written by a walled enclosure at the extreme right, though it is not clear if this represents Sri Lanka or Sumatra. Edward Henning


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3.6 Wall paintings in Punakha Dzong, Bhutan: K≤lacakra cosmos from above and from the side Photograph by Martin Brauen, 1982 3.7 Left, Abhidharmako√a cosmos; right, Wheel of Life Photograph by Martin Brauen, 1982

THE PYRAMIDAL COSMOS ACCORDING TO THE K≈LACAKRA TRADITION Buddhism presents several cosmologies, but there is no contradiction in this, for as Kalu Rinpoche says: not clear on this point. This may be because a picture area in normal format (a scroll painting or a temple wall (Figs. 3.6, 3.7) does not permit cosmic distances to be represented to scale without also shrinking the part of the cosmos important to human beings — Mount Meru and the continents — to invisible dots. According to Buddhist ideas, the worlds of the gods have their counterpart in the underworld, in the form of eight hot and eight cold hells beneath the southern continent of Jamb�dv◊pa inhabited by human beings.4 Paintings of the cosmos — quite often found on the outside walls of Tibetan Buddhist places of worship and more seldom in scroll paintings — do render the essential elements of this upper-world topography but are often hard to interpret. In some, as stated, there is a lack of accurate scale; in others, Tibetan Buddhist art follows specific conventions when representing space. Thus for instance in the same work some regions may be depicted “in plan” (i.e., from above, Fig. 3.5) and others “in elevation” (i.e., from the side, Figs. 3.4a, 3.4b), spatiality portrayed in a way unfamiliar to the Western viewer.


(returning to) this divine center. The mandala as mirror of the cosmos, not just the outer cosmos but also the microcosm, the person, is based on the assumption of close relations between world, mandala, and person. Besides the concentration on the divine, Buddhist cosmology is notable for the multiplication of small cosmoses into an amassing of countless cosmos clusters (Fig. 3.3) — an amazing correspondence with the modern Western understanding of the universe. A thousand such world systems with a Mount Meru, sun, moon, god realms, and so forth form a small cosmos, a thousand small cosmoses a middling one, and a thousand middling ones a “gigacosmos,” embracing a thousand million world systems. Also gigantic are the periods of time over which the individual world systems arise and pass away, or in which only “waiting space” remains, which is eventually moved again by a gently rising wind — whereupon a world system is built anew. Thus just as the skandhas are transitory, so too the world and the entire universe are susceptible to continual change. The individual periods, or cosmic pulse-beats, called kalpa in Sanskrit, embrace such enormous spans of time that they are often described in parables rather than reckoned in years:

Unlike the cosmology of the European Middle Ages, the Buddhist conception of the world does not set the earth and human beings in the center. Rather, the gods and their worlds — corporeal, subtle-material, and spiritual, formless beings — here form the theocentric axis of the universe, while human and other living beings exist on the margins of the center. Tantric visualizations – and above all the complicated mandala ritual — are always about reaching

Imagine a cubical container, each side measuring one yojana (about 15 kilometers [or 9.3 miles])5, completely filled with fine hair tips. Take out a single hair tip each hundred years. The time it takes to empty it is a single solar day of a least aeon. The measure of thirty such solar days makes up a month. Twelve months make up a year. A hundred years is called ‘an aeon’. Likewise, the medium aeon is a multiple of that (least aeon). A superior aeon is a multiple of the medium aeon.


Any one of these various cosmologies is completely valid for the beings whose karmic projections cause them to experience their universe in that way. There is a certain relativity in the way one experiences the world. This means that all the possible experiences of every being in the six realms of existence … are based upon karmic inclinations and degrees of individual development. Thus, on a relative level, any cosmology is valid. On an ultimate level, no cosmology is absolutely true. It cannot be universally valid, given the different conventional situations of beings.6 The second Tibetan Buddhist idea of the cosmos, that from the tradition of the K∂lacakra Tantra, is not infrequently described in Western publications as an independent one deviating from that of the Abhidharmakoπa. Like the Abhidharmakoπa, it too assumes that cosmoses arise, pass away, and arise again in endless, long periods of time. Unlike in the Abhidharmakoπa, however, according to the K≤lacakra tradition not all the atoms of the five elements disappear at the end of an epoch; they simply fall apart and become separated from each other by space atoms. As a result of the “stockpile” of collective karma from earlier ages of the world, the atoms again enter new combinations. The air atoms move together. This results in strong winds, which in turn make the fire atoms unite and because of this lightning, i.e., electricity, arises. Next follows the formation of water atoms, which bring about rain. The rainbows appearing now are manifestations of the first earth atoms, which thicken and become solid earth. The space atoms fill the space between the other atoms and float both below and above the world system. Common to both notions of the cosmos is the concentric, mandala-type structure with a Mount Meru

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in the center, though its form differs in the two systems. The base or foundation of the K≤lacakra cosmos also differs (Fig. 3.8): it consists of four huge round disks, of which the lowest (air) has the greatest diameter (400,000 yojanas, ca. 6 million kilometers, or 3.6 million miles) and the uppermost (earth) the least (100,000 yojanas, ca. 1.5 million kilometers, or 910,000 miles).7 Meru is not square as in the Abhidharmakoπa but round and tapers toward the base. Meru is immediately surrounded by six concentric continents, six mountain walls, and six oceans. Altogether there are seven oceans if one includes the water disk (Figs. 3.11a, 3.11b, 3.11c). In the K≤lacakra world model, one’s attention is immediately drawn to the twelve wind-tracks on which the planets glide.8 Pictorial representations of these twelve wind-tracks may be found mainly on the walls of monasteries in Bhutan (Fig. 3.6). They draw the tracks in a bird’s eye view from a point directly above the cosmic center.9 Such illustrations admittedly do not show clearly the spatial arrangement of the tracks. Only a side view of a cosmos model reveals that the planets form a kind of cap or dome around Meru (Fig. 3.11a). This model was constructed according to drawings made with a 3-D computer program, based on traditional Tibetan sources. It is further worth remarking as regards the K≤lacakra world picture that the universe above Meru takes the form of a head, invisible to us humans, with neck, chin, nose, and forehead as well as an upward extension in the form of a topknot.10 The invisible shaping of the topmost part of the world into a head — in this region are the twenty-five heavens of the K≤lacakra universe — indicates that there is a special relationship between the K≤lacakra universe and the form of a human being or of a deity (Figs. 4.1, 4.2). In this the essential wisdom of the K≤lacakra tradition already appears: the endless recapitulation of ordered structures from the breadth of the macrocosm down to the minuteness of the microcosm.




3.8 The K∂lacakra cosmos 71 5⁄8 x 18 7⁄8 in. (182 x 48 cm) Private Collection Courtesy of Fabio Rossi, London

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Detail from a scroll with eight paintings that depict the outer and inner aspects of K≤lacakra. Thought to have been painted under the direction of the Eighth Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje (1507–1554). The world system consists of Mount Meru, sitting on top of four elemental disks, with the realms of all the gods above. At the very bottom is the black disk of wind; above it is the red disk of fire; next is the white disk of water; finally there is the yellow disk of earth. Each of these has the same height. In the center of the disk of earth sits Mount Meru. Above this are the realms of the gods. An important feature in this structure of the cosmos is that the total height and the total width are both the same: 400,000 yojanas. The world system is a representation of the abodes of all the different classes of beings: the gods, asuras (non-gods), humans, animals, ghosts and those in the hell realms. The gods are further subdivided into three groups: the six classes of gods of the desire-realm, the 16 classes of the form-realm and the four classes of gods of the formless-realm. All of these taken together constitute the 31 states of existence. The locations of these different states of existence are depicted in this painting, with the gods of the formless-realm at the very top. For the states of the formless and form realms, these are depicted in groups of four. The colors in the painting are now rather faded, but the top group of four is the green formless-realm, associated with the element of space. The next four sets of four constitute the form realm, associated with the elements of black wind, red fire, white water and yellow earth. Visible on the earth disk are the syllables for the humans, animals and ghosts. Also drawn on the earth disk is the syllable for the hell-realms. These are not, however, on the surface of the disk of earth, but beneath that surface, inside the four elemental disks. The surface of the disk of earth constitutes the realm known as Great Jambudv◊pa, principally the land of men and animals. This consists of twelve continents. Our own continent of Jambudv◊pa is the red triangular one, to the south of Mount Meru. It is the middle of the three triangular continents. One of the intriguing aspects of this image of the world system is the unusual shape of Mount Meru. In the K≤lacakra literature Meru is described as having five summits or peaks. There are many ways in which this simple comment is interpreted. The images shown here are reputedly from the Karma Kagyu tradition. Here Mount Meru resembles five steps, and so the five peaks become rather like five plateaus, each one overhanging the one below. Edward Henning





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3.10 Śambhala Private Collection Courtesy of Fabio Rossi, London 3.9 The southern continent of Jambūdvı̄pa Private Collection Courtesy of Fabio Rossi, London Detail from a scroll with eight paintings that depict the outer and inner aspects of K≤lacakra. Thought to have been painted under the direction of the Eighth Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje (1507–1554). This painting depicts the southern continent of Jamb�dv◊pa, and many locations within it are clearly labeled. The writing near the top right states: “The 960 million villages north of the ◊ta.” The writing on the left near the mid-point states: “South of the ◊ta, adorned with the 10 million villages of Mecca and so forth.” Clearly visible, just above the level of this writing, running horizontally across the painting, is the River ◊ta. At the top middle is written “Gangs ldan, Himavat,” the mountains said to be north of Kailash and at the extreme north of our continent — clearly the mountain chain depicted along the top edge of the painting. The words at the bottom state: “On top of Kailash, ambhala.” In the center, just above the river, is the circular form of ambhala. The text seems to suggest that ambhala is on top of Mount Kailash. The area below, to the south of the river, has many labels. The eight squares arranged around a square with the depiction of a temple are the several parts of Tibet. Edward Henning


Detail from a scroll with eight paintings that depict the outer and inner aspects of K≤lacakra. Thought to have been painted under the direction of the Eighth Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje (1507– 1554). ambhala is said to be circular, surrounded by mountains, and shaped like an eight-petaled lotus. The capital, Kal≤pa, is said to be in the center, although some consider Kal≤pa simply another name for ambhala. Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen states that in the midst of snowy mountains and in the center of an eight-petaled lotus is circular Mount Kailash, on top of which is Kal≤pa, with the king’s palace deep in a sandalwood forest. Each petal is divided into twelve regions, each with its own ruler and containing 10 million villages; this adds up to the total of 960 million villages mentioned in the Vimalaprabh≤. Kal≤pa, the king’s palace, is clearly seen in the center. Dolpopa states that the famous K≤lacakra Mandala palace built by Sucandra in the M≤laya grove lies to the south of the center of K≤lapa. The mandala palace is seen here left of center. The top faces west, in the normal style of a mandala. Dolpopa also mentions that to the east and west of the mandala palace are ponds of sweet-smelling, cooling water and various birds. His description matches the picture shown here. Edward Henning




4 heavens of the mental-bodied

Formless Realm

16 heavens of beings with bodies of light

Realm of Form

5 heavens of gods of the Desire Realm Mount Meru, surrounded by 12 windtracks with planets, forming a sort of umbrella or basket

4 World Guardians

Realm of Desire with beings of gross form

Human beings, animals

Asuras N∂gas

Earth disc

Thorns – [Gravel water] – Joyless Realm Water disc Sand – Water – Joyless Realm Swamp – Water – Joyless Realm

Fire disc


W Smoke – Joyless Realm

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Air disc

Fire – Joyless Realm

Great Darkness – Joyless Realm Great Wailing – Joyless Realm

Ether / Space






4 3

3.11b 2

3.11a Model of the K≤lacakra cosmos: in the K≤lacakra world system, too, there are twelve continents – three in each of the four cardinal directions, amid a great ocean around Mount Meru. The continents are depicted as square, circular, etc. 1 The middle, southern land mass, called Jamb�dv◊pa, is the dwelling place of human beings and animals, and is divided into six regions. Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich Model and photograph by Peter Nebel (after a 3-D computer drawing by the firm Rocad, Berne; based on Berzin, n.d.; Huang Mingxin 1987; Schuh 1973). 1

According to another tradition the geometric shapes do not represent the continents but are simply markings on them, the continents themselves being larger. If one takes the outer circle and subdivides it into twelve segments, a continent has, according to this tradition, the size of half a segment. Names of the joyless realms, or hells, after Berzin; Newman (1987) has “gravel water” instead of “thorns.”



Model of the K≤lacakra cosmos viewed from above

3.11c Diagram of the K≤lacakra cosmos Plan view of the cosmos according to the K∂lacakra tantra: (1) air disc (2) fire disc (3) water disc (seventh ocean) (4) earth disc (5) fire or vajra mountain (6) southern continent Jamb�dv◊pa with seven mountain chains (7) six rings each comprising a land mass, mountain wall and ocean (liquor, water, milk, curd, ghee, molasses) (8) base of Mount Meru


E 3.11c







16 20 28 (35)

23 31 8


24 32 37 13



19 27 (36)


1 /(38)

N (37) 29 21


OFFERING OF THE UNIVERSE: THE GRAIN MANDALA The mandala-construction of the universe — whether according to the Abhidharmakoπa or the K≤lacakra tradition — is evident: circles or disks form the base for an inner realm that is aligned with the five directions (east, south, west, north, and center) and organized vertically, with the highest point symbolizing the purest and holiest realm. This basic structure of the universe is copied in a frequently performed offering in the form of a grain mandala (Fig. 3.13a). A silver plate fitted with a circular band serves as a base; it symbolizes the golden earth cylinder of the Abhidharmakoπa cosmos (Figs. 3.12, 3.13a, 3.13b). The act of worship in the course of which the cosmos is presented as an offering begins with careful cleaning of the surface of the plate — this purifies all the inner defilements of the worshiper. After taking refuge in the spiritual teacher and the Three Jewels (Buddha, Buddhist teaching, community of monks), and expressing the wish to attain buddhahood for the benefit of all beings, the worshiper marks out with grains the surrounding circular “iron mountain” that guards the universe, and in the center, Meru, the “king among mountains” (Fig. 3.12/1). Then with a small pile of grain each the four main continents are built (Fig. 3.12/2–5), then the eight subcontinents (Fig. 3.12/6–13), the treasures of the four great continents (Fig. 3.12/14–17), and the seven precious things (Fig. 3.12/18–24) and a treasure vase as an eighth (Fig, 3.12/25). Next the


worshiper spreads the eight mothers or offering goddesses (Fig. 3.12/26–33), and finally with a little pile for each marks the sun and moon, an umbrella, and a banner of victory (Fig. 3.12/34–37), and — again in the middle — marks the world of the gods above Meru (Fig. 3.12/38).11 The offering of the universe, which in the end is transformed into an absolutely pure buddha-land, is regarded as one of the best methods of accumulating merits and of ripening the fruits of spiritual efforts. On a higher level, however, this offering means still more: the analogies between the universe and the person, macrocosm and microcosm, mean that one who makes offering with the outer mandala of grains is offering not just the universe but his or her entire personality. This is clearly revealed when one offers the so-called inner mandala. In this offering the parts of the body are correlated with different regions of the cosmos: the skin, which is imagined to be golden, corresponds to the golden base of the universe; the trunk symbolizes the world mountain Meru, the legs and arms the four main continents; one regards one’s own head as the seat of the gods dwelling on Mount Meru and one’s eyes as the sun and moon.12 Thus the whole body forms the cosmos and at the same time an (inner) mandala, which is offered, transformed into a pure buddha-land, to both one’s personal guru and the Three Jewels — a self-offering that represents an essential prerequisite for successful performance of Tantric rituals (Fig. 3.14).13

17 5

E 16 36 9

30 22

(34) 26 18

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33 25



7 2

3.12 Ground plan of the cosmos according to the abhidharmakoπa, engraved on the surface of a plate used as a base for the grain mandala. These are the components: (1) Mount Meru; (2–5) main continents; (6–13) subcontinents; (14–17) treasures of the four great continents: [(14) mountain of jewels, (15) wishgranting tree, (16) wish-granting cow, (17) harvests from uncultivated land]; (18–24) the seven precious things: 1 [(18) wheel, (19) jewel, (20) queen, (21) minister, (22) elephant, (23) horse, (24) commander]; (25) treasure vase, as an eighth precious thing; 1 (26–33) eight mothers or offering goddesses; 2 [(26) goddess of gaity and laughter, (27) garland-bearing, (28) singing, (29) dancing, (30) flower-bearing, (31) incense-bearing, (32) lamp-bearing, (33) perfume-bearing]; (34) sun; (35) moon; (36) umbrella; (37) banner of victory; 3 (38) world of the gods above Meru. The numbers in brackets (in the drawing) give alternative arrangements. Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich Inventory #17408 Diameter: 6 ¾ in. (17 cm) Photograph by Peter Nebel 1 These perhaps symbolize the eight seas (Schubert 1954). 2 Schubert (1954) speculates that these ultimately represent the eight mountain ranges around Meru. In outer mandalas in which the elements described here are reproduced in three dimensions, the eight goddesses may be represented by the eight lucky symbols. There are also groups of twelve or sixteen offering goddesses. 3 Possibly symbolizing the eclipse planets or lunar nodes R≤hu and Ketu.




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3.13a, b The plate whose surface engraving is shown in Figure 3.12 belongs to a set of silver hoops, which arranged one above the other make a three-dimensional representation of the outer mandala. The symbols and figures (2–37 in Fig. 3.12) are engraved on the sides of the rings. Facing the viewer is the east side of the cosmos mandala; on the second ring from the bottom, for example, the “mountain of jewels” is visible, above it the “wheel,” and above that the “goddess of gaity and laughter.” Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich Inventory #17408 Diameter 6 ¾ in. (17 cm) Photographs by Bruce M. White 3.13a






© Arnoldsche Art Publishers 3.14 Karshő Karma Tashi, a famous Tibetan painter, who flourished in the 3rd quarter of the 18th century, presenting a universe mandala to the Thirteenth Karmapa (not seen on this picture). Thirteenth Karmapa, detail Eastern Tibet; 18th century Mineral pigments on cloth 38 ½ x 23 ¼ in. (97.8 x 59.1 cm) Rubin Museum of Art Purchased from the Collection of Navin Kumar C2005.20.1 (HAR 65494)

3.15 Universe Mandala Tibet; 19th century Metal, gilt, stone (turquoise), coral, glass, shell 13 3⁄8 x 6 ¼ in. (34 x 16 cm) American Museum of Natural History Accession Number 1975-31 Catalog Number 70.3/1380 This unusual mandala symbolizing the universe is distinguished by extraordinarily rich decorations of metal threads, coral, turquoise, glass, and shell pieces. Normally such universe mandalas consist of a ground plate and four rings of different sizes tapering upward in a pyramid shape, atop which stands a small device symbolizing the dharma wheel. This universe mandala, however, differs from the typical form: it is made out of one piece, has only four levels total, and is richly decorated. The large top part is remarkable for its representation of a dharma wheel on one side and a lotus flower, with a vase on top, made of turquoise on the other. A small umbrella adorns the very top. This universe mandala was possibly a gift from a wealthy donor to a high monk or a monastery. 3.15





3.16 Cosmos Offering Mandala Eastern Tibet; 18th century Gilt copper alloy and crystal 12 ¼ in. (31.1 cm) diameter Zimmerman Family Collection Photograph by John Bigelow Taylor, NYC


The surface of this offering mandala is engraved with the three continents in the cardinal directions in their respective forms (crescent, trapezoid, circle, and triangle) that surround Mount Meru, which is represented by a four-tiered pyramidal structure. On the outermost part of the surface of the mandala are engraved mountains, representing the iron mountain range that symbolizes the edge of the cosmos. In between the mountain ranges, waves represent the large ocean on which the twelve continents are floating.

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3.17 Cosmos Offering Mandala Northern China; 18th century Bronze, gold 14 ¾ x 13 7⁄8 in. (37.5 x 35.1 cm) Musee des Arts Asisatiques-Guimet, Paris, France EG632 Réunion des Musées Nationaux / Art Resource, NY Photograph by Thierry Ollivier This rare object shows the entire Buddhist universe and is used in a ritual in which the cosmos is offered to the assembled deities. In the middle of the round surface stands Mount Meru, crowned by a st∏pa. The architecture of the pavilions arranged symmetrically along Mount Meru and the specific form of the mountain distinguishes this mandala as Chinese in origin. Below the mountain are seven rings, indicating the seven mountain ranges that surround Meru. Below that follows a ring with six dancing deities on each side with the sun and moon in between. A second circle displays the eight auspicious signs and the seven jewels of a Universal Monarch. The outermost circle contains the four large continents in each of the cardinal directions in the shape of pavilions, each with two smaller pavilions, representing the minor continents. The main continents are: Purva Videha in the east; Jamb�dv◊pa in the south, Apara Godaniya in the west, and Uttarakuru in the north. The form of the continents is engraved into the surface of the mandala: a half moon (east), a triangle (south), a circle (west), and a square (north). In between the pavilions, waves of the ocean wherein the continents float are engraved. The exterior of the cylinder is decorated with the eight auspicious signs, alternating with the “face of glory” (kirtimukha) masks, which cascade garlands of pearls. In the lower section a band of lotus petals is depicted. When in ritual use, five silk ribbons in different colors were attached to a ring, a part of which can be seen on the left side of the cylinder. 3.17







3.18 Model of the cosmos adapted into a st∏pa, according to the tradition of the K∂lacakra tantra. Picture adapted by Peter Nebel

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3.19 K∂rlı̄ , Caitya hall Early 2nd century A.D.

ARCHITECTURAL REPRODUCTION OF THE UNIVERSE: THE STūPA If we look at the scale model of the world according to the K∂lacakra Tantra from the side and prolong downward the bell-shaped cap formed by the mutually interwoven astronomical wind tracks, a construction resembling a st∏pa is produced (Figs. 3.18, 3.19, 3.20a, 3.20b). The cubical region above the dome, called the harmik∂, is no attachment or superstructure but the uppermost part of Mount Meru, which is largely concealed under the “cap.” 14 The vault itself corresponds to the dome of the sky, so that one can perfectly well


speak, with Mus,15 of a hemispherical form of the st∏pa. The st∏pa, a religious construction already known in early Buddhism, symbolizes the Buddha’s teaching, but also the Buddha himself.16 It can hold as a reliquary the mortal remains of a saint or pieces of his clothing and in addition sacred texts, articles of worship, and — for example in the area of Tibetan Buddhism — figures made of clay (tsha tsha) mixed with the ashes of the deceased. In the course of time and depending on geographical situation, st∏pas have developed quite different forms but always constitute above all an object of lay worship.

3.20a, b Two details from a scroll from Nepal. On these two images, one can clearly identify the dominant cupola of the st∏pa, which resembles the trajectory of the planets in the Buddhist cosmos. Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich Inventory #14097




OΩ ≈∫ HūΩ TRAΩ 3.21 Chendebji St�pa, Central Bhutan. Like the Amar≤vat◊ St�pa, this st∏pa, too, has much in common with the outer appearance of the K≤lacakra universe. 1 Photograph by Johannes Frischknecht


3.22 Cross-section through a Tibetan st∏pa. In the center is the cavity, in which rises the “life-wood” (srog shing, axis); this should be of the best sandalwood, or at least of the wood of an unpoisonous fruit tree. The part of the piece of wood originally nearer the crown of the tree must form the point of the life-wood. 2 The places marked by dots on the life-wood are inscribed with a seed syllable, from top to bottom, OΩ ≈∫ HūΩ TRAΩ HRĪ∫. This recalls the power-centers (cakra) along the central wind channel in humans and suggests a close relationship between the human being and the middle region of the Tibetan st∏pa. Drawing by Andreas Brodbeck

© Arnoldsche Art Publishers

1 Additional similar st∏pas are found in Bhutan, Western Tibet (Tholing; Gerner 1987; 55), and Central Tibet (Sungkhar; Gerner 1987; 61). 2 According to the construction plans for a st∏pa in Rikon, Switzerland, translated by Amy Heller. 3.22


Several authors have already demonstrated the close relationship, in fact extensive correspondence, between the universe and the st∏pa.17 Some Western interpretations connect the levels of the st∏pa with the five elements: the cubical plinth or the four-tier substructure with the element earth; the vaulted, virtually dome-shaped middle section with water; the thirteen superimposed disks of the st∏pa spire with fire; the umbrella (sometimes also the sun and moon) with air; and the flame (sometimes with the sun and moon) with ether or space.18 This attempt at an interpretation refers to a late st∏pa form, quite common in Tibet, though no Tibetan text is known to the author that supports such an interpretation. It must therefore be viewed with some hesitation, even if it is traced back to the eminent Tibetologist Giuseppe Tucci.19


Tucci based his attempt at interpretation on a Japanese source and made it clear that it was merely a matter of assumed correlations. The Tibetan texts he cited make quite different assignments, bringing the various parts of the st∏pa into relation with particular Buddhist concepts —notably the thirty-seven aids to enlightenment, from the four applications of mindfulness to the eightfold path, with the ten Knowledges (daπajñ∂n∂ni) and the thirteen mystical powers of the Tath≤gata.20 This perhaps suggests that the original significance of the st∏pa is to be sought rather in its equation with an entire world system or cosmos and not simply with the five elements.21 The correspondence between st∏pa-axis and world mountain appears clearly in older st∏pas in Sri Lanka, which show stone central axes that local scholars call

Indrakh◊la — the term for the stake that the Hindu god Indra used to join heaven and earth and identical with the Hindu world mountain.22 In Tibetan too we find the expressions “pillar of heaven” (gnam kyi ka ba) and “earth-dagger” (sa yi phur bu)23 used for sacred mountains — quite illuminating names, if we consider the downward-tapering Meru in the K≤lacakra cosmos.24 In ancient India the pillar erected in the center of a st∏pa was called y∏pa, a term that can mean a sacrificial stake, but also, and in this connection far more likely, the axis in the form of a cosmic tree that connects heaven and earth.25 Ancient st∏pa depictions in Amar≤vat◊ in which branches of a tree grow out above the dome, right in the middle,26 indicate that this central axis, normally hidden deep inside the dome,27 can actually be equated with a tree (Fig. 3.21). Furthermore,

the expression “life-wood” or “life-tree” (srog shing) for the central axis of the Tibetan st∏pa (Fig. 3.22) likewise suggests a correlation between the st∏pa axis and tree of life that in the view of many societies marks the center of the world.28 In Buddhism, of course, this tree also signifies the most important of all trees, the one under which the historical Buddha attained enlightenment (bodhi); after all, many Buddhists regard the place where the bodhi tree stands as the center of the earth.29 In many pictorial representations a tree grows on Mount Meru — according to the Abhidharmakoπa, a magnolia — that is undoubtedly identical with this tree; in Buddhist legends, the gods and asuras are constantly quarreling over its fruits, and its roots reach down deep into Mount Meru.30 In Tibetan Buddhism,




3.24 The Borobudur Stūpa (plan view). Clearly visible are the three concentric circles with 32, 24, and 16 st∏pas, which emphasize the mandala character of this edifice. The partition into three regions corresponds to the division of the heavens above the cosmos into the realms of desire (kamadhatu), form (rupadhatu), and formlessness (arupadhatu). Author’s archive

3.23 Borobodur Stūpa in Java Photograph by Marilyn Bridges

© Arnoldsche Art Publishers depictions are also known of the so-called field of accumulation (tshogs zhing). This is a tree on which an entire pantheon is assembled. Such a gathering tree, which as a rule grows out of water, can be identified without hesitation as a world tree and world axis, all the more so as Mount Meru is often depicted also beside or under its roots. Is the st∏pa center then a cosmic tree or a cosmic mountain? Surely it is both, which need in no way imply a contradiction, for the world tree and world mountain stand in close relation to one another, often in symbols collapsed into one.31 This means Mount Meru and the st∏pa pillar, which mostly remains hidden beneath the bell-shaped dome, could, as has been demonstrated, count as identical.32 But the st∏pa pillar could also be a tree, a channel of life, an idea that becomes particularly interesting when we equate Meru, and with it the st∏pa pillar, with the spine of the human body (Fig. 4.1). This equation really suggests itself because the central axis of a Buddhist metal statue, also called srog shing, together


with two blades of grass situated to the left and right of it, symbolizes the three main channels (n∂≈∑) along the human spine.33 Following on from this, it is hardly surprising that in Tibetan the st∏pa axis is also called Brahm≤-line (tshangs thig), a term that according to Tucci amounts to spinal column (brahmadaΩ≈a).34 Tucci further recognizes in the trinity of sun, moon, and flame frequently crowning the Tibetan st∏pa a suggestion of the three main channels in the human body,35 one more indication that there are correlations between the st∏pa and the human body — or rather the body of the Buddha.36 In a late Buddhist Javanese text, this leads to the observation: “The body of the Buddha, seen from without, is a st∏pa.” 37 The correspondence between Buddha body and st∏pa also becomes clear when one examines Tibetan scroll paintings, on the reverse of which there is sometimes a drawing of a st∏pa that coincides with the main figure portrayed on the front.

THE STŪPA’S STEPPED PATH TO ENLIGHTENMENT Buddhists are rarely conscious of the symbolism of the st∏pa discussed above. The faithful regard st∏pas as objects of worship, in whose niches they lay sacred objects and which they circumambulate clockwise many times in order to gain merits, which is how the original form (Ur form) of a mandala arose. Anagarika Govinda surmises that the first mandala may have been created when the devout transformed the st∏pas that sheltered the relics of the Buddha by adding a path that was surrounded by a stone railing with four gates. Each of the gates marked one of the four important events in the life of the Buddha.38 Some st∏pas are circumambulated not only on the level of one st∏pa plinth but spirally on several stories, up to the most important sanctuary, where a symbol of the absolute is kept. This traversal of a st∏pa recalls the meditative “walk” through a mandala palace, that stepped path to enlightenment on which the initia-

tion candidate progresses from the grossly material via the subtly material to the formless, mental realm so as eventually to experience the highest bliss and emptiness. The best-known traversable st∏pa is undoubtedly that of Borobudur in Java, more than 30 meters high, of the ninth to tenth century. This clearly elucidates elements of the picture of the universe (Figs. 3.23, 3.24). It constitutes a three-dimensional mandala and at the same time symbolizes the world mountain, or more precisely, the uppermost stories of the universe, those of the gods.39 For the Buddhist practitioner, however, Borobudur is primarily a processional way: which leads the pilgrim up from the misery of Sams≤ra portrayed in the reliefs of the plinth … to the future Buddhas Maitreya and Samantabhadra and finally, with the three round terraces of the summit, into the pictureless and formless region of the Ar∏pa Heaven.40




W 2














© Arnoldsche Art Publishers

3.26a Reconstruction of the original monastery precinct of Samye. In contrast to the form visible today, the front, east-facing side, is drawn just like the other three sides, as one must assume the temple complex initially had this strongly symmetrical form. Supposed arrangement of the oldest parts of the building: (1) surrounding wall = symbol of the iron mountain that fences off a world system; (2) four temples = symbols of the four continents of a world system; (3) four st∏pas in the four intermediate directions; (4) small buildings = symbols of the sun and moon; (5) main temple = symbol of the world mountain Meru or the palace on top of Mount Meru. Drawing by Peter Nebel (after Mémet 1988) 3.26b Reconstruction of the main temple of Samye in its original form. Drawing by Anreas Brodbeck (after Mémet 1988)


3.25 Detail of a large painting from Bhutan. Construction of Samye Monastery, the plan of which corresponds to the layout of the universe. Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich Inventory #14091


The st∏pa is a single cosmos edifice created in a relatively small space. The universe can also, however, be reproduced by the architectural structuring of a larger area. Thus studies of old pictures and research on site reveal that Samye (bSam yas), the oldest monastery in Tibet, was originally designed in accordance with the Buddhist conception of the cosmos, though it later lost much of its initial character through extensions and demolitions (Fig. 3.26a, b). The four surrounding walls at Samye correspond to the iron mountain that

according to the Abhidharmakoπa rims the golden earth disk (Fig. 3.26a/1). The four buildings, one in each cardinal direction, correspond to the four main continents (Fig. 3.26a/2). The intermediate directions are marked by four st∏pas (Fig. 3.26a/3), which seem to indicate the world mountain Meru, while two smaller buildings on the north-south axis (Fig. 3.26a/4) symbolize the sun and moon. The central temple (Fig. 3.26b), with its square ground plan, two courtyards laid out around the inner temple, and four gate-like extensions – one in the middle of each outer wall – clearly corresponds to the palace, as we have to imagine it both on the world mountain and in the mandala.




The mythical kingdom of ambhala, too, (Fig. 3.10) follows cosmological principles in its structure. The historical Buddha is supposed to have entrusted the K∂lacakra Tantra to Sucandra, King of ambhala, who took it with him to his kingdom. In ambhala all people live in wealth and happiness, without sickness and without being threatened by animals or having to go hungry; they spend their time solely in the practice of religion. In this “Shangri-la” there is thus never a sign of nonvirtue or evil.41 The central temple of Lhasa, the Jokhang, which according to legend was erected in 639 CE on a round pond (’O thang mtsho), likewise conceals within it a mandala structure, which is also a symbol of the cosmos: a wall encloses the round pond in a square (Fig. 3.27). The legend reports that a king wanted to erect a st∏pa in the middle of this round lake. He asked his ministers to throw stones into the lake while reciting the mantra O≠ ma≥i-padme h�, whereupon a square, stone st∏pa was produced miraculously. Over it tree trunks were placed in a network, coated beforehand with clay by serpent spirits, so that they would neither rot in water nor burn. Boards were laid over the tree trunks and the gaps filled with molten bronze. In this way the lake disappeared and the foundation for the central temple of Lhasa was created. Since the Jokhang has been extended many times, the present state of the building no longer reveals this basic conception. Architectural precincts with a mandala-type or cosmological construction are widespread in all of Asia. Let us recall the temple towns of southern India (e.g., Tiruvannamalai), in whose center the shrine of the chief deity stands; Bhaktapur in the Kathmandu


Valley, whose (ideal) town plan depicts a mandala with the shrine of Tripurasundar◊ in the middle;42 the cosmological structuring that is just beginning to be discovered in the towns of Kirtipur in Kathmandu Valley and Leh in Ladakh; the Mingtang, the Imperial Palace of pre-Buddhist China, as revealed by excavations in the capital of the Western Han dynasty; and also the Tang capital Chang’an (present-day Xi’an), which was aligned on the four cardinal directions and had twelve gates, one for each month.43 The ground plan and form of the ancient Khmer monuments also, especially the former capital Angkor Thom (built in the 13th century) and the shrines in its neighborhood, clearly reveal their cosmological character.44 Towns in Burma (Myanmar) such as Pegu, Pagan, and Mandalay were likewise designed as reflections of the cosmos, whose center they symbolized.45 Let us mention that concentration on the center is in no way restricted to the architecture of Asia:

© Arnoldsche Art Publishers 3.27 The beginning of the construction of the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa. The mandala-like structure is clearly visible. Wall painting in the Tagten Migyur Phodrang Palace of the Norbulingka, Lhasa.

The architecture of many towns mirrors an ever-recurring shape (Gestalt) of the town, and this shape of the town … mirrors an ever-reappearing pattern: the Mandala.46 A mandala-like structure and a plan representing the world are shown, for example, by the cities of Jerusalem, Rome, Gur, the capital of the Sassanids, Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate, and Ecbatana, the first capital of the Indo-European Medes, in the center of which, on the testimony of Herodotus, stood the royal palace, behind seven circular walls, each of a different color.47




PLATES © Arnoldsche Art Publishers




Plate 1

Five-deity Mandala of Amoghap∂≤a

Mogao Caves, Dunhuang, Gansu Province, China; 8th– 9th century Ink and pigments on silk 80 ½ x 42 in. (204.5 x 107.5 cm) with mount Musée des Arts Asiatiques-Guimet, Paris, France MG26466 Réunion des Musées Nationaux / Art Resource, NY Photograph by Ravaux ART371790

This painting was collected, with its original silk mount intact, by the French explorer Paul Pelliot, during ) of Dunhuang, his 1906 to 1909 mission to China, in the Thousand Buddha Cave (Qianfodong Gansu Province, China. Dunhuang was a Central Asian oasis town along the Silk Route and a major center for the translation and transmission of Buddhist texts and art. The central figure of this mandala dedicated to Amoghap≤√a, or Infallible Lasso, is a four-armed form of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Avalokite√vara. A survey of wall paintings at Dunhuang reveals that Amoghap≤√a was a common theme at the entrance to the caves, even from the early period of the Tibetan occupation (ca. 781–800 BCE).1 Thus it is surprising that only one related Tibetan manuscript was discovered at Dunhuang, the “Formulas at the heart of Amoghap≤√a” (Amoghap∂πah√daya Dh∂raΩ∑; Tibetan Stein 384). The description given is brief: When you make the mandala, you have to pay homage to Avalokite√vara, that is the principal object of veneration, and you have to pay homage to the five deities. Pay homage to the four female offering deities, and to the protectors of the ten directions, as well as the four gate guardians.2 This painting composition resembles the five deities of Amoghap≤√a as they are known in Tibet, where they are associated with the Prajñ≤p≤ramit≤naya S�tra.3 However, this text was not known to have been translated until the eleventh century, and as this painting is likely dated to the eighth or ninth century, it could not be based on this translation. Dunhuang was a center for translation as well as art, where Indian and Central Asian monks were employed in translating the sacred texts of India into several languages. At the beginning of the Tibetan occupation of Dunhuang in 781, just two years after the founding of Tibet’s first monastery, Samye (bSam yas), Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhist art were still in their early formative stages (indeed it is even difficult to use the terms “Tibetan Buddhist” or “Tibetan Buddhist art” as coherent systems for this period), and the translation and artistic activities at Dunhuang itself no doubt had a significant impact on what was to become known as Tibetan Buddhism. This early mandala lacks an architectural framework; rather the figures are arranged symmetrically by cardinal direction. Unlike the Chinese visual conventions that dominated Dunhuang, the figures here bear a much stronger Indian imprint, wearing tight fitting leggings (dhot∑) with colorful decorative flower patterns. In particular there is a direct correspondence to Indian styles of costume and jewelry, such as rings on the thumbs and forefingers of Avalokite√vara.4 This visual evidence points directly to the influx of new Indian models being brought into Central Asia by the Tibetans during their occupation of Dunhuang from 786 to 848. Other stylistic markers, such as the overall ocher palette with colorful pastels and even specific details, including the elliptical shape of the halos and tiny spires in the armlets of the deities, tie this work directly with Dunhuang murals and scroll paintings that date to the Tibetan occupation and its legacy, which continued for more than a century (9th–10th century) after in the region.5 Karl Debreczeny


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Plate 2

Mandala of the Forty-two Peaceful Deities

Mogao Caves, Dunhuang, Gansu Province, China; 9th–10th century Pigments on cloth 26 x 27 in. (66 x 68.5 cm) Musée des Arts Asiatiques-Guimet, Paris, France EO1148 Réunion des Musées Nationaux / Art Resource, NY Photograph by Ravaux ART371791

This is another early example (see Plate 1) of a mandala lacking the strict architectural framework that later came to characterize the mandala genre in Tibet.6 Nevertheless, an underlying architectural structure is geometrically realized by the symmetrical gridlike arrangement of the deities and further suggested by the gates at the center of its four sides, each in a color indicating its directional orientation. An additional early characteristic of this image is that the pairs of deities are seated together side by side on the same lotus, whereas in later Tibetan paintings the deities are typically depicted embracing in sexual union. This painting was also collected by Pelliot in the Thousand Buddha Cave of Dunhuang. This cave is sometimes called the “Library Cave,” due to the large hidden cache of documents and paintings found there, and is one of the most important single discoveries for the study of the history and religion of the Tibetan imperial period (7th–9th century). Structurally the mandala is related to two different traditions found at Dunhuang: one a Chinese form of esoteric Buddhism of the Tang dynasty (618–906), transmitted to China in the seventh and eighth centuries by the Indian monks Śubh≤karasi≠ha (635?–735), Vajrabodhi (671–741), and Amoghavajra (705–774); and a slightly later form of Indian esoteric Buddhism brought to the area during the Tibetan occupation of Dunhuang from 786 to 848.7 The arrangement of this mandala, the five transcendent buddhas with Ak∂obhya at the center, does not correspond to mandalas of Chinese esoteric Buddhism but is more characteristic of Tibetan esoteric Buddhism as seen in the Guhyasam∂ja (gSang ba ’dus pa) Tantra.8 The Guhyasam∂ja (meaning secret assembly) is a fundamental text of later Indian esoteric Buddhism and was an object of particular interest in Tibet. Although it was translated at the end of the tenth century in China, it did not gain much popularity there. Practioners of the Nyingma (rNying ma) tradition of Tibetan Buddhism trace their order’s origins to this Tibetan imperial period (7th–9th century). With this tradition an assembly of forty-two peaceful deities, which is based on a combination of the Guhyasam∂ja and the Sarvatath∂gatatattvasa∞graha Tantras, presents several points in common with this painting. Forty of the deities match with the figures in this mandala, with the exception of the central deity and his consort, which do not resemble the contemporary Nyingma system.9 During the eighth and ninth centuries the Tibetan empire included large Chinese subject populations in the Hexi area, and Tibetan officials participated in the patronage of local workshops and introduced and incorporated new textual sources and visual forms into the local established traditions, sometimes resulting in hybrid works such as this one. These new idioms continued at Dunhuang well after Chinese rule resumed and Chinese visual modes reasserted themselves. One interesting detail that hints at the possible ethnic identity of the artist (or at least in the visual model followed in figural depiction) is the figure at bottom right in green Chinese court robes and black silk cap. This ethnic/cultural marker is a visual confirmation of this piece as a mixture of Chinese and Tibetan visual modes in both style and content in the particular context of Dunhuang on the Sino-Tibetan frontier. Karl Debreczeny


© Arnoldsche Art Publishers

Plate 3 Vajrad.∂ka Cakrasam . vara Mandala Evolving from the Eight Charnel Grounds Nepal; ca. 1100 Distemper on cloth 26 7⁄8 x 19 7⁄8 in. (68.2 x 50.5 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1995 (1995.233) Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This amazing early mandala from The Metropolitan Museum of Art is of an exceptional quality and state of preservation. The depicted mandala is fully developed — including the prongs of the viπvavajra flanking the doors in the appropriate colors — and richly adorned. Early mandalas, such as this one, provide a unique view of mandala development before its representation was canonized in its entirety. This example is particularly remarkable for the large assembly of Tantric adepts occupying the eight charnel grounds of India around and outside the mandala proper but inside an area demarcated by a vajra chain. The Sa∞varodaya, an early tantra dedicated to the deity Cakrasa≠vara, describes a mandala with eight charnel grounds in the middle of a vajra cage (vajrapañjaramadhye), and in the following verses they are said to be crowded with yog∑n∑s and siddhas.10 Indeed, the vajra chain of the painting likely represents the vajra cage described in the text,11 and in the eight charnel grounds numerous Tantric adepts engaged in different practices, frequently accompanied by consorts, surround the eight guardians of the directions, each seated under a tree. Although the Sa∞varodaya prescribes a six-armed form of Cakrasa≠vara in the center, this mandala instead follows the description in S∂dhanam∂l∂ (SM no. 250), where the central deity is called Vajra∑≤ka (rDo rje mkha’ ’gro) and Heruka.12 He is blue, six-armed, and three-headed (with yellow and green sideheads). The two main arms embrace his spouse Vajrav≤r≤h◊ (rDo rje phag mo), while also holding a vajra and a bell (vajrahu∞k∂ramudr∂); the two upper arms hold a human skin behind his back; and the remaining two hold a trident and a skull staff (instead of the prescribed skull cup). Vajr≤v≤r≤h◊ follows similar iconography and holds a cup, as prescribed, and a bow and arrow instead of human skin. The couple stands upon a wheel with six spokes occupied by four-armed ≈∂kin∑s, each of which holds a human skin, hand drum (≈amaru), and bell (ghaΩ≤∂). With the exception of exchanging two goddesses, these also conform to the description in SM 250. The bottom register is separated from the rest of the painting not only by the vajra chain but also by its background color. In the middle of this strip are five goddesses of different colors, with the orange Prajñ≤p≤ramit≤ in the center performing the teaching gesture and holding a rosary and a book. She is flanked by the red Kurukull≤13 and the white Cund≤,14 and on the outside are possibly Dhanada T≤r≤, a form of Green T≤r≤,15 and a special six-armed form of Vasudh≤r≤, the wealth goddess.16 In fact, this bottom-most register is more comparable to a book cover or manuscript illumination than to any other type of painting, although there is not enough information to conclude decisively. The traditional attribution of this painting to about 1100 and Nepal17 appears to be based on a comparison to a Nepalese manuscript dated 1071 at the Calcutta Asia Society (no. A15), which also features at least three of the goddesses in exactly the same presentation.18 There are, however, decisive differences in the thangka depictions, particularly the transparent scarves floating to the sides of their bodies and the rainbowcolored halos. In the bottom corners, a practitioner on one side and two kneeling females on the other are each seated in front of different types of offerings and a ritual mandala. Both the donors’ dress and representation of the goddesses indicate the painting’s southern origin, most likely Nepal. Christian Luczanits


© Arnoldsche Art Publishers

Plate 4 Sūrya Mandala Attributed to Kitaharasa, dated 137919 Opaque pigments and gold on textile 36 ¼ x 21 in. (92.1 x 53.3 cm) Zimmerman Family Collection Photograph by John Bigelow Taylor, NYC

Attributed by inscription to the painter Kitaharasa, this well-documented mandala of the god S�rya is generally considered one of the earliest dated Nepalese paintings.20 The embodiment of the sun, S�rya is seen in the center surrounded by his four wives. Standing alongside him and facing inward are R≤jñ◊ (Night) and C≤ya (Shadow) while Pratyu∂≤ (Early Morning) and u∂≤ (Sunrise/Dawn) lean dynamically away and to the outside as they clasp their bows, used to shoot the arrows that dispel darkness. The scorching heat and blinding light generated by S�rya needs the counterbalancing forces of night and coolness embodied in his wives to create an environment in which life may continue. As a group, these five central deities encompass the cycle of an entire day, thereby claiming each moment as the domain of a particular, and ever-present, deity. The eight figures on lotus petals who surround S�rya join with him to constitute the Navagraha, a common set of nine personified cosmic elements that may be invoked during the course of devotional practice. Encircling them are twenty-eight female figures considered embodiments of the constellations, who, when joined with the twelve signs of the zodiac occupying the adjacent four corners, further emphasize the overall cosmic orientation of this work. Originally made in conjunction with a particular rite called Bh◊maratha in which a person is released from their ritual obligations and forgiven for any negative karma inadvertently accrued in old age, this mandala has an inscription on the reverse revealing the name Bhi√nudevai√vara, the individual who sought forgiveness through the commission of the piece.21 By combining emphases on the greater cosmological system with the spiritual aspiration of one individual, this work is a clear example of the mechanisms by which humans have sought to place their particular earthly existence within the greater structure of the conceived natural universe. Ariana Maki


© Arnoldsche Art Publishers

Plate 5 Buddha Aks.obhya and the Eastern Quarter of a Sarvadurgatipari≤odhana Mandala South Central Tibet (gTsang); 13th century Pigments and gold on cotton 30 x 21 in. (76.2 x 53.3 cm) Zimmerman Family Collection Photograph by John Bigelow Taylor, NYC

There are a number of different types of thangkas that focus on the five Buddhas and depict them each in a similar way and considerably larger than their surrounding entourage. As part of a recognized group, the five Tath≤gatas, they are part of a set of at least five thangkas. Such a set may either show the individual Tath≤gata surrounded by an entourage related to the family over which he presides, or the majority of the figures represented may belong to a certain quarter of a yoga tantra mandala. The latter type can be recognized by the fact that the bodhisattvas flanking the head of the central sa∞bhogak∂ya form of the Buddha are not represented symmetrically, which is the case in the first type, and there is commonly a single figure placed in the center of the throne underneath the Buddha.22 These two characteristics indicate that this thangka dedicated to the blue Tath≤gata Ak∂obhya represents a mandala quarter configuration. Ak∂obhya, performing the earth-touching gesture (bh∏misparπamudr∂) and seated on the appropriate elephant throne, is flanked by the four vajra bodhisattvas of the eastern quarter, which immediately surround him. The white standing bodhisattva Vajrasattva (rDo rje sems dpa’), the lead bodhisattva of the vajra family, is shown to his right. Above Vajrasattva sits the yellow Vajrar≤ja (rDo rje rgyal po) holding a vajra hook to summon all Tath≤gatas. Vajrar≤ga (rDo rje chags pa) is red and commonly holds a bow and arrow, and the standing Vajras≤dhu (rDo rje legs pa), emerald in color, has both hands joined in vajra fists. In the main yoga tantra mandalas this group surrounds Ak∂obhya in the inner assembly. Functionally they establish the practitioner (or the deities?) in the mandala.23 The second group of four bodhisattvas flanking the crown of Ak∂obhya represent the eastern quarter of the group of the sixteen Bodhisattvas of the Fortunate Aeon (bhadrakalpa). The eastern assembly is completed by the two offering goddesses of the southeast, at the sides of the throne and facing the elephants — Vajradh�pa (rDo rje bdug pa ma) with incense burner and the coquettish Vajral≤sy≤ (rDo rje sgeg mo) — and the peaceful white gate-keeper Vajr≤∏ku√a (rDo rje lcags kyu), holding an elephant goad, in the center of the throne. While this central group is shared by several yoga tantra mandalas, the bottom row identifies this depiction as part of the mandala that eliminates the three lower rebirths (Sarvadurgatipari√odhana Mandala), that is, rebirth in hell as a hungry ghost or as an animal. To the left are four monks, or hearers of the Buddha’s words (πr∂vaka) and to the right three solitary Buddhas (pratyekabuddha), clearly recognizable by their cranial protuberances (u�Ω∑sa). These belong to the outer palace assembly together with the four gate-keepers of the outer western gate represented between them. The eight Buddhas in the top row do not belong to the mandala assembly but may allude to the Buddhas of our world, in this case the seven Buddhas of the past and Maitreya. Stylistically this painting is difficult to attribute precisely. While a number of features — such as the simplicity of the figures, the throne topped by a garu≈a, and the logic of the details of dress — appear to confirm the early date of about 1200 that has been suggested in a prior publication,24 others — such as the ribbons falling along the upper arm, the two-part colorful dresses, the halos for all figures, the attribution of clear cut compartments to the single figures, and the simple flower background — indicate a somewhat later date. A thirteenth-century date is, however, certain. Christian Luczanits

© Arnoldsche Art Publishers


Plate 6 Buddha Amoghasiddhi of the Vajradh∂tu Mandala Tibet, ca. 1300 Opaque watercolor on cloth 29 3⁄16 x 20 in. (74.1 x 50.8 cm) Collection of Sandor P. Fuss

This densely populated and colorful thangka of Buddha Amogasiddhi represents the assembly of a yoga tantra, in this case that of the Vajradh≤tu Mandala.25 Buddha Amoghasiddhi is pictured with his identifying characteristics: he is green, performs the gesture of fearlessness (abhayamudr∂), and is accompanied by garu≈as, his vehicle, playing cymbals. The iconography of the surrounding deities is very detailed.26 The four bodhisattvas at Amoghasiddhi’s sides are to be read clockwise from the standing bodhisattva on the right side of the central deity. The principal bodhisattva, Vajrakarma (rDo rje las) — bearing the name of his family (Karma) — is of variegated colors27 like his symbol the viπvavajra, which is also the symbol of the karma family, and which he holds on a lotus. Above him, Vajrarak∂a (rDo rje srung ba) is golden and holds a vajra armor with both hands as if dressing all the Tath≤gatas. Opposite him is Vajrayak∂a (rDo rje gnod sbyin), who is blue, semi-wrathful, and holds teeth in his hands, which are actually his fangs. Below him, Vajrasa≠dhi (rDo rje khu tshur), of golden color, holds a vajra on a lotus.28 The row of bodhisattvas flanking Amoghasiddhi’s head is to be read from left to right. It begins with Vajragarbha (Rdo rje snying po), blue and holding a vajra on a lotus. Next to him is the white Ak∂ayamati (Blo gros mi zad pa) holding a case with both hands. A pile of jewels on a lotus (padma la gnas pa’i rin po che brtsegs pa), apparently a golden triratna, identifies red Pratibh≤nak�a (sPos pa brtsegs pa), and an ear (snye ma) of jewels, the yellow Samantabhadra (Kun tu bzang po) next to him. To the sides of the throne are the two offering goddesses of the northeast, both green: the goddess of dance, Nty≤ (Gar ma), holding two vajras at the hip, and the goddess of perfume, Gandh≤ (Byug pa ma), raising an incense conch. The figure between the garu≈as of Amoghasiddhi’s throne is the gate-keeper Vajr≤ve√a (rDo rje bebs pa). He is green and holds a vajra and bell in front of his breast. In a mandala depiction these are the deities of the northern quarter: the four vajra bodhisattvas surrounding Amoghasiddhi, four Bodhisattvas of the Fortunate Aeon (bhadrakalpa), the offering goddesses of the northeast, and the gate-keeper of the northern gate. Also some of the bottom row deities can be identified as part of the northern quarter of the Vajradh≤tu Mandala belonging to the outermost circle of protectors. In the center is Vai√rava≥a (rNam thos sras) seated on a lion and holding a banner and mongoose. He probably replaces the usual guardian of the direction of the north Kubera (Lus ngan; also Yak∂a/gNod sbyin). He is flanked by Jambhala in his peaceful and wrathful manifestations, the latter being Black Jambhala holding a rather curious object in the left hand and a mongoose. The goddess Vasudh≤r≤ to the right of Black Jambhala is also a wealth deity. Here it is not the association with the Buddha that accounts for the representation of the wealth deities but their habitation in the north. The remaining deities: Mah≤k≤la Pañjaran≤tha (Gur mgon po) and the four-armed Dusolma (Dud sol ma; Black Smoke) in the outer corners, and the horse-headed red Hayagr◊va (rTa mgrin), second from the left, have no connection to the mandala, nor does the row of seven Buddhas above, all with Amoghasiddhi’s gesture of fearlessness (abhayamudr∂). Stylistically the painting is puzzling, combining many features that are thought to be earlier with a colorfulness and emphasis on patterning and cloth that only became common in the fourteenth century. A date around 1300 appears much more likely than the earlier attribution proposed by Huntington and Bangdel. Christian Luczanits


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Details from Plates 5, 6, 8, 9

© Arnoldsche Art Publishers Plate 7 Buddha Vairocana Western Tibet; 12th century Bronze 17 ½ x 12 1⁄8 x 7 in. (44.5 x 30.8 x 17.8 cm) Collection of Navin Kumar, New York

This cast image of the Buddha Vairocana, one of the Five Tath≤gata Buddhas in Vajray≤na Buddhism, bears several striking iconographic hallmarks that suggest a provenance in western Tibet. For instance, the rounded sash, forming a distinctive, semi-circular halo around the figure, may be seen on other similar images. The U-shaped ornaments of the headgear on either side of the figure’s head, curling downward and up around the ears, are also characteristic of Buddhist statuary from the area. Extensive cultural interaction between western Tibet and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and northeastern India have resulted in significant artistic cross-currents between these historically linked regions. An interesting feature of the image is the gesture of its hands, held in what is known as vajramudr∂ (rdo rje phyag rgya) or bodhyangimudr∂ (byang chub mchog gi phyag rgya). The index, or vajra, finger of the left hand is enclosed within the palm, or lotus, of the right fist; this symbolizes the union of the perfection of wisdom, represented by the vajra, with the five perfections of skilful means, embodied in the fingers of the right hand. This mudr∂ is also referred to as jñ∂namudr∂ (ye shes phyag rgya), as the five fingers may also exemplify the wisdoms of the Five Buddhas.


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Plate 9 Buddha Ratnasambhava with Wealth Deities South Central Tibet; first half of the 14th century Pigments on cloth 31 x 25 1⁄8 in. (78.7 x 63.8 cm) Rubin Museum of Art C2005.16.39 (HAR 65462)

Plate 8 Buddha Amit∂bha with Deities of His Family Central Tibet; first half of the 13th century Distemper on cloth 27 ¼ x 21 5⁄8 in. (69.2 x 54.9 cm) Private Collection

This thangka of Buddha Amit≤bha is one of a set of at least five paintings, two more of which are preserved. A Ratnasa≠bhava is in the Pritzker Collection and an Amoghasiddhi is in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. All three have been published together in Sacred Visions.29 The figures flanking the Jinas in the upper part are identical in all three paintings. To the sides of the Jinas stand the bodhisattvas Avalokite√vara and Maitreya, each of them identified by caption and recognizable by his characteristic attribute and color. The other eight seated bodhisattvas depicted in the upper part of the paintings are represented completely symmetrically, with their colors and gestures mirroring each other. Here the different bodhisattva types are not as clearly expressed as in the Ratnasambhava thangka (Plate 9), but they are nevertheless to be understood in the same way. The bottom register of Amit≤bha’s thangka is dominated by deities belonging to his family (the lotus family). Only Mañju√r◊ in the bottom left corner stands out as a puzzling addition since he is not commonly associated with this Buddha or the lotus family.30 Mañju√r◊ is followed by the triad of ∆a∑ak∂ara Loke√vara, flanked by Ma≥idhara and ∆a∑ak∂ar◊ Mah≤vidy≤, and representations of Avalokite√vara and Green T≤r≤. The full set is of excellent quality. Particularly noteworthy is the transparent scarf crossing the breast of the Buddha with small Buddha images mirroring Amit≤bha’s stance by performing the gesture of meditation (dhy∂namudr∂) on it. Amit≤bha’s vehicle, the peacock, is represented to the sides of the lotus seat, the petals of which are artfully drawn and shaded. The secondary images wear transparent dhot∑s, in which cloth is more realistically depicted than in later examples. The considerable overlapping of the bodhisattva assembly and the elevating of the central Buddha in this way recall early features. However, the already pronounced abstraction of all details of dress and jewelry distances it considerably from possible northeastern Indian and Nepalese predecessors. The painting is thus attributed to the first half of the thirteenth century. Christian Luczanits


Ratnasambhava is the Buddha of the south. He is yellow, his symbol is the jewel (ratna), his gesture is that of giving (varadamudr∂), and his vehicle is the horse. Here two horses are represented to the sides of the lotus on which the Buddha sits. The richly adorned central Buddha is flanked by the white bodhisattva Avalokite√vara and the yellow Maitreya, the latter recognizable by the flask on the left bud and the twig of the specific tree under which he will attain his enlightenment (nagakesara). These two bodhisattvas are heading an assembly of twelve bodhisattvas, who are shown symmetrically in color and attributes and are seated in two rows flanking the head of the central Buddha. This is a variant of the Bodhisattvas of the Fortunate Aeon, which represents bodhisattva types more so than individual bodhisattvas. Also depicted here is the yellow wisdom Mañju√r◊-type, holding a book on the utpala flower (blue lily), the green power vajra-type, holding a vajra, and the blue-cutting Samantabhadra-type holding a sword as his attribute. This Buddha (whose name means literally “Of Jewel Origin”) and his jewel family are associated with wealth, and accordingly wealth deities appear with him.31 He is shown here with a group of five Jambhalas in colors and arrangement that mirror the five Tath≤gatas, which makes clear that the central Buddha of this thangka set was Vairocana. Among the five Jambhalas only Vai√rava≥a (Rnam thos sras) is depicted differently: seated on a lion and wearing a heavy coat, he holds a banner in addition to the mongoose. That the thangka is part of a series is not only relevant for understanding the main images but also for the interpretation of the two seated lamas flanking the lotus and the two additional protective deities in the bottom-right corner. The latter is a form of Mah≤k≤la (Nag po chen po), the Great Black One, called Pañjaran≤tha (Gur mgon po), Protector of the Tent, and the four-armed form of Śr◊ Dev◊ (dPal ldan lha mo), called Dusolma (Dud sol ma), Black Smoke.32 Both are protective deities that appear prominently on Sakya paintings, whereby the goddess is considered both the principal consort for the enlightened protector Mah≤k≤la and the main female protector of the Sakya School.33 A Sakya context for this thangka is also supported by the two teachers depicted, possibly part of a lineage distributed over the whole set, and the painting’s style, which much more closely resembles that of fourteenth-century phase paintings of Shalu Monastery than of comparative examples from a slightly earlier period. It is interesting to note that both the Segoma Temple and the Temple with Three Doors show the five Tath≤gatas with Vairocana in the center. Christian Luczanits

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Four Mandalas of the Vajr∂valı̄ (Plates 11–14) A series of ritual texts for mandalas collectively known as the Garland of Vajras (Vajr≤val◊/Vajram≤l≤) was composed in the late eleventh to early twelfth century in India. These teachings were transmitted many times and reached Tibet in the early thirteenth century, when the Kashmiri Pa≥∑ita Ś≤kya√r◊ taught at Sakya (Sa skya) from 1204 to 1214. After translation into Tibetan, their transmission eventually reached the Tibetan scholar Buton (Bu ston, 1290-1364), who was responsible for their diffusion to his students in Sakya, Shalu (Zhwa lu), and Central Tibet. Recently a series of mandalas painted on cloth that is related to the mandalas constructed and painted at Buton’s behest has been identified. Two of them are presented here, the Guhyasam≤ja Mandala (Plate 12) and the Jñ≤na∑≤kin◊ Mandala (Plate 11), both commissioned circa 1375 to honor the memory of Lama Dampa Sonam Gyaltsen (Bla ma dam pa bSod nams rgyal mtshan, 1312–1375), Buton's patron who served as the Fourteenth Abbot of Sakya and de facto ruler of Tibet from 1345 to 1349. Subsequently Lama Dampa was involved in mediations with the Phagmo Drupa (Phag mo gru pa) hierarchy, which had taken power over Central Tibet in 1349 and by 1354 had gained control over western Tibet and Sakya as well. Buton and Lama Dampa became the principal teachers of the Phagmo Drupa leader, the ruler of Tibet. The Phagmo Drupa hierarchy ruled Tibet for most of the next century. In the lower corner of the Guhyasam≤ja Mandala, we see the portrait of the donor, inscribed by name as the great minister of the Phagmo Drupa, Dzongji Chenpo (rDzong ji chen po). This would refer to the Dzongji Chenpo Gyaltsen Zangpo (rDzong ji chen po rGyal mtshan bzang po, ca. 1327–?1390). It is very likely that he was the donor for the entire series as he had already been the sponsor of a dharma meeting held in 1373 to commemorate the death of Shakya Gyaltsen (Sh≤kya rgyal mtshan), regent of the Phagmo Drupa government. This mandala must be seen within the context of Tibetan patronage of Newar artists of the Kathmandu Valley who were invited to work at Sakya as of the mid-thirteenth century. These two mandalas represent the apogee of Newar painting of the fourteenth century, characterized by an extreme refinement in painting details; each mandala preserves the same palette of dominant reds and blues and the composition of highly elaborate gateways set against a deep blue background strewn with delicate florets. In the Jñ≤na∑≤kin◊ Mandala we see the eight charnel grounds among the rings, which is not present in the construction of the mandalas of meditation deities such as the Guhyasam≤ja Mandala. The transmission of the Vajr≤val◊ continued in the fifteenth century, particularly within the Sakya monastic order. The eminent monk Kunga Zangpo (Kun dga’ bzang po, 1382–1456) studied with Mati Panchen (Ma ti Pa≥ chen), who had traveled to Kathmandu with several disciples to obtain complete intitiations in the related teachings of the mandala rite called the Kriy≤samuccaya. To honor the memory of his teacher, when Kunga Zangpo founded the Ngor Monastery as a sub-school of Sakya, he commissioned a series of Vajr≤val◊ Mandalas, which were painted at Ngor by a group of Newar painters. The Mañju√ri Mandala (Plate 13) and the Pañcarak∂≤ Mandala (Plate 14) are examples of this fifteenthcentury series that are characterized by a composition in which four individual mandalas have been incorporated into an all-encompassing mandala. The fifteenth-century mandala paintings still demonstrate the Newar aesthetic values of extreme intricacy and attention to minute detail within a similar brilliant palette dominated by reds and blues, highlighted by yellow. In this series, certain differences of color may in part be due to wear and subsequent paint loss. However, we must bear in mind that it was a colossal undertaking to create all forty-two painted mandalas of the Vajr≤val◊ and to complete the series in time for the memorial service for Lama Dampa. Undoubtedly these mandalas were not all painted by one artist, nor all at the same time. They were probably made progressively during at least a year and painted by a team of artists working under supervision of a master-painter or even a few master-painters. Amy Heller

© Arnoldsche Art Publishers Plate 10 Mandala Gate Tibet; 18th century Metalwork 14 x 24 ¾ x 1 in. (35.6 x 62.9 x 2.5 cm) Rubin Museum of Art C2004.36.1 (HAR 65386) Purchased from the Collection of Navin Kumar, New York

This fine repoussé work of a gate must once have been part of a large mandala. The gate is elaborately decorated. The entryway is a trilobite arch in the center formed by a massive scroll. The roof is two-storied and each roof layer has petals, corner finials, and a row of pendants at its lower edge which derive from wooden architecture. The triangle on top is actually the central point of the viπvavajra, two side prongs of which flank the gate and emerge from the mouth of massive sea monsters (makara), whose long trunks support the prongs for a considerable length. The central triangle is adorned with a wheel and flanked by two gazelles, a motif reminiscent of the first sermon of Buddha Ś≤kyamuni at S≤rn≤th. That the gate and the prongs of the viπvavajra are shown side by side makes it clear that this fragment derives from a two-dimensional mandala representation. Despite its size and obvious weight, it is most likely that this mandala once decorated a ceiling. Several chapels in the Jokhang still contain such repoussé ceilings of considerable age, and ceiling mandalas are also known in paintings from different periods. The age and origin of this piece remains a matter of speculation. The metalwork is very sophisticated and its conception rather complex. That the trunk of the makara supports the prong along its length and does not surround it is unusual. Christian Luczanits




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Plate 11

Jñ∂nad.∂kinı̄ Mandala

Tibet; 1375 Distemper on cloth 54 1⁄8 x 36 ¼ in. (137.5 x 92.1 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Lita Annenberg Hazen Charitable Trust Gift, 1987 (1987.16) Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Jñ≤na∑≤kin◊ Mandala is the fourth mandala of the Vajr≤val◊ series painted in homage to Lama Dampa, who is portrayed in the center of the upper register. The mandala is presided over by the goddess Jñ≤na∑≤kin◊ (literally, wisdom ≈∂kin∑), who is the feminine aspect of Jñ≤na∑≤ka, a wrathful manifestation of the Buddha Vajrasattva. Jñ≤na∑≤kin◊ has six arms and three heads and sits on a lion throne surrounded by the eight goddesses of her inner circle. Four female guardians are seated in the doorways of the palace gates. The mandala is encircled by three rings of lotuses, vajras, and fire. A fourth ring contains detailed depictions of the eight great charnel grounds. The lower register has, at left, a portrait of an anonymous monk donor performing a consecration ritual, accompanied by protective deities. Amy Heller

Plate 12

Guhyasam∂ja Mandala

Tibet; 1375 Pigments on cloth 33 1⁄8 x 29 1⁄8 in. (84 x 74 cm) The Pritzker Collection

The Guhyasam≤ja Mandala is inscribed here as the second mandala of the Vajr≤val◊ series. It is presided over by a Tantric aspect of the Buddha Ak∂obhya, represented with a dark blue body and six arms, seated in yab yum position of sexual union with Spar√avajr≤, who has a light blue body and four arms. Thirty gods constitute the members of the divine entourage spread throughout the center of the mandala. The sanctuary of Guhyasam≤ja is a square, surrounded by the quadrants of the circle. The mandala palace of Guhyasam≤ja is encircled by three rings of vajras, lotus flowers, and fire, but the charnel grounds are not represented here. The fantastic detail of this mandala, the elegant figures, and the rich colors all conform to works of art created by Newar painters in the Kathmandu Valley. In view of the aesthetic parallels with the mural paintings of mandalas commissioned at Shalu by Buton (Bu ston), it is most probable that the painters traveled to Tibet to paint the entire series in homage to the memory of the Lama Dampa Sonam Gyaltsen (Bla ma dam pa bSod nams rgyal mtshan, 1312–1375), who is represented in the center of the lineage in the upper register. The donor represented in the lower-left corner is the great minister of the Phagmo Drupa (Phag mo gru pa) government, Dzongji (rDzong ji or rDzong phyi) Chenpo Gyaltsen Zangpo (Chen po rGyal mtshan bzang po), here identified by the inscription. Among the thirteen known mandalas of this series all the donors are anonymous except for this unique case. It is likely that Gyaltsen Zangpo was the donor for the entire series, as an homage to the lama who had previously ruled Tibet and then served as teacher to the Phagmo Drupa hierarchy until his death. Amy Heller


Plate 13

Mañju≤rı̄ Mandala

Ngor Monastery, Tibet; ca. 1430 Pigments on cloth 32 ¼ x 29 in. (81.9 x 73.7 cm) Rubin Museum of Art C2007.6.1 (HAR 81826)

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This mandala is the thirteenth in the series of Vajr≤val◊ Mandalas commissioned by Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo (Ngor chen Kun dga’ bzang po) in homage to the memory of his teacher Mati Panchen (Ma ti Pa≥ chen). This painting is characterized by the representation of four distinct mandalas in one composition. At the center of the entire painting is the red Buddha Amit≤yus. In the upper-left corner we see the mandala of the white aspect of Mañju√r◊, known as Dharmadh≤tu V≤g◊√vara, and at upper right a mandala centered on Buddha Ś≤kyamuni. In the lower section there are mandalas devoted to protective deities, respectively the black Vajrap≤≥i at left and M≤r◊c◊ at right. Amy Heller

Plate 14

Pañcaraks.∂ Mandala

Ngor Monastery, Central Tibet; ca. 1430 Gouache on cotton 35 x 29 in. (88.9 x 73.7 cm) Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX, U.S.A. Photograph by Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas / Art Resource, NY AP 2000.01

This mandala is the fourteenth in the series of Vajr≤val◊ Mandalas commissioned by Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo (Ngor chen Kun dga’ bzang po) in homage to the memory of his teacher Mati Panchen (Ma ti Pa≥ chen). This painting is also characterized by the representation of four distinct mandalas in one composition. In the center of the entire composition are the Pañcarak∂≤ goddesses. In the upper section at left is the circular mandala of the Pañcarak∂≤ goddesses and their entourage and at right the mandala of Vasudh≤r≤, goddess of prosperity. In the lower section at left is the mandala centered on the goddess Mah≤vidy≤ and at right that of the goddess U∂n◊∂avijay≤. In the lower-right corner is the donor Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo. Amy Heller



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Plate 15

Amoghap∂≤a Five-deity Mandala

Nepal; 16th century Pigments on cloth 13 ¾ x 11 ¼ in. (34.9 x 28.6 cm) Rubin Museum of Art C2004.15.1 (HAR 65345)

Amoghap≤√a (Don yod zhags pa), which means unfailing lasso, refers to an unfailing compassion like a lasso that brings all sentient beings out of suffering and into a state of happiness leading to enlightenment. Amoghap≤√a is a complicated deity subject in Tantric Buddhist iconography. He is easily mistaken for Avalokite√vara in most artistic depictions. The two deities are frequently conflated by Western scholars. Sometimes Amoghap≤√a is described as a form, or emanation, of Avalokite√vara and at other times as a retinue figure to Avalokite√vara. The confusion stems from a number of Indian Sanskrit texts that all have “Amoghap≤√a” in the title. Within these texts, both Avalokite√vara and Amoghap≤√a are described. In these texts only, regardless of which of the two deities is at the center of the mandala, the overall name for the subject and mandala is Amoghap≤√a. At the center of this mandala sits Avalokite√vara, white in color with one face and two hands. He holds in his hands the stems of two lotus blossoms while sitting with the right leg pendant. Below him is the male attendant Rakta Amoghap≤√a, red in color, peaceful in appearance, with four hands. To his left is Red Hayagr◊va, male, wrathful in appearance, with four hands. Above Avalokite√vara is Ekaja◊, female, wrathful in appearance, blue-black in color, with one face and eight hands. To the right is the female attendant Bhku◊, peaceful, white in color, with four hands. Around the outer circle of the mandala are the Eight Auspicious Emblems, along with four deity figures seated on its edge (clockwise from upper right): Medicine Buddha, Green T≤r≤, Yellow Vasudh≤r≤, and Buddha Śakyamuni. The top register shows, from the left, Avalokite√vara, identical to the central figure of the mandala, followed by the Indian and Nepalese teachers of this Five-deity Amoghap≤√a tradition. In the bottom register, from the left, is the donor figure depicted as a monk seated in front of an array of shrine objects and musical instruments, followed by the eight offering goddesses, the wealth deity Yellow Jambhala, the group known as the Three-deity Śa∑ak∂ar◊ Loke√vara, and finally the naked black form of Jambhala, a wrathful wealth deity. There are a number of different Amoghap≤√a Mandala configurations that still exist in the Newar and Tibetan Buddhist traditions. There are also numerous solitary forms, depicted with six, eight, or ten arms, that do not have elaborate mandalas or accompanying retinue figures. Jeff Watt Tibetan name of this mandala: Don yod zhags pa lha lnga’i dkyil ’khor Sanskrit source text: ∫rya amoghap∂πa Kalpar∂ja [Toh686].


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Plate 16

Buddha Mandala Aks.obhya

Tibet; 16th century Pigments on cloth 27 x 13 in. (68.6 x 33 cm) Rubin Museum of Art C2006.66.231 (HAR 296)

Ak∂obhya (Mi ’khrugs pa), meaning unshakeable, is one of many buddhas found in Mah≤y≤na and Vajray≤na Buddhism. He is described in the Mah≤y≤na s∏tras of Northern Buddhism and in the tantras. Although a relatively minor figure in the s∏tras, Ak∂obhya is of major importance in the tantras, occupying a central role in Vajray≤na Buddhism at all levels. He is easily recognizable by his buddha-like form, blue body color, and upright vajra supported by his left hand. Tantric depictions of buddhas commonly display jewel ornaments and a crown whereas s∏tra representations show the simple robes of a monk. At the center of the composition is Buddha Ak∂obhya. In the surrounding lotus circle are the Goddesses of the Eight Auspicious Emblems, each seated on a lotus petal. Each has one face and two hands and holds an auspicious emblem in the right hand (clockwise from top): a parasol, vase, conch shell, pair of fish, endless knot, wheel, lotus flower, and victory banner. Other figures are arranged around the mandala at the discretion of the artist or donor. At the top and bottom of this composition are religious teachers of the lineage specific to this form of Ak∂obhya (from top left): Buddha ≤kyamuni, Mañju√r◊, and nineteen Indian and Tibetan scholars and teachers. The Indian teachers come first, followed by the others in the lineage. Indian monks are depicted wearing orange scholar’s hats. In the bottom right corner is the female deity of long life, White T≤r≤. It was customary when creating paintings with many figures to place a long-life deity, a wealth deity, and a protector deity along the bottom register of the painting to reflect the donor’s desire for long life, wealth, and security. The background is a swirl of dark floral design common to Nepalese-influenced paintings. Beneath the bottom register along the lower red border is a four-line verse written in gold Tibetan lettering partially effaced. Such verses at the bottom front or on the back of a painting sometimes contain the name of the donor, or give the reason why the work was commissioned, or even name the artist. It was in Abhirati, the Pure Land or buddha-field of Ak∂obhya, where the famous Tibetan yogi Milarepa and the great scholar Sakya Pa≥∑ita are said to have obtained complete enlightenment (attainable only by eighth-level bodhisattvas). Ak∂obhya plays a leading role in all four classifications of Tantric writings: Kriy≤, Cary≤, Yoga, and Anuttarayoga; this mandala belongs to the first of these classifications, Kriy≤. The Indian teacher At◊√a (982–1054) popularized this system of meditation practice in Tibet. Jeff Watt Tibetan name of this mandala: Jo bo rje’i lugs mi ’khrugs pa lha dg’i dkyil ’khor Sanskrit source texts: ∫rya Sarvakarmavarana Viπodhanin∂ma Dh∂raΩi [TOH 743. Ngor #14].


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Plate 17

Mandala of Sarvavid Buddha Vairocana

Tibet; 17th century Ground mineral pigments on cotton 35 x 27 ½ in. (88.9 x 69.9 cm) Rubin Museum of Art C2006.66.346 (HAR 773)

The Buddha Vairocana (rNam par snang mdzad) is understood and represented in three different ways: 1) as a principal character in a number of Buddhist s∏tras, 2) as a common image depicted in painting and sculpture, and 3) as a meditational deity used in ritual practices. All of these have the same common source in the Vairocana S∏tra. He is also prominent as one of the three most important buddhas in Tantric Buddhism along with Ak∂obhya and Amit≤bha. These three buddhas together make up the organizing structure, Three Buddha Families, of the first category of the fourfold Tantric classification system known as Kriy≤ Tantra. In the other more advanced classifications they are joined by Ratnasa≠bhava and Amoghasiddhi. In some s∏tra explanations Vairocana is seen as a universal form of Buddha Ś≤kyamuni. He is especially important in the early history of the development of Buddhist Tantra in India. At the center of the mandala is Vairocana, peaceful in appearance, white in color, with four faces and two hands, placed in the gesture of meditation. Adorned with jewels and silks, he is seated in vajra posture above a lotus. At the four main directions are the buddhas: King of Purification in the east (below), Precious Supreme Conqueror in the south (left), Powerful One of the Ś≤kya clan in the west (above), and Blossoming Great Flower in the north (right). At the intermediate directions are the four buddha consorts, Locan≤, M≤mak◊, P≤≥∑ara, and T≤r≤. All have one face and two hands, jewels, and silks. Surrounding them are the sixteen vajras, starting with Vajrasattva, Vajrar≤ja, and Vajrar≤ga, each with one face and two hands. At the four intermediate directions are the eight female goddesses in sets of two. Surrounding them are nearly two hundred other retinue figures representing different Buddhist figures as well as all of the important classical Indian gods, such as Indra, Brahm≤, Śiva, and Agni. All of the figures represented in the mandala are named and described in the source tantra literature. At the top center is Buddha Ś≤kyamuni, with numerous figures seated to the sides representing the most significant early individuals from the lineage of teachers. On small- to medium-size paintings there is often not enough space to depict the entire lineage of teachers and, subsequently, only the most important are depicted. At the bottom of the composition are teachers contemporaneous with the creation of the painting arranged around four wrathful protector figures. This form of Mah≤ Vairocana is the chief mandala from a set of twelve described in the commentarial literature of the Sarvadurgatipariπodhana Tantra. The primary function of this deity is the removal of the bad causes and effects (karma) generated during a person’s lifetime. Also, the ritual practice of Vairocana is especially important in funeral services. Another ritual use is in the sanctification ceremonies for new religious buildings. The proper name for the painted composition is the Thirty-seven-deity Mandala of all the Families of Great Vairocana, and it is described in the Sanskrit text of the Sarvadurgatipariπodhana Tantra. Jeff Watt Sanskrit source text: Sarvadurgatipariπodhanatejorajasya Tathagatasya Arhato Samyaksambuddhasya Kalpanama [TOH 483. Ngor #27].


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Plate 18

Mandala of Mañju≤rı̄ Dharmadh∂tu V∂gi≤vara

Tibet; 16th century Pigments on cloth 29 x 27 in. (73.7 x 68.6 cm) Rubin Museum of Art F1996.15.2 (HAR 455)

Mañju√r◊ (’Jam dpal) in his form known as Dharmadh≤tu V≤gi√vara (’Jam dpal Chos dbyings gsung gi dbang phyug) with Two Hundred and Nineteen Deities is a complex depiction of the Tantric Buddhist deity. When appearing in this or other Tantric forms, Mañju√r◊ no longer simply represents the bodhisattva student of Buddha Ś≤kyamuni, as found in Mah≤y≤na s∏tras. Here Mañju√r◊ is seen and understood to be a completely enlightened Buddha, manifesting a complex mandala as a meditation practice for those aspirants seeking a rapid method for reaching enlightenment. The mandala is a coded visualization that contains all essential Buddhist teachings from the Pali and Sanskrit s∏tras. This mandala is the first of seven principal . mandalas from an Indian Sanskrit text called the mañjuπr∑ N∂masang∑ti tantra [Toh 360]). . The mañjuπr∑ N∂masang∑ti was first translated into the Tibetan language in the eighth century and retranslated during the new translation period in the eleventh century. In the four classification system of . Buddhist Tantra, the N∂masang∑ti is counted as both a Yoga and Anuttarayoga Tantra. The text describes numerous forms of Mañju√r◊, both peaceful and wrathful, in solitary forms, and in complex mandalas, with many deities such as this Dharmadh≤tu V≤gi√vara. Monks and lamas from all Himalayan and Tibetan . Buddhist traditions memorize the text of the N∂masang∑ti tantra in early childhood. At the very center of the mandala circle is Mañju√r◊, orange in color, with four faces and eight hands, seated in the cross-legged vajra posture. His color can be either white or orange. The first circle of surrounding attendant figures depicts the symbolic Buddhas of the Four Directions, along with their consorts, each similar in appearance to the central figure. The other deities surrounding the central figures extend outward in descending rank. Outside of the mandala the composition is populated with twenty-five additional forms of Mañju√r◊. Along the top register are twelve peaceful and three wrathful forms of Mañju√r◊. The last three on the right are Six-faced Yam≤ri (Killer of Death), blue-black in color with six hands; K∂≥a Yam≤ri, black in color with two hands; and another form with three faces and six hands. All three are fearsome in appearance and stand in a menacing posture. Six-faced Yam≤ri represents another of the seven principal mandalas of . the N∂masang∑ti tantra. At the upper left is the Mandala of Arapacana Mañju√r◊, orange in color, surrounded by four retinue . deities in various colors. This mandala also belongs to the N∂masang∑ti tantra. At the upper right is the Mandala of White Arapacana Mañju√r◊, surrounded by four female retinue deities all white in color. This form of Arapacana arises from the Siddhaikavira Tantra belonging to the Cary≤ classification. At the bottom left are the wrathful White Acala, Blue Acala, and the long-life deity White T≤r≤. Blue Acala is the special protector of the Siddhaikavira Tantra. At the bottom right is Green T≤r≤ and the two wealth deities Yellow Jambhala and Black Jambhala. Along the red border at the very bottom of the painting is a lengthy inscription dedicating the painting in honor of the Five Superior Teachers – Jetsun Gongma Nga – of the Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism by the instructor Rabjampa Tsultrim Ozer and other students of the teacher Sherab Zangpo. It is likely that this painting belongs to a larger set of works. The individual paintings would have been commissioned by different people coming together as a group in a lay or monastic community so as to be able to afford to create a full set of paintings to accompany a special event held in the community or local religious center. Jeff Watt Tibetan name of this mandala: ’Jam dpal chos dbyings gsung gi dbang phyug lha nyis brgya dang bcu dgu’i dkyil ’khor [Toh 360]. Mandala #40 from the thirty-two volume set of the rGyud sde kun btus


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Plate 19

Nine-deity Mandala of Amit∂yus

Tibeto-Chinese; Yuan dynasty, probably 2nd half of the 13th century Tapestry; silk and silk brocade with embroidery 73 7⁄8 x 55 3⁄8 in. (187.5 x 140.5 cm) Collection of Navin Kumar, New York

This rare mandala tapestry comprises nine images of Amit≤yus, the Buddha of longevity.34 All nine deities are depicted with flesh-colored bodies in bodhisattva garb and holding the long-life vase in the meditation position. This mandala matches the form as transmitted by Jet≤ri, one of the eighty-four Indian mah∂siddhas, and is known to have been practiced in the Sakya order by Kunga Nyingpo (1092–1158) and Sakya Pa≥∑ita (1182-1251). It appears among the collection of Ngor mandalas under the Kriy≤ Tantra category.35 The central image, seated on a lotus within a vajra and lotus circle, is Vairocana Amit≤yus. The eight other Amit≤yus emanations on eight lotus petals align around the center according to the cardinal and intermediate directions, which are indicated by the blue-, yellow-, red-, and green-colored brocade fields inside the mandala palace. Thus, beginning in the east with Vajra Amit≤yus (located at the bottom center at the dark blue gate), the sequence of the eight Buddhas in clockwise (circumambulatory) order is as follows: Ratna Amit≤yus at the south (yellow gate), Padma Amit≤yus at the west (red gate), Karma Amit≤yus at the north (green gate) and, for the intermediate points, Samatadara Amit≤yus (northeast), Gu≥≤ Amit≤yus (southeast), Jñ≤na Amit≤yus (southwest), and Acala Amit≤yus (northwest).36 Outside the walls of the mandala palace appear eight haloed mah∂siddhas, one on each side of the four entrance gates along with a large vase holding a six-petaled lotus and another supporting a long, vajra-tipped staff. The three outer circular rims of the mandala are composed of alternating multicolored lotus petals, a narrow rim of tiny vajras, and the outer, segmented band containing curling, jagged flames portrayed as stylized patterns. The designs of these rims follow a style known in mandalas of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries from Nepal and Tibet, the latter particularly among those of the Sakya tradition.37 In the space outside the mandala circle among the blue mountain peaks and brown, beige, and white clouds are the five cosmic buddhas seated along the top; the four heavenly guardian kings of the four quarters of space, shown in Central Asian type long armor; eight circles with auspicious symbols placed around the mandala;38 and, along the bottom, four manifestations of the wealth deity Jambhala, the one at the far left riding a dragon among smoke and flames.39 The body forms of the wealth gods and cosmic buddhas are broad and heavy, and the garments in general have the loose definition typical of Chinese modes. Nevertheless, there are non-Chinese elements in the figures that link the style to Tibetan works of the mid-thirteenth century.40 Many of the figures appear similar to other Yuan dynasty tapestries.41 More than likely this tapestry was made in China in the second half of the thirteenth century following designs in large part from Tibetan art. It is interesting that this particular Amit≤yus Mandala is associated with the Sakya order, which was highly influential in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries with the Mongol rulers of Yuan-dynasty China.42 This splendid tapestry is made with pieces of silk and silk brocade with embroidery used for details, such as the white pearls hanging from the walls of the mandala palace. A gold twill, delicately fastened to the tapestry, is used to create most of the linear features – both contours and interior lines – in figures and landscape elements. The finest brocade with gold floral and phoenix patterns is reserved for the spaces within the mandala palace. Similar examples of the phoenix motif appear in Chinese Jin dynasty (1115–1234) brocades.43 Colors are subdued and harmonious and depend primarily on golden/orange and blue tones, which are typical of other textiles of the Yuan dynasty in China.44 This is an important early Chinese tapestry of the Tibetan Buddhist style during the period of great tapestry production in China that extended into the 15th century.45 Further, it is a rare example of this form of Amit≤yus Mandala, and it appears to be closely linked to the Sakya order, which was influential among the Mongol rulers of China of the time. Marylin Rhie


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Plate 20

Nine-deity Amit∂yus Lotus Mandala

Central Tibet; 14th –15th century Metalwork 10 x 8 x 7 in. (25.4 x 20.3 x 17.8 cm) closed: 10 ½ x 4 ½ x 4 ½ in. (26.7 x 11.4 x 11.4 cm) Rubin Museum of Art C2003.13.1 (HAR 65215)

The two integrative parts of the mandala are the mandala palace, essentially developing from the ritual ground, and the mandala assembly, signifying the deities that inhabit the ritual ground, who in the case of peaceful mandalas are placed on a lotus. The term “mandala,” which indicates roundness or surround, thus refers to the central circular element (usually a lotus or a wheel) that mirrors the central assembly of deities. A lotus mandala, such as the one shown here, can therefore be considered a full mandala. The lotus is also a symbol of purity, which in this case refers to both the mandala and its inhabitants. The petals can be closed to a bud that signifies the potential of the divine assembly within. As such, the lotus marks the transition between the divine interior and the ocean of migratory existence (sa∞s∂ra) to its outside. Indeed, the ocean out of which the lotus grows is clearly visible at the base and is modeled with waves. The deities of this mandala, Buddha Amit≤yus (Tshe dpag med), the Buddha of Endless Life, and his entourage further reinforce the dichotomy between sa∞s∂ra and the world of the buddhas. The lotus stem is realistically rendered to convey the natural features of the plant. Amit≤yus holds a vase filled with the nectar of immortality (am√ta) in the palms of his hands joined in meditation. He wears jewels, a crown, and a dhot∑, all of which shows that he is a sa∞bhogak∂ya manifestation. He is joined by an assembly of eight, who repeat his iconography. Together they form the Ninedeity Amit≤yus (Tshe dpag med lha dgu) Mandala.46 Amit≤yus is the most important long-life deity and therefore is frequently represented. Amit≤yus can always be distinguished by his iconographic vase. Christian Luczanits


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Plate 21

Mandala plate of Buddha Amit∂yus

Tibet; 19th century Pigments on cloth, mounted on wood 12 ¼ x 12 ¼ x 1 ½ in. (31.11 x 31.11 x 3.81 cm) Rubin Museum of Art F1997.36.2 (HAR 553)

After the historical Buddha Ś≤kyamuni, the next most commonly represented Buddha in Tantric art is Amit≤yus/Amit≤bha (immeasurable life/ immeasurable light). He is a single Buddha personality with two different names that correspond to two different appearances. When referred to as Amit≤bha, he is depicted in a standard Buddha form (although red in color). In his Amit≤yus appearance he wears the clothing and jewel ornaments of a heavenly god, following the classical Indian system for depicting deities. His popularity is based upon the Mah≤y≤na s∏tras in which many texts are devoted to him. Among the various traditions of Amit≤yus/Amit≤bha, this mandala accords with Vajray≤na Buddhism from the tantra literature and the Sanskrit text ∫rya aparimit∂yurjñ∂nan∂ma mah∂y∂na S∏tra. Long life, life extension, and deathlessness are the metaphors for the meditation practice focusing on Amit≤yus. The term “deathlessness” is used synonymously with “enlightenment.” The Indian teacher responsible for the popularization of the Amit≤yus Nine-deity Mandala was a yogi named Jet≤ri, who lived around the ninth and tenth centuries. At the center of this mandala is Amit≤yus, red in color, with one face and two hands placed in the gesture of meditation, holding a vase of long-life nectar. Adorned with various ornaments and silks, he sits in the vajra posture. Eight identical forms, slightly smaller, surround the main figure. To the east is Vajra Amit≤yus (directly below the central form), and continuing clockwise, Gu≥≤ Amit≤yus, Ratna Amit≤yus, Jñ≤na Amit≤yus, Padma Amit≤yus, Acala Amit≤yus, Karma Amit≤yus, and finally in the northeast is Tath≤gata Amit≤yus. The four additional figures outside of the mandala circle are essentially decorative and are unrelated to the subject of the mandala. At the top left is a golden-colored Buddha Ś≤kyamuni. At the top right is the future Buddha, Maitreya. At the bottom left is a red Buddha Amit≤bha, and across to the right is Vai√rava≥a, a guardian king riding a lion. This mandala is meant to lie flat on a table. It is painted on cloth and then glued to a square piece of wood. It functions as a ritual object at the center of a shrine arranged for the initiation ceremony into the practice of the meditation of Amit≤yus. Square mandala plates such as this are used again and again. They are typically found in temples where Amit≤yus holds a special place and where yearly ceremonies to Amit≤yus are performed according to the religious calendar. Jeff Watt Sanskrit source text: ∫rya aparamit∂yurjñ∂na h√dayan∂ma Dh∂raΩ∑ [TOH 674, 676. Ngor #10]


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Plate 22

Mandala plate of Vajrayoginı̄ According to the System of Eleven Yogas

Tibet; 18th century Pigments on wood 11 ¾ x 11 ¾ in. (29.8 x 29.8 cm) Rubin Museum of Art C2005.66.283 (HAR 654)

Vajrayogin◊ (rDo rje rnal ’byor ma, N≤ ro mkha’ spyod ma) is a Buddhist deity in female appearance who belongs to the highest classification of Buddhist Tantra. She is not a real personality but rather an emanation of the Buddha Vairocana, who, according to some texts, is himself an emanation of Ś≤kyamuni, the historical Buddha. According to the highest Buddhist Tantras, Vairocana is an emanation of the primordial Buddha Vajradhara. While this may seem very complicated, what is important to know is that some Buddhist deities are considered to have an independent existence and others are considered to be emanations of the various buddhas. The belief is that buddhas emanate in different forms with multiple appearances and functions so as to benefit the various needs of Buddhist practitioners. That is the theory presented in Tantric literature. This ritual mandala plate is used primarily during an initiation ceremony for the deity Vajrayogin◊. It is also used on the two special days of the month, the tenth and twenty-fifth, according to the lunar calendar. These two days are stipulated in Tantric literature (in the tantrar∂ja Śr∑lagusa∞varan∂ma Tantra [TOH 368]) as being particularly auspicious for practice. The painted depiction of the deity within the double tetrahedron represents the Body-heap Mandala. In an actual ritual a tripod holding a skull cup is placed above, representing the Speech-nectar Mandala. Finally, above that is a copper plate with inscriptions called the Mind-sindura Mandala. In Tantric Buddhism the three essential aspects of a person are the body, speech, and mind. It is these three things that are ritually initiated into a mandala. Surrounding the three-tiered mandala are offering bowls containing the standard objects for all Tantric rituals, including water bowls, flowers, incense, and food. Practitioners who have taken Vajrayogin◊ as their main meditation practice often keep the three-tiered mandala set up continuously on a personal shrine as an aid to practice. In the center of the composition are two red, crossed triangles, which are two tetrahedrons appearing as a six-pointed star. In the four points on the right and left, but not the points above and below, are white swirls. Sometimes, these are drawn as if they were swastikas. However, in spite of their similarity, they are not meant to be swastikas. Their symbolic meaning relates to the veins, airs, and essences of Tantric physiognomy along with the breathing practices and dynamic yoga exercises found in Buddhist Tantra. In the center stands Vajrayogin◊, red in color, with one face and two hands. Outside of the tetrahedron are the eight charnel grounds found only in depictions of semi-wrathful and wrathful deities. Outside of that is a circle of vajras completely encircled by the five-colored flames of pristine awareness. The flames represent the outer limits of the mandala, and Vajrayogin◊ represents the center. Mandalas of Tantric deities are depictions of all of reality, the entire universe, represented in one image, and, as a meditational practice, they are an outer representation of a mental visualization used during meditation. This form of Vajrayogin◊ was popularized by the Indian Mah≤siddha N≤ropa (10th–11th century) and passed down through the Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Jeff Watt


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Plate 23 Mandala of the Five-deity Abhidh∂na Uttara Tantra Vajrayoginı̄ (V∂r∂hi) Tibet; 15th century Pigments on cloth 19 ¾ x 14 ¼ in. (50.2 x 36.2 cm) Rubin Museum of Art F1997.7.1 (HAR 94)

Vajrav≤r≤h◊ (rDo rje phag mo) is one of the most popular and commonly depicted meditational deities of Tantric Buddhism. She is also found in the same Sanskrit literature (abhidh∂na uttara tantra) that describes the deity Cakrasa≠vara. Vajrav≤r≤h◊ is a form of the deity Vajrayogin◊. The only difference in their appearance is that Vajrav≤r≤h◊ has a boar’s head attached to her own, either placed on the top or on the right side. In the center of the composition are two crossed triangles, red in color, appearing as a six-pointed star. In fact, depicted here are two tetrahedrons, four-sided pyramids, joined together with the two points merged and facing down. Mandalas are architectural plans, and all architectural forms need a foundation. The foundation for all mandalas is a tetrahedron. For most mandalas it is a single tetrahedron. For the various forms of Vajrayogin◊ a double tetrahedron, called a dharmodayo, or dharmakara in Sanskrit, is most often used. At the center of the tetrahedron on a four-petaled lotus is Vajrav≤r≤h◊, red in color, with one face and two hands. Her right hand holds aloft a curved knife and the left a skull cup to the heart. In the bend · staff is held against her left shoulder. Adorned with bone ornaments and of the left elbow a ka≤v∂nga a necklace of heads, she stands in a dancing posture atop a corpse. Surrounding her, on the four lotus petals, stand four figures. Above is red Padma π≤kin◊, to the right is green Karma π≤kin◊, below is dark blue Vajra π≤kin◊, and to the left is yellow Ratna π≤kin◊. All have the same hand objects, ornaments, and posture as the central figure. Situated on a black background, the central figures are surrounded by three successive rings of skulls, gold vajras, and the five-colored flames of the fires of pristine awareness. Directly above are four seated buddhas beneath rainbow arches. Above them are two rows of various mah∂siddhas and teachers of the Karma Kagyu tradition interspersed with black hat Karmapas and red hat Shamarpas. The circle at the upper left is the Cakrasa≠vara Five-deity Mandala. The circle at the upper right is another Five-deity Mandala, with two central blue figures. The circles to the lower right and left are two more Five-deity Mandalas. Along the left side and below the mandala are two sets of six goddesses of various colors and along the right side are a further six goddesses with animal faces. At the bottom, from the right is Mah≤k≤la, wearing a long tunic; Pañj≤rn≤tha Mah≤k≤la; r◊ Dev◊; Four-handed Caturbhuja Mah≤k≤la; Black-robed Mah≤k≤la; r◊ Dev◊ Remati; Yellow Jambhala; Vai√rava≥a; Black Jambhala; and Damchen Garwa Nagpo, riding a goat. Jeff Watt


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Plate 24

Mandala of Thirteen-deity Sam . varodaya Cakrasam . vara

Tibet; 16th century Pigments on cloth Rubin Museum of Art 21 ½ x 17 ½ in. (54.6 x 44.5 cm) C2001.9.1 (HAR 65020)

Cakrasa≠vara (’Khor lo bde mchog) is one of the most popular deities in Tantric Buddhism. He can appear in several dozen forms, which makes it necessary to rely on the descriptive literature in Sanskrit and Tibetan to identify him. Adding to the complexity, there are more than fifty traditions of these forms in Tibetan Buddhism. They are meant to emphasize the different types of meditation practice that are suited for specific types of emotional and psychological characteristics in the Tantric practitioners who take on these intricate practices. The form of the subject of this painting is the Thirteen-deity Sa≠varodaya Cakrasa≠vara Mandala (’Khor lo bde mchog lha bcu gsum gyi dkyil ’khor) as described in the Sanskrit text the Śr∑ mah∂sa∞varodaya tantraraj∂n∂ma [TOH 373, Ngor 72]. Within the center of the mandala, representing the view from above of a three-dimensional celestial palace and surroundings, is the meditational deity Cakrasa≠vara, blue in color, with three faces and six hands. In one first pair of hands crossed at the heart he holds a vajra and bell and embraces his consort red Vajrav≤r≤h◊. The couple is surrounded by the red flames of pristine awareness. Immediately around the central figures are four female figures: π≤kin◊, Lama, Kha≥∑aroh≤, and R�pini. In the surrounding square are four more figures along with another four standing at the T-shaped structures of the outer square. Lineage teachers are depicted in the top register and arranged around the mandala circle at the left and right. In the bottom register are various deities auspicious for long life, purification, wealth, and protection. Often the only visual depictions of rare forms of deities are found in paintings such as this. These deities are placed in the bottom registers of paintings that are created as sets. Large numbers of figures are needed to fill the compositions of these sets, which often number more than twenty paintings in total. The painting style here, heavily influenced by Nepal aesthetics and a strong liking for red, is typical of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Sakya and Ngor paintings and wall murals. At the bottom of the painting in the red border is a four line verse of dedication that reads, “Created for the long-life of the glorious revered teacher Konchog Phelwa by the Vidy≤dhara Lhachog Sengge.” Lhachog Sengge (1468–1535), who commissioned this painting, was a famous abbot of Ngor Monastery in Tibet and responsible for the creation of many works that have found their way into collections in Europe and North America. Jeff Watt Inscription: rJe btsun bla ma dam pa dkon mchog ’phel sku tshe brtan pa’i phyir du rig pa ’dzin pa lha mchog seng ges gzhengs Tibetan name of the mandala: ’Khor lo bde mchog lha bcu gsum gyi dkyil ’khor from the Śr∑ mah∂sa∞varodaya tantrar∂jan∂ma [TOH 373] TOH and following number refers to the Beijing Kanjur, Tantra section, and the text reference number Mandala #72 from the thirty-two volume set of the rGyud sde kun btus


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Cakrasam . vara Lotus Mandala

Mongolia; 17th or early 18th century Gilt copper alloy with pigment H: 12 ½ in. (32 cm) Thyssen-Bornemisza Collections

This remarkable object presents the Cakrasa≠vara Mandala within an eight-petaled lotus. When opened, we see at the center Sa≠vara and Vajrav≤r≤h◊, joined in sexual embrace on a lotus platform and surrounded by members of their celestial assembly. When closed, the leaves enfold the mandala within a beautifully incised globe that rises from a leafy base supported by an eight-sided shaft and a two-tiered circular base. Engraved on the outside of the petals are auspicious symbols and offerings. Surrounding the base of the shaft, like a rosary, are the eight auspicious emblems (a�≤amaṅgala) of Buddhism. Each rests on its own lotus flower, the eight interconnected by clouds. As in the gesture of an offering, this ring acts as the mechanism by which the lotus is opened. By moving it upward, the globe rises and its petals fall open, revealing the mandala within. This precision-made, weighted sculpture closely resembles works produced by the celebrated Mongolian Buddhist artist-monk Zanabazar (1635–1723). The wide, leafy petals with scalloped edges at the base of the globe are characteristic of Mongolian works produced during his lifetime. The superb incising on the outside of the lotus petals also compares closely with that in works attributed to Zanabazar. And the tiny beading along the foot of the circular base appears on Mongolian works of this period. Zanabazar is known to have been a gifted engineer, and he may have had a hand in the creation of this finely engineered work. A closely related, smaller example (height 9 ½ in., 24 cm) of this lotus mandala can be found in the British Museum collection.


Plate 26 Mandala of Mah∂m∂y∂ with Five Deities According to the Tradition of Kukkuripa and Ngogton Lotsawa Tibet; 14th century Ground mineral pigment, fine gold line on cotton 25 x 21 in. (63.5 x 53.3 cm) Private Collection HAR 68899

Mah≤m≤y≤ (sGyu ’phrul chen mo), meaning “great illusion,” is the name of a Tantric Buddhist Sanskrit text, the Śr∑ mah∂m∂y∂ tantrar∂jan∂ma; it is also the name of a deity and meditation system. The text was popularized in India between the ninth and eleventh centuries and is most commonly associated with the Mah≤siddha Kukkuripa, known as the “dog lover,” and the Tibetan translator Marpa Chokyi Lodro, famed teacher of the great yogi Milarepa. The mah∂m∂y∂ Tantra and practices arrived in the Himalayas and Tibet through a number of sources but primarily through the Vajr≤v≤l◊ literature of Abhay≤karagupta, Marpa the translator, the Mitra Gyatsa of Mitra Yogin, and the Shangpa Kagyu tradition. Mah≤m≤y≤ is regarded as a special deity of the Ngog lineage of the Marpa Kagyu. Within the Shangpa Kagyu, Mah≤m≤y≤ is included as one of Five Tantra Deities (rGyud sde lha lnga) combined as a single and unique meditation practice found only in the Shangpa tradition. In art and Tantric visualization Mah≤m≤y≤ is depicted with four faces and four arms, blue in color, embracing the consort Buddha π≤kin◊, who also appears with four faces and four arms. Both figures hold · staff. In the Shangpa Kagyu, Vajr≤v≤l◊, and Mitra Gyatsa traditions an arrow, bow, skull cup, and ka≤v∂nga the consort can be depicted as red in color. In the Mitra Gyatsa there is a one-faced two-armed form of Mah≤m≤y≤ with consort. In all of these different traditions the central deity and consort are accompanied by four attendant retinue figures called ≈∂kin∑s: blue Vajra π≤kin◊ (east), yellow Ratna π≤kin◊ (south), red Padma π≤kin◊ (west), and green Vi√va π≤kin◊ (north). Placed between the ≈∂kin∑s at the intermediate directions are four nectar filled vases. From the central couple and the four retinue figures comes the official name Mah≤m≤y≤ Five-deity Mandala. It is common, although not a rule and not consistent, in the descriptions of Buddhist mandalas to count the central couple as one deity. The retinue and attendant deities are then counted individually; however, in many instances the door guardians are omitted. Along the top of the painting, beginning on the left side, is a register of lineage teachers beginning with the primordial Buddha Vajradhara followed by two unidentified celestial or bodhisattva-like figures. The next in line is the Mah≤siddha Kukkuripa, holding on his right side a dog in his lap. Then follow another Indian siddha and the Tibetan lineage teachers in an unbroken line of transmission. It is likely that the lineage depicted in the register is that of Kukkuripa and Ngogton Choku Dorje. Beneath the register, at the upper right, is a mandala circle depicting the Essence Hevajra from the Śr∑ hevajra tantra. In the upper left is another mandala circle depicting Hevajra as he is described in the Samputa Tantra. At the lower right is red Vajrayogin◊ V≤r≤h◊ of the Mah≤siddha Indrabh�ti. In the two accompanying circles are yet more forms of Vajrayogin◊ popularized by the Indian adepts Maitripa and N≤ropa, Maitri Khecar◊, and Naro Khecar◊. Another mandala on the lower left is unidentified. The bottom register contains three Tibetan teachers, four minor peaceful deities, four wrathful deities, and the female protector deity r◊ Dev◊, blue in color, with four arms, and riding a donkey. Jeff Watt Tibetan name of the mandala: rNgog lugs mah≤m≤y≤ (sgyu ’phrul chen mo) lha lnga’i dkyil ’khor Sanskrit source text: Śr∑ mah∂m∂y∂ tantrar∂jan∂ma [Toh 425]


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Plate 27

Mandala of the Nine-deity Two-armed Hevajra

Tibet; 15th century Pigments on cloth 20 ½ x 16 ¾ in. (52.1 x 42.5 cm) Rubin Museum of Art C2002.24.7 (HAR 65123)

Hevajra (Kye rdo rje) with one face and two arms is the first of the four principal forms of the deity as described in the root tantra of Hevajra. This tradition was popularized by the Mah≤siddha Kanha, who was the principal student of Vir�pa. In fact, Vir�pa had two main students. Kanha inherited the system of the gradual path of Tantric practice and πomb◊ Heruka carried on the tradition of sudden enlightenment. These two systems are still maintained within the Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. At the center of the painting is Hevajra embracing his consort Vajra Nair≤tm≤. Both have one face, two arms, and two legs in a dancing posture surrounded by the eight goddesses of the Hevajra Mandala. The square enclosure of the palace is surrounded by the eight charnel grounds. Outside of the outer circle are four specialized forms of Hevajra: red Amit≤bha Hevajra, green Amoghasiddhi Hevajra, white Vairocana Hevajra, and yellow Ratnasambhava Hevajra. These four forms are found in the initiation ritual of Hevajra, which is described in detail in the Vajrapañjara Tantra, an exclusive commentarial tantra to the Hevajra root tantra. Eight goddesses in various colors accompany those four deities. In the top register starting at the left are three figures: blue Vajradhara, black Nair≤tm≤, and orange Mañju√r◊. In the middle are the Buddhas of the Five Families of Anuttarayoga Tantric practice: yellow Ratnasambhava, blue Ak∂obhya, white Vairocana, red Amit≤bha, and green Amoghasiddhi. At the right is an orange bodhisattva, likely to be Maitreya; a blue fierce Vajrap≤≥i; and green Vajravid≤ra≥a. In the register at the bottom of the composition starting at the left are nine goddesses that function as special internal yoga practices relating to the senses of the practitioners body unique to the Hevajra system. The remaining three figures are Black Jambhala, Pañjaran≤tha Mah≤k≤la, and Śr◊ Dev◊, with four arms and riding a mule. The painting belongs to the Ngor branch of the Sakya tradition and is typical of the works of art produced at Ngor Ewam Monastery in Tsang Province, Tibet. The drawing of the figures and the detailed ornamentation and patterning indicate that the painting is most likely the work of a Newar artist from the Kathmandu Valley in the employ of Ngor Monastery. Jeff Watt Tibetan name of this mandala: Kye rdor nag po lugs sku rdo rje zhal gcig phyag gnyis pa lha dgu’i dkyil ’khor Sanskrit source text: hevajra tantrar∂jan∂ma [TOH 417. Ngor #99]


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Plate 28

Nine-deity Mandala of ∑rı̄ Hevajra

Tibet; 17th century Pigments on cloth 10 ¼ x 8 in. (26 x 20.3 cm) Rubin Museum of Art C2002.22.1 (HAR 65115)

Hevajra (Kye rdo rje) is a principal meditational deity common in, but not exclusive to, the Sakya and Kagyu traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. In the Kagyu lineage Hevajra was the main meditation practice of Marpa Chokyi Lodro and the yogi Milarepa. The yoga practices of generating an internal body heat called caΩ≈∂l∑ yoga, gtum mo in Tibetan, are taught in the Hevajra literature. The various tantras with their own imaginative deity depictions emphasize different types of spiritual practice and promote different aspects of Buddhist meditation techniques. In the center of this mandala is the deity r◊ Hevajra embracing his consort Nair≤tm≤ and surrounded by an eight-deity retinue. Sometimes the eight retinue goddesses are described as additional wives of Hevajra and at other times they are described as daughters. Outside of the palace and surrounding the lotus ring are the eight charnel grounds. They are particularly detailed in this painting and follow the ritual texts perfectly in their depictions. Although elaborated upon over the centuries in commentarial literature, the original descriptions of the charnel grounds are found in a tantra devoted solely to that subject. The same source tantra is used for a number of other mandala systems such as Cakrasa≠vara and Vajrabhairava. Along the top register starting at the left is the lineage of teachers beginning with the primordial Buddha Vajradhara. He is followed by other teachers including Nair≤tmy≤, Vir�pa, Kanha (not to be confused with K∂≥apa, or K∂≥acarin of the Cakrasa≠vara lineage), π≤marup≤, Avadh�tipa, Gayadhara, Drogmi Lotsawa, Seton Kunrig, Shangton Chobar, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, Sonam Tsemo, Dragpa Gyaltsen, Sakya Pandita, Chogyal Phagpa. The color of each figure and the clothing worn are all important in understanding the profession or caste standing of these lineage teachers as well as in distinguishing monks from laypersons. At the bottom left is a donor figure with attendants. At the bottom right are the principal protectors of the Sakya tradition: Pañjara Mah≤k≤la, Br≤hma≥ar�pa Mah≤k≤la, and r◊ Dev◊. The most common form of the deity found in art is the one portrayed in this painting. According to the Sakya system of Tantra classification, Hevajra belongs to the “non-dual” Tantra of the Anuttarayoga subclass. The Kagyu system classifies Hevajra as Wisdom-mother Tantra. From the numerous texts within the cycle of Hevajra practice, the root tantra of “Two Sections” is the most important. This painting of Hevajra has elaborate circles of mantras written on the back. Mantras are a series of sounds and words believed to embody the nature of a deity. The three doors of action are the body, the voice, and the mind. It is through the actions of these three that good actions and bad actions are believed to be produced. Mantra recitation forms part of the daily practice of Tantric Buddhists. Written mantras are commonly found on the reverse of a painting, placed there as a record of the painting having had a brief or lengthy sanctification or ritual blessing. Jeff Watt Tibetan name of this mandala: dPal kye rdo rje lha dgu’i dkyil ’khor Sanskrit source text: hevajra tantrar∂jan∂ma [TOH 417] Mandala #99 from the thirty-two volume set of the rgyud sde kun btus


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Plate 29

Nine-deity Mandala of ∑rı̄ Hevajra

Tibet; 16th century Pigments on cloth 16 ½ x 13 ¾ in. (41.9 x 34.9 cm) Rubin Museum of Art F1996.1.8 (HAR 444)

The Hevajra Tantra is a Buddhist religious text in Sanskrit religious text and, more important, a practice manual that teaches all kinds of advanced Buddhist meditation and visualization techniques. The deity Hevajra, with his bizarre and complex appearance, is a product of these visualization techniques and is commonly reproduced in painting and sculpture. He is semiwrathful in appearance, blue in color, with multiple arms and legs. Deities such as this do not exist. He is neither a god nor a sentient being. Hevajra and most of the so-called deities in Tantric Buddhism (Vajray≤na) are regarded as emanations of the primordial Buddha Vajradhara. As emanations they can appear in a variety of forms. Within the center of the mandala, representing the view from above a three-dimensional celestial palace and surroundings, is the deity r◊ Hevajra (Kye rdor), blue in color, with eight faces, sixteen hands holding skull cups, and four legs in a dancing stance. With one pair of arms he embraces his consort Vajra Nair≤tm≤ (Selfless One). She is dark blue, with one face and two hands, holding a curved knife and skull cup, and stands on her left leg with the right embracing Hevajra. Surrounding the central figures are eight goddesses in various colors, each with one face and two hands, standing in a dancing posture on the left leg above a corpse and lotus seat. Beginning from the top and moving clockwise are: yellow Vet≤l◊, multicolored πombin◊, green Gha√mar◊, blue Pukka√◊, black Gaur◊, white avar◊, red Chaur◊, and purple Ca≥∑al◊. The floor of the celestial palace is divided into four sections of different colors – red, light green, white, and yellow – each ornately patterned with floral designs. On the red veranda outside of the palace walls, on each side of the four T-shaped doors, are two white dancing goddesses, totaling sixteen in all. The outer blue and white lines forming a square enclosure represent the stylized decorative facade on the four sides of the palace roof, adorned with upright spears, arrows, and banners. The elaborate lintels above each of the four doors are constructed of four tiered steps topped with a dharma wheel and two reclining deer with a silk canopy above. The palace is placed squarely on a horizontal multicolored double vajra (viπvarajra) with only the prongs and makara heads (an Indian mythological water creature) appearing on the four sides. The outer circle containing small figures on a background landscape is the ring of the eight charnel grounds, filled with corpses, fires, st∏pas, yogis, serpent creatures, and fearsome worldly gods. Surrounding that is a circle of multicolored (rectangular) lotus petals, representing the enormous lotus upon which the entire palace and charnel ground structure rests. The final ring is composed of the multicolored fires of pristine awareness, which completely envelope the mandala. The Hevajra Mandala represents the extent of the universe itself, including both the animate and the inanimate. In the upper left corner is the Mah≤siddha πombi Heruka (9th century), who holds a snake in his right hand, embraces his consort with his left arm, and rides a tigress. In the upper right corner is Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092–1158), one of the founding fathers of the Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. He wears the attire of a layman, performing the gesture of generosity with his right hand and holding a white lotus to his heart in his left. In the bottom corners are two wrathful protector deities important in the Sakya tradition. On the left is Pañjaran≤tha Mah≤k≤la, the special protector of the Hevajra group of tantras and the protector of the practitioners. On the right is r◊ Devi, the female counterpart to Mah≤k≤la, riding a donkey. r◊ Hevajra, according to the Sakya tradition, is a meditational deity of the Anuttarayoga non-dual classification. From among the many Hevajra tantras and forms of the deity, this representation of Hevajra arises from the root Hevajra Tantra of “two sections.” It was popularized by the Indian Mah≤siddha πomb◊ Heruka. The style of the painting is Nepalese, evidenced by the use of bright red and blue colors and the intricate circular floral patterns in the background. Jeff Watt Tibetan name of this mandala: Dom bhi lugs kyi kye rdor lha dgu’i dkyil ’khor Sanskrit source text: Hevajra tantrar∂jan∂ma [TOH 417] Mandala #105 from the thirty-two volume set of the rGyud sde kun btus


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Plate 30

Nine-deity Mandala of ∑rı̄ Hevajra

Tibet; ca. 17th century Ground mineral pigments on cotton 14 ½ x 11 ½ in. (36.83 x 29.21 cm) Rubin Museum of Art C2006.66.497 (HAR 964)

This painting is from a set of compositions of an unknown number depicting the different forms of r◊ Hevajra (dPal Kye rdo rje). It belongs to the teaching system of Kanha, the principal student of the Mah≤siddha Vir�pa. Hevajra is most commonly depicted with eight faces and sixteen hands, embracing a consort, who has one face and two hands. He has four legs and stands in a dancing posture. According to the special oral tradition of the Mah≤siddha Vir�pa, the core Hevajra system of the Sakya tradition, Hevajra is depicted dancing on his two right legs while the two left legs are drawn up. However, examples of Hevajra from other Indian traditions and early Tibetan systems portray Hevajra with three legs, standing, and with one leg drawn up. In Burma (Myanmar) and Cambodia, Hevajra is represented in sculptures dancing on his two left legs with the two right legs drawn up, the opposite of the Vir�pa system. The depiction of Hevajra in this painting follows the standard depictions from India and in early Tibetan art associated with Kagyu, Shalu, and Sakya traditions. The Kanha system also depicts the interior of the mandala differently from the special Vir�pa system. In this mandala only Hevajra stands on the central lotus, and each of the eight goddesses stands on her own lotus. In the Vir�pa system Hevajra stands in the center of the lotus, and the eight goddesses each stand on one of the eight petals. The floor of the celestial palace is divided into four different colored sections – red, green, blue, and yellow – ornately patterned with floral designs with a light blue square in the middle. On the red veranda outside of the palace walls, barely discernable on each side of the four T-shaped doors, are two dancing goddesses, sixteen in total. The outer red and white lines forming a square enclosure represent the stylized decorative facade on the four sides of the palace roof, adorned with upright spears, arrows, and banners. The elaborate lintels above each of the four doors are constructed of tiered steps topped with a dharma wheel, two reclining deer, and gold spires with a silk canopy above. Surrounding the palace is a circle of multicolored rectangular petals representing the enormous lotus upon which the entire palace structure rests. The outer circle, divided into eight sections containing small figures and objects, is the ring of the eight charnel grounds. The final ring is composed of the multicolored fires of wisdom that completely envelope the entire Hevajra Mandala and the universe. Along the top are the lineage teachers for this particular tradition of √r◊ Hevajra, according to the lineage of Kanha. Jeff Watt Sanskrit source text: Hevajra tantrar∂jan∂ma [TOH 417. Ngor #99]


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Plate 31

Lotus Mandala of Hevajra with the Eight Great Siddhas

Eastern India; ca. 12th century Copper alloy 14 5⁄8 x 6 x 6 in. (37.1 x 15.2 x 15.2 cm) Rubin Museum of Art Purchased from the Collection of Navin Kumar, New York C2003.10.2 (HAR 65207)

This lotus mandala once enclosed the couple Hevajra (Kye rdo rje) and Nair≤tm≤ (bDag med ma) in the center of a nine-deity mandala. The two-armed dancing yog∑n∑s of their retinue are depicted on the inside of the eight petals. This is the typical assembly of Hevajra and is common to different forms of the deity.47 Of particular interest is the depiction of the eight charnel grounds. By representing them just outside of the same petals that hold the deities, the liminal nature of these grounds is particularly emphasized here. The presentation also reinforces the purity of the area enclosed by the petals (see the Amit≤yus Lotus Mandala, Pl. 20). The top section of these grounds is dedicated to one mah∂siddha each, which have been identified as L�yipa, πombi Heruka, πe∏gipa, Kukkuripa, avaripa, Indrabh�ti, Vir�pa, and N≤g≤rjuna.48 The group thus differs from the standard group of eight siddhas presiding over the eight charnel grounds, a standard that became established in the late twelfth century in the Kagyu School and was slightly amended by the Sakya School shortly thereafter.49 The group represented here may be a transmission lineage of the tantra on which this representation is based. It also indicates that this lotus mandala is dated prior to and apart from the developments in Tibet. Indeed, the lotus mandala has been attributed to eastern India and the twelfth century.50 The stem of this lotus is particularly elaborate. The bottom section takes up a common theme of the two n∂gas preparing the seat of the Buddha. This motif derives from the multiplication miracle of Śr≤vast◊ but is also used independently. In the upper area of the stem, the Buddha is represented at the seat of enlightenment, Vajr≤sana ≤kyamuni. He is flanked by the bodhisattvas Avalokite√vara and Maitreya seated within one of the loops formed by the lotus scroll that develops on both sides along the main stem. The scroll terminates in two blossoms holding the moon crescent and the sun, which emphasizes the cosmic nature of Hevajra’s assembly. Christian Luczanits


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Plate 32

Hevajra Offering Visualization

Tibet; 17th century 34 ½ x 20 in. (87.6 x 50.8 cm) Ground mineral pigments, fine gold line on cotton Rubin Museum of Art C2006.66.277 (HAR 593)

r◊ Hevajra is one of the most commonly depicted meditational deities in Tantric Buddhism. The subject of this painting, the visualization employed when making offerings to the deity Hevajra at the beginning or end of a meditation session, is uncommon and understood only through ritual texts. It is rarely represented in art. The details are explained in the Hevajra Tantra, section 1, chapter 12, and later elaborated upon by the Indian scholar Ac≤rya Durjayacandra. The three mandalas and red triangles (tetrahedrons) are central to the process of offering ritual cakes, torma (gtor ma) to r◊ Hevajra. In the central red triangle on a large lotus seat is r◊ Hevajra, dark blue in color, with eight faces, sixteen hands holding skull cups, and four legs in a dancing posture. The first pair of arms embraces his consort Vajra Nair≤tm≤ (Selfless One), dark blue, with one face and two hands, holding a curved knife and skull cup, standing on her left leg with the right embracing Hevajra. Surrounding the central Hevajra and Nair≤tm≤ figures are eight goddesses of various colors, each with one face and two hands, standing in a dancing posture. Beginning from the top and proceeding clockwise are yellow Vet≤l◊, multicolored πombin◊, green Gha√mar◊, blue Pukkas◊, black Gaur◊, white avar◊, red Chaur◊, and purple Ca≥∑al◊. On the outside circle of lotus petals are the eight great worldly guardians: akra (Indra), Yama, Varu≥a, Yak∂a, Agni, Rak∂a, V≤yu, and I√≤na. Blue in color, with one face and two hands, they each embrace a consort. In the upper red triangle is K≤yavajra Hevajra, white, with one face and two hands, in a dancing posture embracing his consort. They are surrounded by the eight great gods: Mahe√vara, Indra, Brahm≤, Vi∂≥u, akkir≤ja, Ga≥apati, Bh∏girii, and Kum≤rak≤rtika. White in color, with one face and two hands, they each embrace a consort. In the lower red triangle is V≤kvajra Hevajra, red, with one face and two hands, in a dancing posture and embracing his consort. They are surrounded by the eight great n∂gas: Karkoa, a∏khap≤la, Ananta, V≤suki, Tak∂aka, Kulika, Padma, and Mah≤padma. Red in color, with one face and two hands, they each embrace a consort. Filling out the composition but unrelated to the Hevajra Offering Visualization are other deity figures and Buddhist teachers. These figures were added at the request of the donor or at the discretion of the artist. At the top center is the primordial Buddha Vajradhara, blue, with one face and two hands, seated in vajra posture. To the left stands Vajrayogin◊, red, with one face and two hands, holding upraised a blood filled skull cup. On the right is the blue-black, buffalo-headed deity Vajrabhairava, with nine faces, thirty-two hands, and sixteen legs. Lower down on the left is the Mah≤siddha Vir�pa, dark brown in color. On the right is Sakya Pa≥∑ita, wearing monastic robes and a red pandita hat. Below them, on the left is Ngorchen Sanggye Phuntsog (1649-1705), Twenty-fifth Abbot of Ngor Monastery, wearing monastic robes and a red pandita hat with the lappets folded over the crown of the head. On the right is another lama of similar appearance wearing a pandita hat. At the bottom right and left are the two main Sakya Mah≤k≤la protector deities. On the left is Br≤hma≥arupa Mah≤k≤la appearing as an Indian sage. To the right is Pañjarn≤tha Mah≤k≤la. Jeff Watt Sanskrit source text: Hevajra tantrar∂jan∂ma [TOH 417]


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Plate 33

Mandala of Thirteen-deity Vajrabhairava

Tibet; 16th century Pigments on cloth 20 x 17 1⁄8 in. (50.8 x 43.5 cm) Rubin Museum of Art C2005.16.40 (HAR 65463)

Vajrabhairava (rDo rje ’jigs byed) is one of the most visually complex of all the different Tantric Buddhist deities. He is easily recognized by his large central buffalo face, multiple heads, and arms and legs arrayed like a fan to each side. From among the many lineages of practice to enter Tibet, the main transmissions of Vajrabhairava were those of the two translators Rwa Lotsawa and Mal Lotsawa. Although practiced early on in Tibet by the Sakya and Kagyu traditions, it was Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelug tradition, who instituted Vajrabhairava as the principal Gelugpa Tantric meditation practice. For this reason large numbers of paintings and sculptures were produced for the followers and many of these works have over centuries accumulated in Western museums and collections. In appearance Vajrabhairava is dark blue in color, with nine faces, thirty-four hands and sixteen legs. The main face is that of a buffalo. One pair of hands holds a curved knife and skull cup to the heart. The remaining hands hold a multitude of weapons and objects, including one pair that holds the fresh outstretched hide of an elephant. Vajrabhairava is adorned with bracelets, necklaces, and a girdle (all formed of interlaced bone ornaments), a necklace of snakes, and a long necklace of fifty freshly severed heads. His right legs are bent, pressing down on a man, animals, and various gods. His left legs are extended straight and press down on birds and various gods; he stands above a sun disk and multicolored lotus flower and is completely surrounded by the fiery flames of pristine awareness. As a meditational deity Vajrabhairava, sometimes referred to by early Western scholars as Yam≤ntaka, belongs to the Bhairava and Yam≤ri class of tantras. Both of these belong to the highest classification of Buddhist Tantra, Anuttarayoga. The practice of Vajrabhairava is common to the new traditions of Indian Buddhism, which came to the Himalayas and Tibet in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. In the Sakya tradition it is counted as one of the four main Tantric deities of the school, along with Hevajra, Guhyasam≤ja, and Cakrasa≠vara. Among the various Kagyu Schools, the Drigungpa are strong upholders of the practice. There are numerous forms and styles of practice from the very complex, with numerous retinue deities filling a mandala, to the very concise, with a single deity figure with one buffalo face and two arms, standing without a consort. Along the bottom red border of the painting is an inscription written in gold lettering stating that the painting was commissioned by Lhachog Sengge (1468–1535), an important abbot of Ngor Monastery in Tibet. Jeff Watt Tibetan name of this mandala: Rwa lugs rdo rje ’jigs byed lha bcu gsum gyi dkyil ’khor Sanskrit source text: Śr∑ Vajramah∂bhairavan∂ma tantra [TOH 468]


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Plate 34

Mandala of Thirteen-deity Yama Dharmar∂ja

Tibet; 18th century Pigments on cloth 12 x 12 in. (30.5 x 30.5 cm) Rubin Museum of Art F1996.11.1 (HAR 436)

Yama, the Lord of Death, depicted as the central figure in Buddhist paintings of the hell realms and commonly portrayed in Wheel of Life paintings, is not the same as this Yama Dharmar≤ja (Dam can Chos kyi rgyal po). The first, or older, reference to Yama arose from the Abhidharma literature based on an early first-millennium CE Buddhist universe model and conceives of him as a sentient creature and the king of the ghost realm (preta). The second reference, to Yama Dharmar≤ja, is based exclusively on the Vajrabhairava root tantra, where the deity Mañju√ri assumes a variety of terrifying (bhairava) forms to subdue Yama (or death, a synonym for the endless suffering of cyclic existence) and uses the theme of death as a metaphor for an entire system of Tantric meditation practice. Yama Dharmar≤ja is a Buddhist wisdom deity and protector of the Method (also called Father) Class of Anuttaryoga Tantra, which is specifically employed by those engaged in the practices of the Vajrabhairava Tantra. This practice is found in all of the Sarma, or New, Schools, but the Gelugpa tradition of Tsongkhapa holds Yama Dharmar≤ja in special regard as one of its three main religious protectors (the other two are adbhuja Mah≤k≤la and Vai√rava≥a). The words Yama, Yam≤ri, Yam≤ntaka, and Bhairava appear frequently in all classes of tantra. They are also used interchangeably in Western art catalogs and art history books. All of these names are for meditational deities, attendant figures, protectors, or for worldly gods beneath the feet of other deities such as Vajrayogin◊ and Cakrasa≠vara. In instances where Bhairava is trampled underfoot, he represents the various negative emotions to be conquered through meditation. Bhairava can also represent the wrathful form of iva in Hinduism. Keeping in mind the similarities in name and form, but the differences in meaning, one must not confuse the various Yama models presented in the different s∏tra and tantra systems and to understand each form in its own place. At the center of the painting representing the central deity, Yama Dharmar≤ja, is a vajra stick and lasso. Representing the consort C≤mu≥∑◊ is a trident and skull cup. Surrounding them and placed on a flat, dark blue, eight-spoked weapon wheel are the symbols of the eight principal attendants. The wheel is encircled by a ring of skulls, a sea of blood, and the eight great charnel grounds of India, again surrounded by the bright orange flames of pristine awareness. Jeff Watt Sanskrit source text: Śr∑ Vajramah∂bhairavan∂ma tantra [TOH 468]


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Plate 35

Mandala of Mah∂k∂la Bernagchen

Tibet; 18th century Ground mineral pigments on cotton 18 x 17 ½ in. (45.7 x 44.5 cm) Rubin Museum of Art C2006.66.194 (HAR 215)

This unusual composition uses symbols to represent the deities and retinue figures inhabiting the mandala circle. Its most striking feature is the triangular shape — an architectural representation of a three-sided palace with three T-shaped doors on the three walls and adorned with human heads, skins, and looping intestines strung like garlands. Inside the triangle are four bluish-gray weapon wheels, one inside the other. At the very center of the mandala are a curved knife above a skull cup representing Bernagchen Mah≤k≤la (mGon po Ber nag can; Black Cloak) and a peg, mirror, spear, and snake lasso representing the consort r◊ Dev◊. Based on the symbolic attributes, the four wheels, and the triangular palace in the middle of the mandala circle, a positive identification for this mandala can be made: these symbols placed together in this combination are unique to Bernagchen and r◊ Dev◊. Atop each of the spokes of the four weapon wheels are small colored circles, which represent the retinue figures accompanying and surrounding the central deity couple. Bernagchen Mah≤k≤la is the personal protector of the Karmapas and the special protector of the Karma Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism. The Karmapas are a line of successive teachers acknowledged as the first lineage of reincarnating lamas in Tibetan Buddhism. Mah≤k≤la is a classification of Buddhist protector deity originating in India. The specific form of Mah≤k≤la known as Bernagchen arose from the Nyingma revealed treasure tradition of Tibet and was later introduced into the Karma Kagyu School by the Second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi (1206–1283). The fiercely wrathful Black-cloak Mah≤k≤la is black in color, with one face, three round bulbous eyes, and a large gaping red mouth with bared white fangs. His yellow beard, eyebrows, and hair flow upward like flames. The right hand holds aloft a curved flaying knife with a vajra handle. The left holds a white blood-filled skull cup to the heart. Adorned with a crown of five dry white skulls, earrings, bracelets, and a garland of freshly severed heads, he wears a great black cloak as his distinctive characteristic. He stands surrounded by black smoke and red licks of the flames of pristine awareness. Jeff Watt Tibetan name of this mandala: mGon po Ber nag can


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Plate 36

Canopy, Mah∂k∂la Yantra

Tibet; 18th–19th century Pigments on cloth 24 ½ x 20 ½ in. (62.2 x 52.1 cm) Rubin Museum of Art C2006.66.509 (HAR 977)

Yantras are devices used to bring about a desired effect or result. They are drawn, painted, or inscribed on paper, cloth, wood, or metal. A vast number of Indian and Tibetan texts describe and illustrate the various types of yantras and their ritual practices. Love charms and the acquisition of wealth are two of its most popular uses; protection for oneself and family and cursing and wishing malevolence on others are also popular. In the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, most deities and gods have various yantras associated with mundane worldly activities, such as the acquisition of wealth, power, long life, and subjugation. There are also many types of yantras that are not related to deities at all. The painting here is a large-format yantra specifically used in rituals for protection of person, family, or community. The backdrop of flayed human skin indicates that the type of protection being summoned is extremely fierce and possibly dangerous. Objects and rituals such as this are used and performed with caution. The many Sanskrit inscriptions reveal that the deity associated with this yantra is the horrific Buddhist protector Mah≤k≤la. On top of the flayed skin is a circular yantra. (Not all yantras are round; they can be in any shape and are generally simple in design.) In this complex yantra are four outer rings. The first is a circle of fire, followed by three inner circles of mantras and prayers in both Sanskrit and Tibetan languages written in Tibetan script. Twenty-six objects, primarily weapons, are each depicted on lotuslike petals. Inside the ring of objects is another circle of inscriptions based on the principal recitation formula of Mah≤k≤la, known as the πasama mantra, followed by the n∂ma samanta mantra of the Vajrapañjara Tantra. Inside that circle are a series of five weapon wheels. These wheels have protruding blades in the shape of shark teeth. Each ring is inscribed with mantras, as are the spaces between the blades and the wheels. The innermost structure of the yantra is enclosed in a lotus with eight petals, followed by two rings of inscriptions. The heart of the yantra is composed of two red interlocked triangles with inscriptions in gold lettering on a blue background. For purposes of protection, an individual’s name or the names of an entire family are written at the center of the yantra. For the opposite purpose, of causing harm or cursing, the victim’s name is placed in the center or alternately between the blades of the weapon wheels. For bringing two people together in a love charm, both names are written at the center. Large painted yantras such as this one are used for elaborate rituals. Small yantras can be written on paper or printed from wood block carvings and are generally worn on the body. Yantras are also commonly placed above doorways and entrances to private dwellings throughout the Himalayan regions, Tibet, and Mongolia. Jeff Watt


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Plate 37

Mandala plate, Twelve-armed Cakrasam.vara with Vajrav∂r∂hı̄

Tibet; 18th century Pigment on wood 19 x 19 in. (48.3 x 48.3 cm) Collection of Arnold Lieberman

Mandala plates such as the one depicted here are practical devices for mandala rituals. Unlike those made with colored sand, these mandala plates can instantly be laid on a flat surface and used for ritual purposes. Because they are portable, practitioners can also carry them along when traveling. This mandala is dedicated to Cakrasa≠vara, who is depicted with his partner in the center. Cakrasa≠vara is of dark-blue color and his partner Vajrav≤r≤h◊ is red. The couple is surrounded by four ≈∂kin∑s on lotus petals pointing in the cardinal directions (blue in the east, yellow in the south, red in the west, and green in the north). On the lotus petals between the ≈∂kin∑s are vases topped with skull cups (kap∂la), implements used in mandala rituals. Four concentric circles enclose the mandala from the outside world: lotus petals, a blue circle with vajras, a ring of flames, and eight cemeteries.

Plate 38

C∂mun.d.∂ Fierce Fire-offering Mandala

Tibet, Geluk order; 17th–18th century Opaque watercolor on cloth 24 x 18 ½ in. (61 x 47 cm) Zimmerman Family Collection Photograph by John Bigelow Taylor, NYC

This is an extremely rare mandala, a model for the preparation of a hearth in which to perform a fierce fire-offering (homa, sbyin sreg) to C≤mu≥∑≤, the consort of Yama. She is represented by the skull trident and skull cup in the center of the innermost triangle. The flames of the background reflect the mansion of C≤mu≥∑≤, which is visualized in the heart of the fire god Agni, through whose fiery mouth the offerings are given to the goddess. The triangle contains an ocean of blood upon which a whole human skin supports a mandala mansion made of skeletons and adorned with intestinal garlands and impaled humans on its gates. Within the mansion is a circle of fire around a triangle of fire, which contains the calm inner triangle where the goddess in symbol form stands on her sun disk.


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2 3

4 5

For an outline of the content of Dunhuang wall paintings see: Dunhuang yanjiu yuan , eds. Dunhuang shiku neirong zonglu . Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 1996. On the Tibetan occupation see: Ma De . Tufan tongzhi Dunhuang chuqi de ji ge wenti (Several Problems Regarding the Early Period of Tibetan Rule of Dunhuang) Dunhuang Yanjiu 1987, 1: 58–61; and Ma De “Shazhou xian Fan niandai zai tan” . (Further discussion of when Shazhou Fell into Tibetan Hands) Dunhuang yanjiu 1985, 3: 98–105. On the stages of the Tibetan occupation in particular see: Fan Jinshi and Zhao Qinglan . “Tufan zhanling shiqi Mogaoku dong ku de fenchao yanjiu” (Stages of Tibetan Occupation Period Caves at Dunhuang). Dunhuang Yanjiu 1994, 4: 76–89. Translated by Tanaka in Gies/Cohen 1995: 402. According to Tanaka (ibid.) this composition in which Avalokite√vara is surrounded by Hayagr◊va, Ekaja≤, and Bhku◊ resembles the Five Deities of Amoghap≤√a as they are known in Tibet. The mandala of the Five Deities of Amoghap≤√a has Avalokite√vara at the center with the other four deities Amoghap≤√a, Hayagr◊va, Ekaja≤, and Bhku◊ on the four sides, or otherwise Amoghap≤√a is in the center and on the sides and Amogh≤∏ku√a “the unfailing hook” Hayagr◊va, Ekaja≤, and Bhku◊; there are large numbers of rituals found in the Tibetan Tripiaka. In the four corners are represented female offering deities Dhup≤ (incense), Pu∂p≤ (flower), ≈lok≤ (lamp) and Gandh≤ (perfume). These are the four deities of the external offerings belonging to a group of eight offering deities mentioned in the Stein manuscript. This positioning, where Pu∂p≤ is in the southeast, Dhup≤ in southwest is the opposite of the one given in the Diamond Realm (vajradh∂tu), but agrees with the mandala that relates to the Prajñ∂p∂ramit∂naya S∏tra. However, the iconography of this painting does not offer any more analogies with these texts then those offered here (ibid.). Amy Heller (1999: 39), offers a slightly different identification of the deities: Amoghap≤√a, Hayagr◊va, Mah≤bala, a four-armed Avalokite√vara as a precursor to the most popular form in Tibet, and possibly Jambhala, citing a small animal head in his turban. Heller 1999: 39–40, 48. This painting is consistent with dated later period Tibetan occupation caves and paintings found at Dunhuang (800– 848), or the late Tang when those patterns were continued for some time, therefore the dating of this painting on stylistic grounds would be more consistent with the 9th century; the Tibetans take Dunhuang in 781, and evidence for a new visual idiom such as we see here does not appear until the early 800s. There are preserved in the Dunhuang library cave several letters between the king of Khotan and the Cao family in Tibetan which also date to the 10th century, which further shed light on the continuation of the role of Tibetan culture in the Hexi area long after the collapse of its dynasty (See Uray 1981: 81-90 and Huang Shengzhang . “Guanyu Shazhou Caoshi he Yutian jiaowang de zhu Zangwen wenshu ji xiangguan wenti” . (On the Tibetan Correspondence Written to Each other by the Cao Family of Shazhou and the King of Khotan). Dunhuang Yanjiu 1992, 1: 35–43). Late Tang caves (848–906) at Dunhuang after the Chinese retake the oasis site continue this “Tibetan” idiom, as can be seen in Cave 14. For an even later 10th-century





9 10 11

12 13




17 18

example of the continuation of this same visual vocabulary see a painted wooden st∏pa reliquary case excavated at Anxi Yulin now in the Gansu Provincial Museum. See Li Jian 2003, Fig. 58. This painting had been dated by the Musée Guimet to the tenth century, but more recently reattributed to the ninth century. See: De la Serinde a l’Extrême Orient, p. 396, and Giès 1996: 71–72. However strong decorative links in the unusual crowns, halos, and offerings depicted in Plate 46 in Giès (1995), a painting that can be more convincingly dated to the end of the 10th century by the inscribed donor figures, keeps this dating open to question. This painting appears to be related to contemporary Dunhuang manuscript nos. 280 to 284 recovered in the same cave; however, it is not possible to establish a direct connection with this painting and these texts. De la Serinde a l’Extrême Orient, p. 396. Specifically it does not correspond to the mandala of the Diamond Realm (vajradh∂tu) of Chinese esoteric Buddhism. De la Serinde a l’Extrême Orient, p. 397. De la Serinde a l’Extrême Orient, p. 398. Tsuda, 1974 XVII: 36–45. As Tsuda notes, the 13th-century Sakyapa scholar Buton (Bu ston Rin chen grub, 1290–1364), commenting on the Sa∞varodaya, reverses the relationship of vajrapañjara and charnel grounds on the basis of the understanding of his time. No wonder that in Tibetan depictions the charnel grounds are sometimes represented inside and sometimes outside the vajra and fire-circles. de Mallmann, 1986: 52, 188; Chandra, 1999: 695–99. She holds a bow and arrow in one pair of hands while the other pair performs the gesture of fearlessness (abhayamudr∂) and holds the stem of a red lotus. Except for the gesture with the second right hand, her iconography follows the descriptions in the S∂dhanam∂l∂ (no. 129 and 131; de Mallmann 1986: 143–44). I have not found a description corresponding to this image. The goddess appears to hold a rosary and a book in the upper hands. The lower left hand holds something unidentified between index finger and thumb, and the right appears to perform some kind of vajramudr∂. T≤r≤ images are of a very similar iconography, but performing varadamudr∂ with the lower right hand and holding the blue lily (utpala) in the lower left hand are common features in the Alchi group of monuments. For depictions in the Alchi Sumtsek, see Goepper and Poncar 1996: 59, 63–65, 72 (the two upper flanking T≤r≤, details 81, 84, 85). They also make clear that the hand that is supposed to hold the blue lily is often held in the manner shown here. On the difficulty of identifying the Alchi T≤r≤s, see Chandra 2007: 72–77. On Dhanada T≤r≤, see Donaldson 2001: 252–54. With her right hands she performs the gesture of venerating the Tath≤gata (tath∂gata vandan∂ or vandan∂bhinayamudra), holds a bouquet of jewels, and performs the gesture of giving (varadamudr∂). With the left hands she holds the Prajñ≤p≤ramit≤ book, an ear of rice, and a vase of plenty. Her depiction conforms to the Vasusu∞dharoddeπa as summarized in de Mallmann 1986: 141–42, where the goddess is in the center of a mandala. Leidy and Thurman 1997: no. 13. I gratefully acknowledge Eva Allinger for her efforts to find comparative manuscript illuminations and for sharing her opinions and photographs. The three goddesses of the same iconography are Kurukull≤ on f. 152v, Vasudh≤r≤ on f. 159r, and Cund≤ on f. 178v.


Pal, Pratapaditya. Art of the Himalayas: Treasures from Nepal and Tibet, Cat. No. 33, p.70, 192. 20 Pal, Pratapaditya. Art of the Himalayas: Treasures from Nepal and Tibet, Cat. No. 33, p.70. See also Pal, The Arts of Nepal: Painting, 1975, p.75–76; Pal 1992b: 38 Fig. 4; Leidy and Thurman 1997: 74–75; Huntington and Bangdel 2003: 76–77. 21 Pal, Pratapaditya. Art of the Himalayas: Treasures from Nepal and Tibet, Cat. No. 33, p.70. 22 I have noticed these types some years ago (see Luczanits 2001: 125–145) and have written more extensively about them in an article that is still in press. Independently, correct identifications have been suggested by Jeff Watt and in the case of one thangka in The Circle of Bliss (Huntington 2003: no. 16). In both cases the organization of the thangka’s iconographic program has not been fully understood. 23 See the fascinating introduction to the Vajradh≤tu Mandala by David L. Snellgrove (1981). 24 Pal 1997: no. 40. 25 In Huntington and Bangdel 2003: 105–07, the authors discuss the assembly in greater detail. Apparently a mantra on the back of the thangka refers to the Sarvadurgatipari√odhana Mandala, but the authors also note that the deities are closer to the Vajradh≤tu and that the characteristic deities of the Sarvadurgatipari√odhana Mandala are missing here. Nevertheless, the deities at throne height are not correctly identified in their description. 26 The iconographic details of the Vajradh≤tu Mandala deities are taken from the standard description in ≈nandagarbha’s commentary to the Sarvatath∂gatatattvasa∞graha tantra (STTS). 27 Vajrakarma has a white face, from below the face to the waist he is bright red, around the waist he is green, the upper arms and thighs are bright green, and the lower arms and legs are bright yellow. 28 According to the text, he is supposed to press a vajra placed between (nang du) the two samaya-fists, and in most cases the hands are close together in front of the body with or without the vajra actually depicted. 29 Kossak and Singer 1998: 23a–c. All the deities on this set are identified by captions, but the transcriptions of these have not been published with the paintings; they will, however, be included in my forthcoming article, Luczanits 2003. The set has already been published in Tibetan Arts by Shuli Han et al., (Taibei Shi: Yi shu jia chu ban she) 1995: figs. 288–90. These photographs, taken in Tibet, show the condition of the thangkas before restoration. 30 We may well see here a reflection of the inclusion of a form of Mañju√r◊, namely Vajrat◊k∂≥a, in the padma family of the Vajradh≤tu Mandala. Vajrat◊k∂≥a, too, holds a sword and a book but is commonly represented in blue. 31 The association of Buddha Ratnasambhava with deities of wealth appears to go back ultimately to concepts expressed in the Sarvatath∂gatattvasa∞graha (STTS), where rituals to this family (oddly mingled with the Karma family of Amoghasiddhi) are exclusively concerned with gaining wealth and good fortune (cf. Snellgrove’s Introduction to the STTS). Would the direction guide their placement, they would be found on the bottom of the Amoghasiddhi thangka, as at least some of them are supposed to live in the north, with Vai√rava≥a the king of the north and Kubera the dikp∂la. 32 The goddess and her name most likely refer to a deity like Dh�mavat◊, the “Smoky” Mah≤vidy≤ goddess. The common translation of her name as “Vet≤l◊,” a female cemetery spirit, seems as much a misunderstanding or reinterpreta-

33 34



tion as the variant spelling bDud sol ma, “Dispel the M≤ra!” used for one of the twelve T≤r≤s of the Karmapa School. Jeff Watt ( html). This tapestry appeared in the Taipei venue of the Wisdom and Compassion exhibition in 1998. See Rhie and Thurman 1998: Cibei zhihui: cang zhuan fojiao yishu dadian, Taipei. The root texts are said to be the ∫yra aparimit∂yurjñ∂nan∂ma mah∂y∂na S∏tra and the ∫yra aparimit∂yurjñ∂na h√dayan∂ma Dh∂raΩi. See Musashi Tachikawa and Green 1983, Vol. II, Fig. 10. Ibid., Vol. II, Fig. 10, where the names are written as a single compound word, i.e., Vairocan≤mit≤yus, Vajr≤mit≤yus, etc. Though the mandala of this iconography is rare, there is one dating to ca. 13th–14th century formerly in the Halpert collection made of metal in the form of a lotus whose petals open to reveal the images. See Leidy and Thurman 1997, No. 19.

37 38

Ibid., Nos. 14 and 26. These eight auspicious symbols are seen in earlier form in the two mandalas painted on wood from Khara Khoto of ca. late 12th century, where they also appear in circles, two accompanying each gate. See Piotrovsky 1993:144–145. 39 For parallels in the tapestries (kesi) of Central Asia of ca. 13th century, see Watt and Wardwell 1997: Nos. 13,17,18. 40 See Heller 1997: Fig. 4. 41 For example, a tapestry with teaching a Buddha, two Bodhisattvas, Kubera, Vai√rava≥a, Mah≤k≤la, etc., in the Chris Hall Collection Trust now on loan to the Asian Civilizations Museum in Singapore. See Welch 2008: Fig. 436. 42 The renowned Sakya Pa≥∑ita was the first of the famous Tibetan lamas to have a “priest-patron” relation with a powerful Mongol ruler (Godan Khan) in the mid-13th century, to be followed by his nephew and great Sakya lama Phagpa in a similar and even more influential relation with Kublai Khan in the second half of the 13th century.


44 45 46

47 48 49 50

For an example, see Watt and Wardwell 1997: No. 31, which also has a similar color blue as some of the brocades used in this Amit≤yus Mandala. Ibid., No. 59. Henss 1997. See for example Lokesh Chandra 1986. This form of the Amit≤yus Mandala is said to go back to the Mah≤siddha Jet≤ri. Vira and Chandra 1995: 150 (#10 of the rGyud sde kun btus) and Jeff Watt cfm/553.html). On the different forms of Hevajra, see Willson and Brauen 2000. Linrothe 2006: 5, 190–93. On this development see Luczanits 2006. Linrothe, 2006.

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INNER MANDALA: THE PERSON © Arnoldsche Art Publishers

ANALOGY BETWEEN PERSON AND COSMOS The theory of structural correlations and parallels among all things, in particular the universe, the mandala, and the human body is especially well developed in the K∂lacakra Tantra (Figs. 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4). The K∂lacakra Tantra, Tantra of the Wheel of Time, speaks of three closely interwoven levels, the so-called outer, inner, and other wheels of time. The outer wheel of time comprises the outward appearances of the whole human environment, i.e., the universe with its element disks, Mount Meru, the winds, and rhythm of time. The inner K≤lacakra is made up of those who live in this environment, human beings. They correspond exactly in composition, construction, and inner periodicity to the outer wheel of time. The other K≤lacakra is the teaching of these analogies and correlations as well as the resulting yoga practice — a kind of spiritual judo (Berzin). We make use of the powers in the outer and inner wheels of time instead of opposing them. The outer and inner K≤lacakra have many similarities (Fig. 4.1). The conspicuous head-shape above the

K≤lacakra universe is equivalent to the human head; the greatest horizontal spread of the universe corresponds to the maximum height of the world — just as in the human being the distance between the fingertips of the two hands outstretched to the side matches the total height of the body (four cubits); the four superimposed disks of the elements make up half the height of the universe, which corresponds in the human body to the span between feet and hipbones; Mount Meru coincides with the human spine, a correspondence Tucci has also pointed out,1 and the tracks of the planetary winds correspond in the upper part of the body to the lungs, and therefore to the most important winds in a person, which in Tantrism – and thus in the mandala ritual too – must be purified and brought under control.2 Further correlations exist between the human body and the K≤lacakra Mandala. If one projects a person into a drawing of the palace that forms the center of the K≤lacakra Mandala, the lowest part of the palace, the so-called body realm of the mandala (body mandala) coincides with the legs, the middle realm (speech mandala) with the trunk — especially the chest and





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4.1 Structural correspondences between K≤lacakra universe and human body. Drawing by Peter Nebel and Pema Namdol Thaye


4.2 Man and K∂lacakra cosmos, detail 72 4⁄5 x 19 ½ in. (182 x 48 cm) Private Collection Courtesy of Fabio Rossi, London


















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4.3 Structural correspondences between human body and K≤lacrakra Mandala palace. Drawing by Andreas Brodbeck and Pema Namdol Thaye

lungs — and the mind mandala with the head. In addition, it is clear in Figure 4.3 that the distance between the shoulders correlates with the extent of the mind realm, the distance between the elbows with the extent of the speech realm, and the distance between the right and left fingertips with the extent of the body realm. It deserves particular mention that the point between the eyebrows, which plays an important role in meditational practices of the highest yoga class, coincides exactly to the center of the mind mandala. This is the realm in the center of which the two highest mandala deities, K≤lacakra and Vi√vam≤t, stand.


4.4 Structural correspondences between K≤lacakra universe and mandala palace. Drawing by Andreas Brodbeck and Pema Namdol Thaye

The existence of a relationship between architecture and the person — at least the divine person, or cosmic man — is an ancient Indian idea that also receives attention in the construction of an Indian temple.3 The v∂stumaΩ≈ala that determines the plan of an Indian temple represents the vastupuru�a, the celestial person. His body, lying face down, forms the foundation of the temple; his limbs and the vital points of his body are occupied by forty-five deities. In the construction of the temple, therefore, the different deities congregate in a single, ordered being, the v∂stumaΩ≈ala.4

To return to the K≤lacakra tradition, further analogies come to light when the universe and mandala palace are projected one on top of the other (Fig. 4.4). The disks of the four elements (the fifth element, space, does not appear here as it displays no vertical extension) correspond to the realm of the body mandala; to Mount Meru, with its orbiting winds and the planets riding on them to the speech level; and finally to the cosmic head and the heavens, and the realm of the mind in the mandala.5 The height of the palace is the same as the width of the palace base (inside measurement, not counting the entrance gates; both

are 32 arm-spans, about 60 meters, or 65.6 yards), just as the height of the cosmos is equal to its width. The same goes for the lowest disk of the cosmos (air) and the body mandala (inside measurement); for the fire disk and the plinth in the body mandala; and for the water disk and the speech mandala (inside measurement), while the earth disk correlates with the uppermost realm of the mandala – the mind mandala (inside measurement). Finally, the diameter of the summit region of Mount Meru equals the extent of the cube within the mind mandala.




right channel

center channel

left channel WATER / white / semen 1




The universe and the human body, according to the K≤lacakra tradition, do not only agree outwardly, i.e., in their structure, but display many more subtle correlations. The mandala palace consists of several levels: those of the body, speech, and mind, the last of which is again divided into two. This division, as we shall see below, also applies to the person.

According to the Tantric conception, 72,000 invisible channels (n∂≈∑; rtsa)8 run through the body. Through these flow energy-laden winds (pr∂Ωa or v∂yu; rlung). Winds and wind or energy channels count as the most important components of the person on the level of speech. Two of the three main channels lie left and right of the spine, respectively; the third, the central one, is slightly in front. The central channel (dbu ma)9 runs from the genitals through the middle of the body to the crown of the head, where it bends forward a little and ends between the eyes. The left, white channel (rkyang ma)10 extends from the left nostril to a finger-breadth below the bottom end of the central channel, while the right, red channel (ro ma)11 correspondingly runs down the body from the right nostril. The left channel is related to the moon, the right to the sun. The central channel is associated in its region above the navel with the eclipse planet R≤hu (the Howler) and in its lower part with the eclipse planet K≤l≤gni (Fire of Time). On the other hand, R≤hu and K≤l≤gni are identified with the ascending and descending nodes of the moon’s orbit — which intersect with the track of the sun 180 degrees apart. In India, from the early eleventh century, R≤hu and K≤l≤gni were regarded as planets.12 The six cakras13 or lotus flowers (padma), already mentioned, are located at certain points along the central n∂≈∑ (Fig. 4.6). According to the K≤lacakra tradition, these power centers are found at the level of the sexual organs, the navel, the heart, the throat, the forehead, and the crown. Normally the power centers are portrayed as lotus flowers. The number of petals each has depends on the energy channels joining the relevant cakra. At the height of each cakra, the left wind channel coils round the central channel clockwise, the right counterclockwise. According to the K≤lacakra tradition, this severely, but not completely, hinders the free flow of wind in the central channel.14 If we follow the explanations of the First Dalai Lama, Gedun Drub,15 the three

BODY For the Buddhist, each individual consists of five transitory aggregates (skandha) combined with one another in mutual interrelation. These are forms, feelings, perceptions, mental factors, and consciousness. In the K≤lacakra tradition, as a rule, a sixth skandha is added, deep awareness (wisdom). The five elements — space, air, fire, water, and earth — are further components (or constituents) of the person. Deep awareness (great bliss) may be included as a sixth.6 Aggregates as well as elements belong to the level of the body. In the K≤lacakra Mandala and in the mandala initiation (the seven basic initiations) the aggregates and elements are assigned definite symbols and directions. Their positions in the mandala are set out in Appendix Table 4. This makes it clear that the human body can be understood as a mandala. The aggregates and elements of the human body can also be arranged vertically, as each is linked to the six cakras that lie along the body’s central axis. In addition, the limbs and joints, which also belong to the body level, can be assigned to particular directions. Here let us simply note that the limbs and joints of the left half of the body are linked to the cardinal directions (with the male deities of the mandala), and those of the right half to the intermediate directions (with the female deities).7



SPACE / green / wind FIRE / red / blood

navel chakra

4.5 Attempt at a pictorial representation of the three principal channels above and below the navel cakra. Water, space, and air are regarded as belonging to the male side; fire, earth, and wisdom to the female side. 1 According to Mullin (1985a: 163), 'male fluids'. Data on the fluids according to Hopkins (1985: 113). A certain similarity with the liquids of the inner offering should not be overlooked; there, however, urine is found in the north and bone marrow in the east. Gnoli and Orofino (1994: 272) present a different diagram that does not match the text of the First Dalai Lama as used here. According to Gnoli and Orofino, the left channel (moon) forks to the center (excrement) below the navel cakra; the right channel (sun) forks to the left (urine), and the middle channel (Rah�), to the right (semen).

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main channels appear to form a mandala and are divided into an upper part, from navel to crown, and a lower part, from navel to genitals or anus. Taking into account the colors, elements, and directions mentioned and assigned by the First Dalai Lama, the following picture emerges (Fig. 4.5). The scheme of three or six main channels is instructive in two respects. It makes it clear once again that in Tantric Buddhism the human body is perceived as a mandala; at the same time it provides a key to a better understanding of the K≤lacakra Mandala. In the mandala a red deity invariably forms a pair with a white one; a black one with a yellow one; and a green one with a blue one. The reason becomes clear when we look at the diagram. Only equal, or complementary, partners can form a sensible couple,16 for instance the upper left and upper right channels. The result is the following color combinations: red and white (upper left–upper right); yellow and black (lower left–lower right); and green and blue (upper central–lower central).17


EARTH / yellow / excrement WISDOM / blue / semen AIR / black / urine


The winds pulsating in the channels serve as a vehicle or carrier for the components of consciousness and, in general, enable all mental and bodily processes. Thus the downward-emptying wind controls the movement of white and red bodhicitta (male and female “drops”),18 urine and excrement; the fire-accompanying wind separates nutrients from the unusable components and kindles the inner fire (gtum mo); the life-holding wind maintains the flow through the nose, etc.19 In Tantric Buddhism the winds are regarded as contributory causes of cyclic existence but at the same time contain the seeds of enlightenment. That is why the yoga of the mandala ritual sets great store on understanding the importance of the winds, purifying them, and using them in a positive sense, that is, to attain enlightenment. According to the K≤lacakra system, there exist in a human being ten principal winds20, which are related to the elements and the directions21 and are arranged mandala-fashion in the human body (Appendix Table 5).




4-petaled lotus

16-petaled lotus

32-petaled lotus

8-petaled lotus

crown cakra: wheel of great bliss

brow cakra: wheel of wind

throat cakra: wheel of enjoyment

heart cakra: wheel of phenomena

© Arnoldsche Art Publishers 64-petaled lotus

navel cakra: wheel of production

32-petaled lotus 1

sexual cakra 2 : wheel of preservation of bliss

4.6 The inner K∂lacakra Private Collection Courtesy of Fabio Rossi, London Detail from a scroll with eight paintings that depict the outer and inner aspects of K≤lacakra. Thought to have been painted under the direction of the Eighth Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje (1507-1554). This painting depicts the inner K≤lacakra: the body together with its channels and centers. Some of the main winds are also described here. A total of 72,000 channels and centers are represented as they are considered to exist within the body. Branching off from the vertical central channel are six centers (cakra; ’khor lo) of minor channels. These are associated with the various elements and have different numbers of minor channels, or channel-petals (rtsa ’dab). They also have colors associated with them, depending on the element: Crown - space - green - 4 Forehead - water - white - (4) - 8 - 16 Throat - fire - red - (4) - 8 - 32 Heart - wind - black - 4 - 8 Navel - earth - yellow - 4 - 8 - 12/16 - 64 Genitals - awareness - blue - 6 - 10 - 16 The sets of numbers above indicate the branching of the channel-petals. For example, at the genital center, six channels branch from the central channel. Four of these each split into two, making a total of ten intermediate channel-petals. Of these ten, six split into two, making a total of sixteen outer channelpetals. In the painting, however, the channels of the genital center do not quite fit this description, although the other centers do match the expected numbers. The number four is bracketed twice because some descriptions give those centers eight branching channel-petals instead of four. In addition to these main centers, the painting also depicts the twelve centers in the main joints (shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles) and the minor centers in the knuckles of the fingers and toes. These all constitute the indestructible aspect of the body. The centers of the three joints of the left leg are associated with the element of earth, those of the right leg with water, those of the left arm with fire, and those of the right arm with wind. Each of the fingers and toes consist of three knuckles each, with each knuckle – the joints of the fingers and toes – having its own minor center. The thumb and big toe are associated with the element of earth, the first finger and first toe with water, then fire, wind, and space respectively for the successive fingers and toes. The centers are those places where channels are grouped together and where the winds are actively moving. Wind changes are considered to take place at regular intervals, generally moving in one channel for a period of time and then changing to another, and are correlated in various ways with changes in the external physical world — the most important of which is the rising of the different signs of the zodiac. In the navel center the twelve intermediate channel-petals shown are associated with the twelve ascendants. Starting at the front (at the bottom of this image) the first channel at right is Aries, then Gemini (odd signs). The first at left is Taurus, which is visibly labeled (glang) in the middle of the lower part of the image, followed by Cancer, and so forth (even signs). The joint of the right shoulder is associated with Capricorn, the right elbow with Pisces, and the wrist with Taurus. The equivalent joints of the left arm are associated with Aquarius, Aries, and Gemini. Notice that the channels following the length of the arm are of different colors, indicating their association with the different elements. The signs associated with the three different rows of knuckles of the right arm are the same signs associated with the main joints of the left arm: the first (inner) row of knuckles with Aquarius, the middle row with Aries, and the outer row with Gemini. The left hip is associated with Leo, the knee with Libra, and the ankle with Sagittarius. The writing at the bottom associates these same signs with the rows of toe knuckles of the left foot. The equivalent joints of the right leg and toes are associated respectively with Cancer, Virgo, and Scorpio. The forehead center is clearly visible with its sixteen channel-petals (only fourteen are drawn here). Above is the crown center with four channels, in the middle of which can be seen an upside-down syllable “ha≠,” which represents the white element, or bodhicitta (byang sems). Edward Henning 1 This is generally referred to as the cakra in the private parts; in this publication the term “sexual cakra” is used. ² According to Mullin (1985: 164) there are eight lotus petals in the center of the sexual organs, and thirty-two at the anus.





Outer K∂lacakra (macrocosm) 1 year = 12 month = 1 month

= 360 days = 30 days = 1 day

= 21,600 (360 x 60) n∂≈∑ = 1,800 (360 x 5) n∂≈∑ = 60 ( 5 x 12) n∂≈∑

Inner K∂lacakra (microcosm) 1 day = 12 shifts of breath = 60 (5 x 12) n∂≈∑ = 1 shifts of breath = 5 n∂≈∑ = 1 n∂≈∑

= 21,600 (360 x 60) breaths 1 = 1,800 (360 x 5) breath = 60 ( 5 x 12) breath

Table 3 Correspondence of outer K≤lacakra (cosmos) and inner K≤lacakra (person), as regards time units.

mandala.25 Appendix Tables 6 and 7 seek to illustrate these relationships. A fourth level, or rather a sublevel of the mind realm, is that of great bliss, with the aggregate of deep awareness (symbolized by a vajra) and the element of deep awareness (symbolized by a bell), which are both related to the fourth initiation and the center of the mandala.

Buddha body, the pure diamond Buddha speech, the pure diamond Buddha mind, and the pure diamond Buddha bliss.32 Thus despite their impurities and supposed imperfections, at all times the drops also contain the nucleus of enlightenment.


According to the K∂lacakra Tantra, a person originates analogous to the deities of a mandala. The consciousness of a person who has died, (symbolized by the syllable HŪΩ) and, serving as a vehicle, the wind (represented by the syllable HI),33 upon sight of a couple making love enter by the man’s mouth or crown and reach his penis and from there the woman’s womb. There they get between a red bodhicitta drop from the mother and a white bodhicitta drop from the father. Blood from the mother and sperm from the father, as well as the consciousness of the new being ready for rebirth and the wind that serves it as a vehicle, mix to form the indestructible drop of the heart center, which is about the size of a mustard seed and symbolized by the syllable HAΩ; all of this is the prerequisite for a new body. Later, during the process of maturation, part of the white bodhicitta ascends from the heart center into the central channel in the crown cakra, from where it can spread into the whole body, while part of the red bodhicitta descends in the central channel into the navel center and from there is responsible for the increase of red bodhicitta.34 As long as the child is in the womb, it remains unacquainted with the four states of waking, dream, deep sleep, and ecstatic bliss. Not until shortly before birth, when the body is fully formed — though the ten principal winds still rest motionless in the central channel — is the baby awakened by the songs of the four goddesses or female buddhas (Appendix Table 18):35 at this moment the winds of these goddesses penetrate into the womb and activate the winds of the fetus.36 The four goddesses cause certain

1 According to Hopkins 1985: 114ff; Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 308ff.

If the ten winds are arranged according to their directions, the result is a simple mandala, which corresponds to the inner and highest part of the K≤lacakra Mandala (Appendix Table 5) and is used in the third mandala initiation (Appendix Tables 8, 20). The first eight winds correspond to the eight goddesses (πakti )22 who surround the divine couple K≤lacakra and Vi√vam≤t, while the last two are related to the center and coincide with the goddess Vi√vam≤t. However, the correspondences between the outer world (universe) and the inner world (person) go still further. The twelve months and the twelve signs of the zodiac correspond – in the course of a human life – to the twelve shifts of the breath (’pho ba) in a span of twenty-four hours, a complete day-night unit (Table 3).23 Just as there are months in which the day waxes and gets longer and some in which it decreases, so too, according to the Tantric Buddhist view, there is a comparable change of the breath within a day. In one half of the day the breath flows predominantly through the right nostril, in the other mainly through the left. In this way the breath flows mainly through the right energy channel related to the sun, and at other times it flows mainly through the left channel, which is assigned to the moon.


In one shift of the breath a person makes 1,800 breaths, also described as karmic (inner) wind, so that in one day one breathes in and out 21,600 times (12 x 1,800). Each of the twelve groups of 1,800 winds must be purified one by one in the completion stage. Winds determine outer as well as inner processes. While the outer winds develop through collective karma, the inner ones are formed through individual, that is personal, karma. The ten principal winds that pulsate in the right or left channels correspond in the outer K≤lacakra to the winds around Mount Meru, on which the ten planets24 ride through the twenty-seven constellations or lunar mansions in the northern and southern zodiac.

In the K∂lacakra Tantra four states of human existence are differentiated: waking, dreaming, deep sleep, and ecstasy, states in which the human energy winds are concentrated in so-called drops (thig le) in the cakras (Fig. 4.7).26 In the waking state, which brings forth appearances of the objects of the five sense organs, the energy winds of the upper part of the body are gathered in a drop in the brow cakra,27 the so-called body drop.28 In the dream state, which gives rise to syllables, words, speech, and so forth — which is why the drop belonging to it is called the speech or dream drop — the upper body winds are in the throat cakra.29 In the two remaining states the shift of the winds to lower cakras continues: in the state of deep sleep, with its mind or deep sleep drop, in which the consciousness is developed, the upper winds concentrate in the heart cakra,30 and finally, in the state of sexual ecstasy they slip into the second lowest center, the navel cakra.31 The corresponding drop is called the drop of deep awareness. Since the winds gathered in the cakras contain impurities, appearances at the body, speech, mind, and bliss levels are sullied (impure appearances of objects, impure sounds, impure mind, and impure orgasmic bliss). The mediator should gradually purify these soilings and create empty forms, empty sounds, nonconceptual clear mind, and immutable great bliss, with which ultimately — in the last phases of the so-called generation stage — are attained the pure diamond

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MIND According to the concepts of Tantric Buddhism, besides the realms of body and speech, the person possesses distinct mind components: six sense powers (or faculties) and six sense objects, as well as six action faculties and six actions (or activities), which on the basis of the symbols attributed to them in the fifth and sixth initiations can be arranged in the form of a





4.7 The Inner K∂lacakra Private Collection Courtesy of Fabio Rossi, London Detail from a scroll with eight paintings that depict the outer and inner aspects of K≤lacakra. Thought to have been painted under the direction of the Eighth Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje (1507–1554). This second painting depicting the inner K≤lacakra is more complex than the first Figure 4.6. It gives astrological correspondences, both with the zodiac and lunar mansions as well as some other divisions of time. It also shows the positions of the main winds that move in the various channels. Unfortunately, much of the writing on this image is illegible. The first thing to notice is that this painting shows the three main channels: the central channel (madhyama; dbu ma), the red rasan∂ (ro ma) on the right, and the white lalan∂ (rkyang ma) on the left. The central channel is normally considered to be either green or blue – which color is intended here is unclear. In the meditation practices, the rasan∂ and lalan∂ are considered to be straight and parallel, but in this context they twist around the central channel at the level of the centers. The text next to the left ear describes how the two channels are said to link around the central channel, at the middle of the heart, throat, forehead, and crown centers. The red rasan∂ and the white lalan∂s reach up to the top of the head and then bend down to reach the point between the eyebrows. Also indicated on the painting is the association of the four channels of the crown center with the four junctures (prahara; thun mtshams) of a day and the sixteen channels of the forehead center with the sixteen lunar days (tshes pa, tithi). The writing by the throat center indicates the association of the 32 channels of that center with the 28 lunar mansions (nak�atra; rgyu skar) together with four danda constellations (elsewhere, the other four channels are said to be empty). In the image are also shown the centers in the joints for instance: those of the right shoulder and elbow. Essentially the same information is given here as in the previous painting, although it is expressed a little differently. The 30 channels of the right shoulder are associated with the 30 lunar days of the month of M≤gha (mchu’i zla), during which the sun leaves the sign of Capricorn. The 30 channels of the elbow are associated with the lunar days of the month of Caitra (nag pa’i zla), during which the sun leaves the sign of Pisces. And so on for the rest of the main joints. The winds that move in the eight channels of the heart center are arranged with east to the bottom, and so, going in a clockwise direction from the point of view of this image, the winds are, together with the elements associated with them: E: SE: S: SW: W: NW: N: NE:

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sam∂nav∂yu (mnyam gnas) – wind ud∂nav∂yu (gyen rgyu) – fire vyanav∂yu (khyab byed) – water n∂gav∂yu (klu) – awareness k∏rmav∂yu (rus sbal) – wind k√ikarav∂yu (rtsangs pa) – fire devadattav∂yu (lhas byin) – water dhananjayav∂yu (nor rgyal) – earth

There are considered to be ten main winds, and of the other two, pr∂Ωav∂yu (srog, space) moves in the central channel above the navel, and ap∂nav∂yu (thur sel, earth) in the central channel below the navel. These are the main places where these winds are considered to exist. In fact, all ten winds are considered to permeate the whole body. The lower extension of the lalan∂ is yellow and extends to reach the anus. It is here called the “channel of feces.” The lower extension of the rasan∂ is black and is here called the “channel of urine.” Joining it in reaching to the genitals is the lower extension of the central channel, known as the πa∞khin∑ (dung can ma); this is blue in color and is here also called the “channel of semen.” Edward Henning 4.7





winds to abandon the blissful state in the central channel and leave the body. In the final stage of meditation this process must be reversed and the winds brought under control. These winds leave the body from the heart via the navel cakra, the two side channels, and both nostrils. The newborn begins to breathe at this moment, and at the same time the sense organs take up their functions, namely the six kinds of consciousness that ride on the above-mentioned winds (consciousness of the mind, hearing, smell, sight, taste, and touch); take possession of their objects; and bring them back as sensory impressions into the navel cakra and into the central wind-channel, a process that will be activated again in meditation. With the beginning of the sense functions the child attains the six action faculties (Appendix Tables 7, 8).37 Appendix Table 8 is a summary of what a person consists of according to the K∂lacakra Tantra. Body, speech, and mind realms are distinguished, as they are in the mandala palace (body, speech, and mind mandalas). Analogies exist between the development of a person and certain phases of the mandala meditation. Abiding in the womb corresponds to the phase of the supreme victorious mandala. The next phase, the moment of birth, has its parallel in the so-called yoga of supreme victorious actions (the second phase of the s∂dhana).38 There follows the ripening and movement of the two drops — semen and blood — a process analogous to the yoga of the drops (the third phase of the s∂dhana) and the subtle yoga (the fourth phase of the s∂dhana): the white, male bodhicitta rises to the crown cakra and at the age of sixteen reaches full power. The number sixteen is related to the waxing moon: in fifteen days the moon waxes, on the sixteenth day it is full, and correspondingly, according to ancient Indian tradition, at sixteen a man reaches the age of adulthood and marrying. The red, female bodhicitta, on the other hand, which after birth slowly flows down to the sexual cakra, ripens in twelve years, a phenomenon related to the sun, the twelve signs of


the zodiac, and the twelve months as well as to the fact that a woman attains sexual maturity at the age of twelve years.

DEATH OF AN INDIVIDUAL ACCORDING TO THE K≈LACAKRA TANTRA According to the K≤lacakra tradition, the process of death begins with the consciousnesses of the various senses disappearing, leaving only the mental consciousness and its related life-holding wind, both of which find their ways into the central energy channel. A consequence of the process of disappearance of the various consciousnesses is that the atoms of the individual elements no longer hold together. At death, as at the dissolution of a universe, earth dissolves into water, water into fire, fire into air, and then all of these into space and finally space into wisdom.39 The mental consciousness and the life-holding wind become completely refined and retire into the heart center. The knots in the central energy channel unravel and thus enable the white bodhicitta from the crown to flow down into the heart, to enter there the drop that is indestructible during the lifetime.40 While the white bodhicitta is sinking from the crown to the heart, the dying person perceives a pale light, “like the moon just rising from beneath the horizon, casting a pale sheen upon the sky.”41 Next the dying person sees a reddish vision, resulting from the rising of the red bodhicitta from the navel to the heart cakra, so that the white and red bodhicitta now completely enclose the indestructible drop in the heart. The dying person perceives this as total darkness, ultimately succeeded by a bright, radiant, clear light, the clear light of death.42 In this vision, like an exceedingly clear, light-colored, bright sky, the subtle consciousness and subtle wind of the deceased reveal themselves nestling in the drop in the heart cakra, previously mentioned. The state of the clear light of death is comparable to the effective, or actual, clear light, but not identical to it. The light can only be perceived by an experienced yogin or yog∑n∑

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in the completion stage. Herein lies the crucial difference between the death process and enlightenment.43 After the appearance of the clear light of death, the consciousness of the deceased and the subtle wind serving it as a vehicle leave the indestructible drop through one of the apertures of the body (e. g., the nostrils). In this phase white and red bodhicitta situated in the heart cakra also separate: the white flows downward and leaves the body by the sexual organ while

the red rises and comes out of the nostrils. According to the Buddhist view, rebirth ensues under the influence of diverse impulses or movements accumulated in previous lives, which can be described by the collective name karma. The impulses use the winds as a vehicle, and it is these very winds that after entering death cause rebirth, a cycle that only subsides after all the winds have been purified and dissolved in the yoga of the completion stage.






INTERSECTION OF UNIVERSE AND PERSON IN THE MANDALA RITUAL The essential goal in Tantric Buddhism is to cleanse the winds and the four principal drops of impurities. For this the meditator must realize emptiness while taking on an empty form. As an aid he or she creates a mandala, which shows clearly and intelligibly the correlation between the meditator’s body and the universe. This lays the foundation for conscious control of the forces operating in this holistic system. The meditator must dissolve the winds of his or her own body in a progressive process of purification by cleansing of the outer (cosmos) and inner (person) wheels of time; the winds related to the four states, the six connected with the elements as well as the six connected with the aggregates (which flow more or less uncontrolled in the left and right wind channels), must be brought to rest and directed into the central channel, where the practitioner purifies them and dissolves them in the six cakras along this channel.1 In addition, the 21,600 breaths or karmic winds and the 21,600 red, female drops and 21,600 white, male ones connected

with them are also purified. In this way the practitioner makes the last impurities vanish and attains the body, speech, and mind of a Buddha. It is possible to master and dissolve the winds, to perform the completion stage of the K≤lacakra s∂dhana only when one has attained the necessary maturity. The adept must have gone through the generation stage, thereby gaining a detailed awareness of the correspondence between outer and inner cosmos and purifying him or herself. The mandala meditation with the visualization of deities should foster this process; for whoever visualizes a deity and assumes its form — which is endowed with a high degree of purity — is close to the state in which the false view of things is abolished. In its stead the realization dawns that nothing exists of itself. By using the subtle energies and the visualization of deities, Tantric Buddhism differs from other Buddhist schools, although the final goal remains the same.




5.1 K∂lacakra deity in Yabyum position with Vi≤vam∂tr., detail Tibet; 18th century Distemper on cotton 20 15⁄16 x 20 3⁄16 in. (53.2 x 51.3 cm) Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Gift of John Goelet, 67.821 Photograph © [2009] Museum of Fine Arts, Boston The K≤lacakra (Wheel of Time) deity has black-blue skin and four faces. The front face is black and terrible, with bared fangs, the face at the back is yellow and abiding in samadhi, the right face is red and passionate, and the left face is white and tranquil. His topknot of tresses is adorned with a gem, crescent moon, and crossed vajra, and he wears gems, earrings, a necklace, bracelets, girdle, anklets, and a diadem made out of vajras. His twenty-four arms are distinguished by colors corresponding to those of his faces, and each of his hands holds a very distinctive symbol. His right leg is red and stands on the Hindu deity of love, Kama. His left leg is white and steps on white Rudra. Although several Hindu deities had been incorporated into the pantheon of Tantric Buddhism by the time of the creation of the K∂lacakra Tantra, they were often relegated to subordinate positions. K≤lacakra wears a tiger skin and a garland comprising sets of vajras. He embraces the goddess Vi√vam≤t. She, too, has four multicolored faces and eight hands. Additional deities, as well as portraits of monks, are shown along the borders. In the left corner below is depicted a monk adoring the two main deities, in front of him ritual implements.

THOUGHT AND ACTION BY ANALOGY A widespread Buddhist method consists of meditating on the opposite of what is to be attained: to achieve freedom from all bonds, you meditate on your own bondage and lack of freedom; to develop compassion, the meditator must first think about his or her greed and selfish conduct and thus create the preconditions for a change for the better. Another (Tantric) possibility lies in imitation, or thought and action by analogy, which stems from the recognition that the ultimate goal — the attainment of the mind, speech, and body of a Buddha — is fundamentally most closely bound up with a body subject to death and rebirth. For at the moment of death, as also at the full attainment of buddhahood through meditation, all the winds dissolve and the subtle consciousness manifests in its pure form, clear light. At the moment of death every individual finds him or herself for a short time in the state of clear light but is propelled by his or her own karma to leave it and search for a new existence. The goal of Tantric Buddhism is to become aware of the nature of the light and eliminate the accumulated effects of previous actions, ultimately attaining buddhahood. The latter is already latently present and therefore not basically different from the state that must be overcome. The inner kinship of all beings


forms the basis for the complicated Tantric system of analogies and correlations, and through thought and action by analogy death and rebirth eventually lead to an awareness of blissful emptiness and the attainment of an (immaterial) divine body.2 The path to buddhahood is complicated and proceeds on several levels. The practices on the lower levels only simulate the higher practices; it is thus a matter of an anticipation in analogy, a systematic rehearsal, which leads toward the actual, decisive performance on the completion stage. Thus on the generation stage (utpattikrama; bskyed rim) the yogin imagines his own existence in ever new variations as emptiness in the shape of deities, so that after this ripening he may, with the aid of special yoga practices during the completion stage (sampannakrama; rdzogs rim), make his body and mind fully divine, that is to say be actually and completely liberated. The generation stage is an analogous understanding or simulation, an “as if”; the completion stage is the actual event and experience. For the better appreciation of the K≤lacakra Mandala ritual we shall explain below some important aspects of K≤lacakra, its chief deity (Fig. 5.1), in particular the relationship between him and the outer and inner world, so as to demonstrate the Tantric theory of interwovenness. K≤lacakra has tamed the winds, and has thereby succeeded in preventing the white, male bodhicitta and the red, female bodhicitta from

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leaving the body. He can thus retain the state of supreme bliss. This ability is symbolized by his posture; K≤lacakra’s outstretched right, red leg indicates the flowing down of the red bodhicitta, while the bent left, white leg symbolizes the hooking up of the white bodhicitta. K≤lacakra stands with each foot on a deity, symbolizing that — as buddhahood made form — he controls the karmic winds in the right and left channels and guides them into the central channel. This wind channel is symbolized by the body of the deity, whose blue color stands for profound wisdom. His two legs also symbolize the two halves of a year, as well as the two halves of a day, during which the breath flows mainly either through the right or left nostril. K≤lacakra’s three necks — black (center), red (right), and white (left) — symbolize the three most important channels in the person, as well as the three groups of four time periods or four shifts of breath, depicted by the deity’s four faces. The six collarbones correspond — in the outer wheel of time — to the six seasons of the year (spring, hot season, rainy season, autumn/harvest, early winter, and late winter/thaw), as well as to the six watches of the day and night. The twelve shoulders (six each on left and right) symbolize the twice-six shifts of the breath; the twenty-four arms symbolize the dark and light phases in a year (twelve waxing and twelve waning phases of the moon) and the twentyfour half-shifts of the breath. K≤lacakra’s twenty-four hands comprise 360 phalanges and finger-joints (three in each of the five fingers on the twenty-four hands). These are analogous to the 360 days of the year and, internally, to the 360 units of the day (each consisting of sixty breaths). Even the colors of each finger have a deeper significance: the yellow outside of the thumb corresponds to the element earth, the white of the index finger to water, the red of the middle finger to fire, the black of the ring finger to air, and the green of the little finger to space. The colors of the insides of the individual finger-joints symbolize the trinity mind (black), speech (red), and body (white).


TANTRIC BUDDHISM MISUNDERSTOOD: UNIO MYSTICA Like other Tantric deities, K≤lacakra holds a female partner in mutual embrace. In the West, these so-called father-mother representations (yab yum) have led to the widespread view that Tantric Buddhism is closely linked with eroticism and sexuality. Numerous books have contributed to this notion in recent years, books with significant titles such as Tantra for People of Today: Spiritual and physical development through eroticism and sexuality, Tantric Sexual Magic, Tantra, Round Dance of Perfect Desire, and so forth, in which pictures and text are devoted to sexual contact between god and goddess. On the basis of these books, the practice of maithuna, sexual intercourse of a yogin with a female partner, could be regarded as a main element in Tantric Buddhism. However, this overlooks the fact that the sexual union of a male deity, or yogin, with his partner, or of a female deity with her partner, is a symbol of unio mystica, the mystical union of wisdom, or insight into the emptiness of everything (in the form of the female deity) and method or compassion (in the form of the male deity). Sexuality is indeed openly depicted in Tantric Buddhism. This arises from the recognition that it has an important role in life; in fact it is a precondition for life and must therefore be taken into proper consideration in the system of analogies and correspondences. Body and sexuality are not denied but taken as a starting point for the attainment of the experience of emptiness. Anyone who generates a visualization undertakes a journey through a deity and in the process penetrates via the male deity’s penis (vajra, or diamond scepter) into the female deity’s vagina (padma, or lotus). This does not necessarily mean actual sexual intercourse with a partner. This path is recommended only to those driven by strong desire, while the most subtle meditation on the union of method or bliss (male principle) and wisdom or emptiness (female principle) is intended for those who have no more desire.3 In the case of an actual partner, certain qualities are

necessary. She must comply with vows and instructions, follow Tantric practices, and have received the relevant initiations.4

VISUALIZING THE BUDDHA-NATURE: DEITY YOGA “Everyone has the Buddha-nature and thus is basically fit to become enlightened as a Buddha.” 5 A Tantric practitioner strives for the source of his or her true being, wishing to experience the pure state that is often likened to a diamond (rdo rje; vajra) — solid, unbreakable, invulnerable, but also completely clear and transparent. Because of this diamond-like state of Buddha-nature that it aspires to, Tantric Buddhism is also called Vajray≤na. Buddha-nature is manifested on different levels and in different forms: as dharmap∂la, yi dam, bodhisattva, T≤r≤, or as K≤lacakra. According to his character, disposition, and destiny, a meditator selects one aspect of Buddha-nature, one divine being out of the virtually innumerable throngs of Buddha manifestations, each of which belongs to one of the five Buddha classes. These stand for the five wisdoms (Appendix Table 14), which in turn portray aspects of the mind of clear light. Once chosen, the deity becomes one’s personal protective and meditational deity. The imitation of a deity is carried out in so-called deity yoga (deva yoga; lha’i rnal ’byor), in the course of which one imagines oneself as an ideal, altruistic being, in the shape of a Buddha.6 The practitioner must prepare for the more demanding meditation of becoming a deity by means of a simpler kind of visualization. To this end he or she invites a deity to take a seat on a lotus flower in a clean place in front of him or her.7 The meditator visualizes the scene in all its details and presents the deity with offerings, for instance: water for bathing the feet and the body, clothing, ornaments, music, perfume, flowers, incense, food, and lamps. Further steps follow, in the course of which the meditator confesses his or her

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faults, takes refuge in the deity, prays, and finally cultivates the four immeasurable virtues: loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic-joy, and equanimity.8 To be able to practice the actual self-generation of deity yoga, one must have accumulated merits (for instance through innumerable prostrations and recitation of the mantra), know the basic teachings, have taken part in an initiation ceremony, feel the wish to develop in oneself bodhicitta — the thought of enlightenment, and have taken refuge in a guru and the Three Jewels. In addition, and this is particularly important, the practitioner must be under the guidance of an experienced guru. After a purifying bath the meditator takes a seat in the Vairocana position,9 with crossed legs, straight back, senses under control. Breathing steadily and cultivating the altruistic thought of enlightenment, he begins self-generation as the deity. There are then six steps to perform.10 First the practitioner meditates on the ultimate deity: the ultimate absolute, emptiness or the non-dualistic, undifferentiable suchness of the self, which is the nature of the meditator but also that of the deity he has generated in front of himself, as “All phenomena are of the same taste in their final nature, emptiness”.11 In the second step, the mind of insight into emptiness uses as a basis for generation a clear white moon disc, level with the place where the meditator wishes to appear as the deity himself. As above the moon disk the sounds of the mantra of the visualized deity vibrate above the moon disk, this is therefore called the generation of the sound deity. The third step transforms the sounds into the corresponding letters, which are strung round the edge of the moon disk; the letter deity is generated. Next, numerous light rays are emitted from the moon disk and its letters, and the end of each letter emanating a form of the meditational deity; these deities emanate clouds of offerings and clouds with nectar and bring every being what it needs. In the fourth step, the emanated deities and light rays are withdrawn back into the moon and mantra letters, which turn into the form of the deity’s being meditated on. The form deity has been generated. After blessing




certain points of the deity’s body, such as the heart, the place between the eyes, the throat, and the shoulders, with special gestures (the seal deity), the meditator invites the so-called gnosis being (jñ∂nasattva), that is the actual deity that was already present in front of him, to merge with the deity he is visualizing himself as the pledge being (samayasattva), and to be as water in water. Now the meditator has attained a clear vision of himself as the deity and feels divine pride. This is called the sign deity. The meditator must endeavor to see the divine emanation ever more clearly, by choosing certain parts of the body or adornments as objects of meditation: the face or faces, the crown on the head, the hair, the emblems – details that possess a deeper, hidden meaning. When the meditator has become the deity, he brings his breath under control so as to calm his mind, which rides on the wind, and concentrates it on a single point. He observes either the form of the mantra letters in the heart of the deity in front of him or in his own heart, or simply the sounds of the mantra, so that he may refine the meditation on emptiness in various stages, and eventually realize that even the deity’s body and mind are without inherent existence. The description of the principal deities of the K≤lacakra Mandala — K≤lacakra and Vi√vam≤t — may serve as an example of visualization:

My outstretched red right leg and bent white left leg Sport in dance on top of M∂ra and Rudra. With hundreds of such features I charm. My body is adorned with many types of amazing ornaments, Dwelling in the midst of the five stainless lights ablaze, Like the expanse of space beautified by the constellations. Facing the Supramundane Victor, Viπvam∂t√, Of saffron color has four faces and eight hands, Holding various hand-symbols, knife, skull and so forth. In the posture with left leg extended, She embraces the Supramundane Victor.12

In the center are the syllables HŪm. and HI, wind and mind. These mix together into the form of the syllable HAm. . Through its transformation I [appear as] K∂lacakra, Bearing the brilliance of sapphire and blazing with magnificence, Having four faces and twenty-four hands, the first two Holding vajra and bell symbolizing Great Bliss, Supreme and immutable, and the actuality of Emptiness, The nature devoid of [dualistic] elaborations. Holding these I embrace the Mother. The remaining hand-lotuses, right and left, are adorned With hand-symbols, sword, shield and so forth.

A common fundamental trait is evident: photism, the great importance attached to light, whether as a generative principle, as a symbol of supreme reality, or as a visible, perceptible manifestation of that reality; light from which all comes forth and which is present within ourselves.


APPEARANCE OF LIGHT The body of the deity is indeed visible but does not consist of tangible, perceptible material, rather it is a body of light or rainbows. Deities are visible because of the emitted or intrinsic light that radiates from them.13 They can be described as luminescent, opalescent, or scintillating or regarded as a kind of light-fluid that lights up everything it comes in contact with. The equation of supreme state and luminosity brought the Tibetologist Giuseppe Tucci to the conclusion that in all manifestations of the religious experience of Tibetan man, from Bon religion to Buddhism:

The worship of light can be confirmed throughout the Indo-Iranian sphere, from Vedic to late Buddhist times.15 In this connection it appears all the more remarkable that according to the creation story in the Abhidharmakoπa human beings originally had a natural radiance, similar to that of the gods, which was lost when they began to take solid food. As their own bodily light disappeared, however, the sun, moon, and stars began to shine.

CENTRAL ARRANGEMENT OF DEITY PICTURES AND MANDALAS The practices of deity yoga make great demands on the practitioner’s powers of imagination; particularly complicated is visualization of multiple deities arranged in clear geometric patterns in space and forming whole mandalas. That is why pictures of the relevant deities are readily used as an aid, as mental supports. The meditator hangs such pictures up in front of him- or herself, or — in the case of mandalas made of colored powder 16 — sprinkles them on a flat surface. Tibetan Buddhist visualizations and the images underlying them obey their own representational regularities. As a rule the individual figures, objects, and surfaces are so represented in them that the painter, and thus also the viewer, seems to face head on each element of the picture — gods, human beings, mountains, trees, or, as in a mandala, individual parts of a building — even if in reality individual elements are side by side or on top of one another. To elucidate this factor, and make it apparent even to an unpracticed viewer, we shall compare the arrangement of a two-dimensional mandala with that of a three-dimensional one. We choose for this comparison a Shitro (zhi khro) Mandala (Fig. 5.3, 5.8). In the middle of this mandala (but not the K≤lacakra Mandala) is enthroned white Vairocana, and in each of the four cardinal directions another of the five Buddhas: red Amit≤bha in the west, green Amoghasiddhi in the north, blue Ak∂obhya in the east, and yellow

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Tucci mentions as an example, among others, the Tibetan idea of the time of death, according to which “the consciousness of the spiritually mature person becomes identified with the light which shines out at the time of death.” 14

Ratnasambhava in the south (upper two-thirds of Figure 5.2). Deities can be identified not only by the colors of their bodies but also by their gestures, the emblems in their hands, and their ornaments and clothing, as well as by the number of legs, arms, and heads they each possess. Referring again to the upper part of Figure 5.2, one should imagine a white Vairocana in the middle surrounded by the four other deities, all seated on the same plane. This plane coincides with the surface of the picture. What complicates matters is that in addition to their arrangement on this plane, the individual figures are also depicted in side view. Consequently one and the same figure in a painted picture is viewed simultaneously from two angles: from above (plan view) for its spatial position or location and from the front or side (elevaton view) for the depiction of outward appearance. A further characteristic of Tibetan Buddhist paintings is their alignment on a vertical central axis, which roughly coincides with the axis of the principal deity, the spine (though departures from this basic pattern are known). The other figures are disposed with strong symmetry about this central line. As a rule the principal deity sits or stands “higher” than the surrounding figures (Fig. 5.3); this emphasizes his special place within the Buddhist hierarchy. Centering in the mandala can go so far that the secondary figures turn toward the principal deity, like protectors, and even surround him attentively, as a lotus mandala confirms. The example of a K≤lacakra Mandala will be used to show how in a painted or colored powder mandala individual elements are portrayed from different viewpoints. In the upper half of Figure 5.5 the elevation components — those depicted from the side — have been specially emphasized (for instance wall decorations such as pearl garlands, gems, etc., can be seen as well as gateways and gate superstructures) so as to differentiate them from the plan components. In the lower half the reverse has been done; the walls are emphasized as plan elements shown from above.




5.2 The five Tath∂gata Buddhas, forming a simple mandala (upper two-thirds of picture) 25 3⁄8 x 19 1⁄8 in. (64.5 x 48.5 cm) Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich Inventory #13981 Photograph by Peter Nebel Scroll painting depicting the five Tath≤gata Buddhas with U∂≥◊∂≤vijay≤ (lower left) and White T≤r≤ (lower right), Tibet. Each of the five Tath≤gatas is recognizable by his color and hand position; four-faced, white Vairocana in the center is moreover identifiable by his emblem — the Wheel of the Teaching he holds in his hands; in the case of the others the emblems are missing; nevertheless, we shall give them here: east (left), blue Ak∂obhya (vajra); south (top left), yellow Ratnasambhava (jewel); west, red Amit≤bha (lotus); north, green Amoghasiddhi (crossed vajra or sword). At bottom center can be seen the offerings of the five sense organs — fabric, incense, mirror, music, and fruit — and at the bottom right, wealth symbols such as ornaments, rhinoceros horns, elephant tusks, jewels, etc. (Fig. 5.3)

5.4 Division of the K≤lacakra Mandala into the five levels of the elements, and the three regions (body, speech, and mind) of the mandala palace. Effective vertical distances are ignored and Mount Meru, on which the palace is raised, is not depicted. Model and photograph by Peter Nebel

5.5 K≤lacakra Mandala with “elevation” components emphasized in the upper half of the picture and “plan” components in the lower half. The platforms and the base are not emphasized in either segment. Picture adapted by Peter Nebel

To further aid in understanding the complexity of the K≤lacakra Mandala, a three-dimensional model is pictured (Fig. 5.4). This three-dimensional depiction of the (vertical) levels of the two-dimensional mandala makes it evident that the five circles correspond to the five (or four) element disks that according to the K≤lacakra tradition, form the foundation of the: space, air, fire, water, and earth (in the two-dimensional depiction, from outside to inside, in the three-dimensional one from bottom to top, Fig. 5.4). The three square blocks arranged on top represent different levels of the mandala palace that stands on Mount Meru. The mountain itself — not depicted — is situated between the earth element (the innermost and smallest element disk) and the palace. In this mandala representation the proportions of the universe that forms the base

and the mandala palace are not reproduced accurately. If one takes effective scale into account, the palace (measuring 32 arm-spans at the base) takes up only a fraction of the surface of Mount Meru, with a diameter amounting to 400 million spans. The basic structure shown here in the model is generated, i.e., visualized, on the basis of a text that runs as follows:

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5.3 Clay figures of the deities are here set out in the arrangement on the surface of a Shitro (zhi khro) Mandala. Photograph by Peter Nebel


In the beginning, in the infinite element of space beyond all measure, there comes from YAM. a symbolic, black wind disk, bow-shaped,17 400,000 yojanas wide [equivalent to about 6 million kilometers or 4 million miles], marked with a banner of victory. On this, from RAM. arises a red fire disk, triangular{18}, 300,000 yojanas across, marked with a lucky symbol (svastika).




4 W3

5 3 P3 P3

W2 2 P2 W1

5.6 Model of the K≤lacakra Mandala palace reduced to the essential elements. Model and photograph by Peter Nebel (after a computer drawing by the firm Rocad, Berne)



On this, from VAM., a white, round water disk with a diameter of 200,000 yojanas, marked with a lotus. On this, from LAM., a yellow, square{18} earth disk, 100,000 yojanas wide, marked with a vajra. Each of these four symbolic disks has, arising from HŪm.s, two crossed vajras, one above and one below. On top of all this comes from MAM. the great, central Mount Meru, of the nature of vajra, with a diameter of 16,000 yojanas at its base and, 50,000 at its highest point. In its center arises from KS. AM. a multicolored lotus, half as wide as the upper surface of Mount Meru, its corolla making up a third of it. On this, from HAM. comes a moon, from the aspiration sign (visarga) a sun, and from the nasalizing dot (anusv≤ra) together with its flame (n≤da), the symbolic disks of the eclipse planets R∂hu and K∂l∂gni, the same size as the corolla of the lotus. All these unite and from them arises the series of syllables HAM. KS. AH. MA-LA-VA-RA-YA [written in the form of a single, unpronounceable syllable, HKS.MLVRYAH.M., cf. see Appendix Table 16].18





S After this creation of the universe the yogin once again lets space, air, fire, water, earth, and the central mountain arise from the individual letters, together with lotus, moon, sun, R≤hu, and K≤l≤gni, and above them from a HŪΩ a vajra tent.


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Inside this, from OM. comes an exquisite palace, square, with four gates and four portals, made of gold and sparkling with the light of gems.19 This palace comprises three principal regions: body, speech, and mind.20 The “palace of the splendor of flawless jewels” so essential in the mandala meditation is regarded as an emanation of the Buddha and its various parts as different facets of the enlightened Buddha.21 For the present publication the palace of the K≤lacakra Mandala was drawn to scale in three dimensions with the aid of a computer program (AUTOCAD) and from this reconstructed as a model (Figs. 5.6, 5.7).22 The horizontal measurements (widths and lengths) were taken from the K≤lacakra Mandala sprinkled in colored powder (Fig. 5.33), while the vertical measurements — in particular the heights of the individual plinths and of walls surrounding them — are derived from various sources.23

5.7 View inside the K∂lacakra Mandala palace: 1. Realm of the Body Mandala – W1 wall around the Body Mandala, shining in five rainbow colors – P1 outer and inner platforms for the deities of the Body Mandala; 2. Realm of the Speech Mandala – W2 wall around the Speech Mandala, shining in five rainbow colors – P2 outer and inner platforms for the deities of the Speech Mandala; 3. Realm of the sub-mandala of deep awareness in the realm of the Mind Mandala – W3 wall around the Mind Mandala, shining in thee rainbow colors – P3 outer and inner platforms for deities of the Mind Mandala; 4. Realm of the sub-mandala of great bliss in the realm of the Mind Mandala, comprising the “floor” of the most important deities of the Mind Mandala; K≤lacakra and Vi√vam≤t, the ten πaktis, male and female buddhas; 5. Apex of the palace. In the mandala sprinkled from colored powder (Fig. 5.33), the deities enthroned on these platforms are not portrayed in their bodily appearance but simply marked with dots. These are each divided into two, symbolizing the partnership of female and male deities. Drawing by Andreas Brodbeck. Model and photograph by Peter Nebel





6 5 4 3

5.9 Three-dimensional mandala in the Sumeru Temple in Chengde (Jehol, China), its base formed by a huge crossed vajra. Photograph by Annegret Nippa



5.8 Detail of a mandala palace: corner. Thanks to the three-dimensional Zhi khro Mandala, we can clearly recognize in the two-dimensional K≤lacakra Mandala: 1. outer platform; 2. wall, shining in five rainbow colors; 3. garlands of pearls; 4. beam; 5. ornaments under the roof; 6. end of roof; 7. flags and banners. Photograph by Peter Nebel


The following quotation conveys a further impression of the radiant palace of the K≤lacakra Mandala:

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On the upper edge of the wall is a jewel cornice, on which rests a fourfold row of columns, draped outside with a filigree lattice of strings of pearls. This wonderful palace is endowed with every classical feature, eaves embellished with hanging emblems, parapets and so forth. It is … black in the east, red in the south, white in the north, yellow in the west and blue in the center.24 Inside the palace dwell most of the deities invoked in the mandala ritual. In its structure, the mandala palace recalls the religious architecture of India. As for instance Stella Kramrisch and Mircea Éliade have shown convincingly, the Indian temple offers an image of the world, a complete imago mundi.25 Every Indian sanctuary is based on the so-called v∂stumaΩ≈ala, which the temple architect must know and master: From the stretching of the cord [with which the lines of the vastu-mandala are drawn], … every one of the

movements is a rite and sustains, in its own sphere of effectiveness, the sacred building, to the same extent as the actual foundation supports its weight.26 In drawing the basic lines of a Tantric mandala these classical Indian instructions are still followed today. The v∂stumaΩ≈ala comprises a square divided into sixty-four or eighty-one (8 x 8 or 9 x 9) fields of equal size (Figs. 5.10, 5.11), which shows clear astronomical references. Thus the thirty-two outer fields represent the thirty-two nak�atras, the deities symbolizing the lunar mansions or constellations that the moon passes through each month.27 If we include Brahm≤ enthroned in the middle with these thirty-two deities, we get thirty-three deities, a figure already encountered in ancient Indian texts (Api Hymns in the R. g veda),28 as well as in Buddhist cosmography, namely in the form of the thirty-three gods on the cosmic Mount Meru.29 The number thirty-two appears frequently in Southeast Asian historiography as the number of high regents of a kingdom; with the king that makes thirty-three, evidence that the earthly kingdom was seen as a reflection of the heaven of the thirty-three gods.30










5.10 Grid of eight by eight squares superimposed on an elevation of the K≤lacakra Mandala palace. Drawings by Andreas Brodbeck

5.12 In order to purify the site, the lord of the soil in the form of a serpent has to be outlined within a square grid of lines.

RITUAL PREPARATION Just as in the actual mandala ritual the meditator approaches the divine center from outside via many intermediate steps, so too are the preparatory rites mainly aligned on this sacred center. That is to say, the ritual events proceed in concentric sequences of movement about the center of the mandala surface (the mandala table), the future seat of the principal deity. Other Buddhist and popular religious rites also show sequences of movement typical of the mandala ritual. Examples that come to mind are the dances (mostly structured in circles) in the monasteries of Tantric Buddhism, the so-called Gyashi (brGya bzhi) ritual,31 or the ritual in which a lost soul is brought back.32

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5.11 Grid of eight by eight squares superimposed on a plan of the K≤lacakra Mandala palace. Drawings by Andreas Brodbeck

THE GROUND RITUAL If a mandala is to be created, first a clean, pleasant place must be chosen, such as a garden, a mountain, or a palace, or else a hitherto unclean place must be ritually purified. First of all the color and composition of the ground are checked. If for instance bones or potsherds are found, the mandala ritual cannot be put into effect in this place.33 If purification of the place is


necessary, earth must be cleared away in accordance with certain ritual instructions. For this the monks first draw on the ground a square grid of lines, subdivided into many small squares, and in it the lord of the soil in the form of a snake (Fig. 5.12), his position within the grid depending on the date and the season.34 Starting from particular points and exactly following the rules laid down, the person in charge identifies the areas in the grid where he must begin removing earth.35 Reciting the Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Verses can replace this ritual of testing the ground. Then the ruler of the place, the local spirits and gods, buddhas and bodhisattvas, as well as — in the ritual of the K≤lacakra and Sa≠vara Mandalas36 — the earth goddess (sa yi lha mo), must be persuaded by means of words and offerings to consent to the construction of a mandala and release the ground for the ritual. After the preparation of the ground, the square mandala table is set up (the surface or board on which the mandala is sprinkled). A complicated process of purification begins, the so-called purifying of the ground. Acting as wrathful emanations of K≤lacakra (Vajravega), the monks draw the hindering spirits with hooks, bind them, put them in chains, and finally nail







10 5


N 3







5.13 Table surface with ten ritual daggers. The numbers indicated the sequence of nailing the daggers. Drawings Andreas Brodbeck

them down in the ten directions of the mandala — the four cardinal and four intermediate directions and vertically above and below — with ritual daggers (phur ba), which the gnosis beings (jñ∂nasattva)37 have previously been made to enter (Fig. 5.14). This is done by repeated circumambulation of the mandala surface, so that the practitioners, by their movement in space form a mandala in action, a dynamic mandala. Setting up the ten daggers on the table creates a first protective circle, or mandala (Figs. 5.13, 5.18). Then the vajra master goes to the center of the mandala table and emanates ten wrathful deities, which descend into the ten daggers. The gnosis beings are then called and become inseparable from the wrathful deities. As so often in Tantric rituals, the aim is twofold: on the one hand the deities with their terrifying appearance protect the ritual daggers and thus


© Arnoldsche Art Publishers 5.14 (right) Ritual Hammer China; Ming dynasty, Yongle period; 1403–1424 Iron, gold, and silver 3 7⁄8 x 15 7⁄8 x 1 7⁄8 in. (9.8 x 40.3 x 4.8 cm) Rubin Museum of Art C2005.16.7 (HAR 65429)

the place of the ritual events (like the protective circle established in the imagination later; on the other hand they act against inner enemies or hindrances within the practitioners themselves: against false ideas about reality and false craving that arises from ignorance. Another interpretation is this: although the wrathful deities appear in a certain form, they are fundamentally empty — a circumstance of which the practitioner must be aware, because all illusions, ultimately even that of the mandala, must be conquered and thus overcome by understanding emptiness. Now the vajra master circles the table and on it strews mustard seed and ashes; he sprinkles water and coats the surface with the five products of a cow: butter, yoghurt, milk, urine, and dung. If possible, these should come from a holy red cow that has been fed medicinal herbs so that everything it produces is beneficial.

(left) Phurba Ritual Peg Tibet; ca.17th century Iron and gilt brass 13 x 2 in. (33 x 5.1 cm) Rubin Museum of Art C2005.16.66 (HAR 65489) The Tantric dagger (phur ba), used in esoteric meditational and ritual practices, is regarded as a powerful symbolic weapon to stab and annihilate negative energies, hindrances, evil forces, and, ultimately, all forms of attachment to one’s ego. It presents a number of iconographic variations, but according to its basic symbolism the handle and the blade represent transcendent wisdom and skilful means, respectively. The triple blade symbolizes the three realms of Buddhist metaphysics, while the dagger as a whole is the axis that brings them together. With the help of a ritual hammer, such daggers are “nailed” on the surface of the mandala table in order to tie down bad forces that might harm the mandala and mandala rituals.










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© Arnoldsche Art Publishers 5.16 Ceremony of facing-together. The numbers indicate the sequence. Drawings by Andreas Brodbeck

5.15 Offering to the twelve offering goddesses. Usually the offerings rest on the table surface. Drawings by Andreas Brodbeck

Finally all the participants in the ground ritual step to the four sides of the mandala table, touch the surface with their fingertips, and visualize that each little bit of the surface is a tiny vajra. In this way the ground is completely cleaned of any impurity possibly still clinging to it. Offerings and flowers are given; then the earth goddess is invoked once again and her permission requested. A meditation on the emptiness of all existence follows. When the place of the mandala ritual and its surroundings have been purified, the claiming of the ground follows. The vajra master sits in the center of the mandala surface, his face turned toward the east. He visualizes the protective circle and then the entire mandala and says to himself: “I shall draw a mandala


in this place just as I have imagined it.” 38 Following an offering to the twelve goddesses (Fig. 5.15), four monks positioned on the four sides of the mandala table offer an outer mandala one after the other (Fig. 5.20); finally, in the imagination, the mandala is raised up in the air. In the following phase the vajra master and four monks enact a mandala: after prostrations and meditative transformation into the wrathful aspect of K≤lacakra (Vajravega), the vajra master in the northeast corner orders the hindering spirits to quit the place.39 Then in the east four monks, with the vajra master in the middle of them, adopt certain postures (Fig. 5.16).40 The vajra master turns toward each of the four monks, one after the other, and reciting the

mantra, touches the monk’s vajra with his own bell. Each monk in turn touches the master’s vajra with his bell. Then with slow steps the monks move to the south side of the mandala table, then the north, and finally the west,41 repeating in each place this ceremony of facing-together (Fig. 5.19). Each of the five directions of the mandala is assigned a Tath≤gata Buddha, or rather a Buddha family, an affiliation that is expressed by an emblem (Appendix Table 12). The next stage is assuming the postures, when the surface of the table is marked — purely symbolically — with these five emblems: the vajra master blesses his feet by visualizing the five different symbols (vajra, sword, jewel, wheel, and lotus) on the soles of his feet, each one in one of the five directions, touching the

5.17 The vajra master marks the five directions with the five emblems. Drawings by Andreas Brodbeck

soles of his feet with the relevant mudr∂ and assuming the relevant posture (Figs. 5.17, 5.21). The blessing of the groud by stamping the feet follows. The participants imagine that a three-pointed vajra appears on the soles of their feet, from which wrathful deities emanate. These protect the place, while annihilating all hindering powers, and transform each particle under their feet into a vajra, so that the ground takes on the nature of diamond. After the renewed establishment of a protective circle, as a conclusion to the ground ritual, the mandala surface is purified again. Once more mustard seed is cast and the ritual table circled with incense. Finally, the monks perform the expulsion of all hindrances. They visualize countless wrathful deities




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5.18 Nailing down the hindering spirits in the ten directions. 5.20 Four monks offer the universe, the so-called outer mandala.

5.19 Claiming the ground: The Vajra Master sits in the center of the mandala surface saying to himself: “I shall draw a mandala in his place just as I have imagined it.”

5.21 The Vajra Master marks the five directions with the five emblems. 5.19






5.22 Ritual vase (bum pa) for the mandala ritual Northern China; Ming dynasty (1367–1644) Copper; fire gilded Height: 8 5⁄8 in. (22 cm) Photography by Historisches und Völkerkundemuseum, St.Gallen Acc. No: B3123/43 The vase bottom has engraved two Chinese characters that might read “Heaven-Receptacle.” The vase stems from a set of 8, 16, or 24 identical receptacles used for mandala initiations. Such vases hold flower twigs and contain other ingredients that are important for the mandala ritual. The bulge on the vase’s neck bears a meander ornament and underneath it a narrow twine ornament. Around the vase’s shoulder runs a finely executed meshwork of lotus and peony. Underneath the adjacent Jui-border, 8 kirtimukha (demon masks) are spouting bands of pearls with pendants of bells, shells, tassels, rosettes, suns, and moons. From beneath many small lotus flowers are opening. The base of the vase is covered by a band of twines, 10 opulently ornamented lotus leaves, and a double band of pearls.

emanating from their feet in order to dispel hindrances. This is done with the motivation of compassion.

RITUAL VASES — THE FIVE SUBSTANCES Large flasks or vases made of gold, silver, iron, crystal, hardwood, or clay (Fig. 5.22) are used in the mandala ritual.42 They serve as seats for the mandala deities. If possible, each important deity has its own vase set on the border of the table after production of the mandala;43 it is, however, possible to make do with fewer vases, for instance one for each direction. At a minimum, according to mKhas grub rJe, one must use two flasks, an all-victorious flask (vijayakalaπa) for the initiations and a working or ritual flask (karmakalaπa) with liquid for sprinkling the mandala, the offerings, and the participants in the ritual.44 The flasks must be purified inside with incense and outside with mustard seed and saffron water, they must be filled with various ingredients45 and — like a deity — wrapped in brocade. A colored strip of cloth and a symbol identify which Tath≤gata Buddha (and hence which direction) is assigned to each flask.


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The flasks, each holding a flower or branch, do not as a rule have a place in the finished mandala. Before marking out the diagram, however, the monks stand them for a short time in the relevant places on the table surface, to prepare them for the ritual together with other substances; their arrangement forms a mandala in the process (Fig. 5.24). Beforehand, however, the vajra master requests the deities to enter into the flasks:46 he touches his heart with one end of a five-colored cord, while the other end is wound around a vajra that lies on a conch shell on top of the allvictorious flask. In other words, the master — and hence K≤lacakra — uses the cord to send the deities into the flasks, which are visualized as empty. Afterward they will be carried around the table (Figs. 5.24, 5.25) and set out according to the deity each contains (Fig. 5.23). The conch shell holds water from all ten flasks and thus the essence of all the deities. After the five substances (flasks, chalk-cord, colored powders, vajra, and bell) have been prepared and the adepts have cast off desire, the guru purifies the body, speech, and mind of his disciples with this consecrated water.





9 6 10 2









8 13



4 11


E 5.23 Mandala-style arrangement of the five substances: (1-10) vases – [(1) is the all-victorious green vase (above), (2) the victorious blue vase (below)]; (11) chalk cord; (12) colored powders – in the five basic colors, arranged mandala-fashion; black in the east, marked with the seed syllable I; red in the south, marked with R; yellow in the west, marked with L; white in the north, marked with U; green in the center, marked with A; (13) vajra; 14) bell. The numbers indicate the order in which the substances are set out. Drawing by Andreas Brodbeck

DRAWING THE MANDALA LINES Mandalas cannot be drawn and painted freehand but are based — like all Tibetan religious statues or paintings — on a basic grid of lines.47 The preparation of the chalk lines begins by fixing the center of the mandala and drawing the eight major lines: the east-west and north-south Brahm≤-lines (axes), the southeast-northwest and southwest-northeast diagonals, and the inner wall-lines of the mind mandala in the order east, north, west, and south.48 The basic measurement or unit in the K≤lacakra Mandala is taken to be the width of the entrance to the mind mandala, a measurement that depends on the


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5.24 Procession with the ten vases. The Vajra Master goes in front with incense, and the vases are carried behind him in the following sequence of colors: green, blue, and two each of black, red, white, and yellow. Drawing by Andreas Brodbeck

length of the side of the mandala table. Eight such basic units correspond to the length of the wall of the mind mandala, sixteen basic units correspond to that of the speech mandala, and thirty-two to the horizontal extent of the body mandala. A white cord coated with moistened chalk, the wet cord, is used for drawing the principal lines (Figs. 5.26, 5.27).49 By stretching the cord out just above the surface of the table and plucking it delicately, a straight white line, the working line (karmas∏tra; las thig), can be applied.50 When this has been done, the preparation of the deities follows: a monk purifies their seats with saffron water, and the vajra master sets down a grain of barley

5.25 Procession with the ten vases. 5.26 Drawing the basic lines: chalking the wet cord.




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The Vajra Master (Dalai Lama) draws the first lines with a white cord with moistened chalk.



The Vajra Master perfecting lines, assisted by a monk.




on the relevant place for each deity and recites a mantra for each. In this way the monks generate the entire mandala and the deities within it. Now the mandala previously created in the imagination and raised up in the air is called forth for a short time and merged into a single mandala with the one laid out on the table. As soon as the monks have made offerings to the deities and requested their empowerment, in meditation they again raise the mandala into the air.

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5.29 The Vajra Master sprinkles the first line, the east wall of the mind mandala, assisted by a monk.


The actual construction of the mandala follows as the last phase of ritual preparation. It begins with the snapping of the dry cord, or wisdom thread, which imparts the gnosis lines (jñ∂nas∏tra; ye thig).51 With the snapping sound the deities and their consorts are invoked and dissolved into the string. This cord is twisted out of five different colored threads, the five colors that symbolize the wisdom-knowledge of each of the five Tath≤gata Buddhas:52 green for Ak∂obhya, black for Amoghasiddhi, red for Ratnasa≠bhava, white for Amit≤bha, and yellow for Vairocana.53 These gnosis beings and their partners are invited to become nondual with the strand that symbolizes them, and thus one with the whole twisted cord. The cord, brought to life with deities in this way, is laid over the east-west Brahm≤-line and copied by plucking it. This process is repeated first for the seven remaining basic lines, then for the other lines. Finally the deities are requested to leave the place again.

At this point the coloring of the mandala begins (Figs. 5.30-5.33, 5.36, 5.37). The vajra master sprinkles the first line, the east wall of the mind mandala (Fig. 5.29); then four monks slowly make the whole mandala take shape, starting from the center. The tools used for sprinkling are fine, tubular funnels (Fig. 5.39), from which the colored powder — in the case of the K≤lacakra Mandala created at Rikon, silicon dioxide (quartz)54 — trickles out as long as their rough edge is rubbed. The colors and shapes are precisely stipulated. As a visual aid, the monks in charge use handbooks that depict the most important figures and ornaments (Fig. 5.38). As already mentioned, the deities in a mandala do not necessarily have to be depicted in their bodily manifestation form. mKhas grub rJe mentions three styles of representation: the pledge seal (samayamudr∂ or samayamaΩ≈ala) of mind, in which only the emblems of the relevant deities are painted; the law seal (dharmamudr∂) of speech, in which the seed-syllable of each deity is placed; and the great seal (mah∂mudr∂) of body, in which the complete form of the deity is drawn (Figs. 5.34, 5.35), or a statue of the deity is set in the appropriate place.55 In conclusion, after some eight days of preparation, the vajra master purifies the corners of the mandala table with saffron water and decorates them with flowers (Fig. 5.41). The vases are ceremonially carried around the table — again forming a dynamic mandala — and arranged around the table together with offerings for the twelve offering goddesses. In the process the vases and the deities they contain must of course be assigned to the correct sides of the mandala (Figs. 5.40, 5.41).




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5.30, 5.31, 5.32 5.33

Various stages of the mandala sprinkling

Completed K≤lacakra Mandala. 5.33






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K∂lacakra Mandala, detail, lower center

5.34b K∂lacakra Mandala Lhasa, Tibet; ca. 1650–1700 Distemper on cotton 47 3⁄8 x 30 7⁄8 in. (120.4 x 78.4 cm) Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Frederick L. Jack Fund, 58.691 Photograph © [2009] Museum of Fine Arts, Boston This K≤lacakra Mandala was painted in the context of the Gelugpa (dGe lugs pa) monastic school, whose founder, Tsongkhapa (Tsong kha pa, 1357–1419), is the subject of the large portrait in the upper register that dominates the other representations of the lineage holders of the K≤lacakra teachings. In the center, the K≤lacakra deities are represented standing within their inner sanctuary in small scale surrounded by successive squares that increase in scale. This creates a striking composition of broad color fields inside the outer ring of the mandala. In the four corners are smaller mandalas devoted to Guhyasam≤ja (upper left), Yam≤ntaka (upper right), Raktayamari (lower left), and Vajrap≤≥i (lower right). In the center of the lower register is a portrait of the Fifth Dalai Lama, who is believed to have commissioned this painting and is represented wearing a bone apron as if he were performing the ritual of the devotions to K≤lacakra. While the entire mandala is relatively simple, it still evinces great attention to intricate detail and the palette of deep reds and blues enhanced by the broad color fields of yellow background. Amy Heller 5.34b





5.35 A Radial Ngor K∂lacakra Mandala Central Tibet; early 16th century Pigments on cloth 20 x 17 in. (50.8 x 43.2 cm) Philadelphia Museum of Art: Purchased with the Stella Kramrisch Fund, 2000 2000-7-1 Photograph by Lynn Rosenthal K≤lacakra literally translates as “Wheel of Time,” and its name refers to the esoteric meaning that the Tantra conveys. Since Tantric art is a contemplative device — employed in order to inspire and transform the adept — how it is envisioned and represented not only determines the aesthetic identity of a specific tradition, but it also determines how that art is simulated during the process of Tantric meditation. In the case of this specific mandala, the primary deity, K≤lacakra, is encompassed by a distinct radial arrangement.1 At the center, on his throne above a sixteen-petaled lotus, the resplendent K≤lacakra deity has a body that is blue in complexion, twenty-four arms, four faces with three eyes each, and two legs.2 His left leg is white and bends inward, suppressing the heart of the white creation god while his right leg is red and extends outward, suppressing the heart of the red desire god. Adorned with a topknot of matted locks in which a wish-fulfilling gem and a crescent moon reside on his crown, K≤lacakra is bejeweled with vajra jewelry and garbed in a tiger-skin skirt. His upper eight arms are blue, his central eight arms are red, and his lower eight arms are white. Seizing a vajra and a bell, he abides in enlightened embrace with his feminine counterpart. Vi√vam≤t, his infinitely diverse consort, has a body of golden complexion, two arms, and one face with three eyes. Her left leg is extended parallel to his red leg while her right leg is bent inward over his thigh as they stand in union. She is naked, adorned with symbolic bone ornaments. In her right hand, she grasps a hooked-knife and she holds a skull cup in her left. Her hair is half loose, dangling in air. Together they are described as embodying the fusion of ferocity and passion. Configured in a multitiered concentric pattern, the interior architecture of this mandala is designed like a wheel (cakra; ’khor lo) with seven progressively larger rings that circulate around the principal deity from the center to the periphery of the mandala. There are then eight spokes that radiate from the center, each spoke originates from and oscillates around K≤lacakra at the hub. At the cardinal points, the first wheel of deities is occupied by a black blazing goddess in the east, a red blazing goddess in the south, a white blazing goddess in the north, and a yellow blazing goddess in the west; in the inter-cardinal point of the southeast there is a blazing goddess the color of smoke, in the southwest a blazing goddess the color of a mirage, in the northeast a blazing goddess the color of a glowing fire-fly, and in the northwest a blazing goddess the color of a butterlamp. These goddesses are each single with two arms and one face with three eyes. In the spaces between these goddesses are eight skull cups filled with ambrosia on lotus petals. Emanating outward from the hub, each of the successive wheels is occupied by a unique ≈∂kin∑ in enlightened embrace with her ≈∂ka.3 These heroine deities in consort with their masculine consorts are understood to be embodiments of emptiness with the ability to conceal and reveal reality as appropriate. As is typical within K≤lacakra design, each wheel is constituted by one of the elements and is progressively subtler as it reaches the periphery. Consecutively, the second wheel is the mandala of pristine wisdom from which the elemental mandalas generate, the third is the mandala of earth, the fourth is the mandala of water, the fifth is the mandala of fire, the sixth is the mandala of ether, the seventh is the mandala of space. Eight portals, located at the perimeter of each spoke, are guarded by serpentine protectors together with their consorts. Sixteen cremation grounds are seamlessly linked to encompass the entire mandala, surrounded by a protective ring of fire. In total, the ≈∂kin∑ and ≈∂ka deities of these seven wheels on each of their eight spokes are counted as seventy-two. K≤lacakra in union with Vi√vam≤t is counted as the seventy-third, giving this piece the name, “The Seventy-Three Deity Mah≤sa≠vara K≤lacakra Mandala.” An inscription on this painting reads that it was commissioned by Lhachog Sengge (1468–1535) from Ngor Ewam Choden Monastery, associating it with the Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Lhachog Sengge was known as a great patron of the arts, and the Ngor subdivision of the Sakya tradition gave particular attention to depicting mandalas. An almost identical mandala in the Ngor Collection compiled by the modern Tibetan master Sonam Gyatso, a previous abbot of Ngor Monastery, reveals that a rendition of this painting was based on the Compendium of Tantra Sections that was conceived by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820–1892) and compiled by his disciple Loter Wangpo (1847–1914).4 As noted in the colophon of Loter Wangpo’s work, this mandala was based on the descriptions of the master T≤ran≤tha (1575–1634), suggesting either the iconographic and architectural schema of the mandala is derived from the Jonang K≤lacakra tradition or that T≤ran≤tha was preserving an earlier Ngor description.5 Though it is uncertain what exact iconographic descriptions this painting was based on or what inspired Lhachok Sengé to commission it, we know that by the late fourteenth century there were regular exchanges between the Ngor and Jonang K≤lacakra esoteric transmission lineages as well as related Tantric systems.6 To what extent specific styles of K≤lacakra art were associated with the Sakya, Jonang, and Shalu traditions at that time is an issue that deserves further research. There is a Cakrasa≠vara Mandala from fifteenth-century Nepal that is stylistically very similar, depicting concentric wheels that encapsulate the central deity. With precedent in fifteenth-century Newar art, it is interesting to consider how this model of a mandala with its defined radial symmetry, streaming rays from the luminous body of the deity to points on the circumference served as one of many possible templates for Buddhist visionary art. Michael R. Sheehy


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Notes 1 The following description is based on Loter Wangpo, 530–537. 2 See Willson, 254–255 for a description of the K≤lacakra deity according to T≤ran≤tha. 3 The actual terms that I am replacing with ≈∂kin∑ and ≈∂ka are “rdo rje ma” and “rdo rje.” This implies their indestructible nature as “vajra beings.” They are described as ≈∂kin∑ (mkha’ ’gro ma) and ≈∂ka (dpa’ bo) later in the text. Loter Wangpo, 534. 4 This is mandala #98 in Sonam Gyatso, vol. 2, 172–173. 5 This text is titled, dPal dus kyi ’khor lo sdom chen gyi sgrub thabs nag ’gros su bkod pa. The colophon reads, “Jo nang rje btsun rin po che’i sgrub thabs tho yig gi dgongs ba ji ltar bar ’jam dbyangs blo gter dbang pos bkod pa’i yi ge.“ In Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo, 556. 6 For instance, we ind in a short text on questions and responses about issues related to the K≤lacakra by Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo (1382–1456), the founder of Ngor Monastery, that the Jonang tradition was highly inluential in the Ngor practice tradition of the sixfold Vajrayoga completion stage process. He speciically mentions transmission from the line of the Jonang master Chogle Namgyal (1306–1386). See Sa bzang bsod nams dpal gyi dris lan, vol. 4, 663. On the exchanges between the Jonang and Ngor on the Vajr≤val◊ Mandala, see Hungtington, 317–320. On Jonang K≤lacakra transmissions, see Sheehy.







5.40, 5.41 Vases and offerings arranged around the completed mandala.

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Four monks during the sprinkling of a K≤lacakra Mandala.


Sprinkling the body realm.


Color bag, color bowls, and page from a handbook.


Coloring: implements used for sprinkling the colored powder. 5.41





MEDITATIVE PREPARATION FOR THE MANDALA RITUAL Like all complex Tantric practices, the ritual of the K≤lacakra Mandala requires meditative as well as ritual preparations that gradually and very purposefully bestow positive karma on the disciples (Fig. 5.42). That these preparations are brought again and again into relation with later phases of the s∂dhana 56 and indeed anticipate later steps is only natural, seeing that according to the K∂lacakra Tantra everything is mutually interwoven, and on different levels analogous structures exist and analogous processes occur. In the K∂lacakra Tantra energy stockpiles from two accumulations are spoken of: from the building up of positive karma during the preliminaries, and the meditation on the four doors to liberation.57 The former is a condition for the successful commencement of the second step, which in turn constitutes a precondition for beginning the so-called generation stage. The meditative practices consist above all of making inner and outer offerings — including the mandala offering, selfprotection, and protection of the place of the ritual.

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5.42 Monks taking part in the initiations.


In the inner offering, after he has fundamentally purified himself, the meditator presents himself as an offering. He or she offers the five fluids and five kinds of meat, which in turn symbolize the five aggregates and five elements of which the yogin consists. To make the inner offering, the yogin must himself become the deity K≤lacakra. A green lotus serves as a base, on which lie a white moon, a red sun, a black R≤hu, and a yellow K≤l≤gni disk. On top of this base arises the syllable HūΩ, which transforms into a fivespoked, blue vajra, which in turn changes into a simple blue form of K≤lacakra with one head, two arms, and a female partner. After the recitation of the six syllables OΩ, ≈∫, HūΩ, HO∫, HAΩ, K∆AΩ — the seed syllables of the six Buddha families, each of which

is related to one of the six cakras (Apppendix Table 12), there appear six vajra≈ak∑nis (female space-walkers), who symbolize deep awareness and clear away both external and internal hindrances. Internal hindrances include above all the false idea of a truly existing “I” and, connected with that, grasping at things. After this purification the yogin performs another significant visualization, whose structure clearly conforms to that of the universe and the mandala. The five meats and five fluids are created: In emptiness (√�nyat≤) arises from the seed syllable YAM. a black, bow-shaped foundation of Air, in both corners of which stands a banner; Above this arises from RAM. a fire disk in the shape of a triangle; The seed syllable AH. transforms into a human head in each of the three corners of the fire triangle; From the syllable OM. is formed a skull-cup, which rests on the three human skulls. It is white outside, indicating method, and red inside, representing Wisdom; In the center of the skull the meditator imagines a red lotus flower with eight petals, each one marked with a seed syllable; two further syllables appear in the center of the lotus; The five seed syllables with a short vowel transform into the various fluids (‘nectars’) and represent the five aggregates of which the yogin consists. The other five, with long vowels, each symbolize a kind of meat, portraying the practitioner’s five elements. The schematic representation (Appendix Table 10) shows the mandala-style arrangement of the inner offering; in each direction a particular syllable and the deity emerging from it, as well as the bodily fluid and aggregate, or else the meat and element, related to this deity. The relationship between inner offering, person, and K≤lacakra Mandala results from the identity of the emanated deities with the female and male buddhas residing in the center of the mandala. The meditator now lets light radiate from the HūΩ syllable in his heart, which sets in motion the air, the




foundation of the whole visualization. Because of this the fire flares. The ten substances (five elements and five aggregates), as well as a white vajra that floats down from above and first touches the substances, melt — until finally the entire contents of the skull cup resemble a white moon. This purification anticipates or ripens a later yoga practice: stirring the air disk corresponds to the ability of the yogin to attain control over the energy winds in his channels. The energy winds thus restrained enable the development of inner heat in the navel cakra; in the inner offering this heat corresponds to the flaring up of the fire. The vajra that touches the substances and dissolves into them also has its correspondence in the completion stage: there the inner heat (gtum mo), which rises in the central channel up to the crown, melts the white, male bodhicitta drops, which then flow into the navel cakra, just as in the inner offering the white vajra (white bodhicitta drops) slides into the skull cup (navel cakra) and dissolves there. For just as the offering fire melts and boils all the old impure substances and fluids in the skull cup—in the end letting them take on the pure color of the moon, so is the meditator liberated in the completion stage from all mental defilements and disturbances. The impure fluids and meats of the inner offering symbolize not only the actual aggregates and elements to be purified but all unfavorable mental attitudes. A similar process is known to take place in the course of dying, when the white bodhicitta from the crown moves into the heart to enter there the drop that is indestructible during the lifetime. But to return to the inner offering: in a second part of this visualization process the point is to purify again the substances that have melted and mixed together, to increase them and give them the radiance and immaculacy that are fundamentally theirs. This is done in four steps (Appendix Table 11) — each correlated with a seed syllable, color, and direction — which thereby form a mandala. This second part of the inner offering should also be seen in analogy with the later completion phase, in which it corresponds to the complete


purification of the four drops from all stains, an action that in the final phase of the completion stage leads to the blissful deep understanding of emptiness.

OUTER OFFERINGS A blue goddess (Vicitram≤t) and a blue god (Vajrasattva) enter the bell and vajra and consecrate them. The so-called outer offerings are then purified by means of the six seed syllables OΩ, ≈∫, HūΩ, HO∫, HAΩ, K∆A∫.58 After that the meditator mentally emanates out of emptiness perfectly pure crystal vessels that contain various outer offerings: water for drinking, washing the feet, sprinkling the body, and rinsing the mouth; twelve offerings each offered by a goddess,59 and flowers, incense, light, food, and music as symbols of the five sense organs. In the longer version of the ritual an outer mandala offering is also made to the guru (bla ma), the central deity K≤lacakra, and the Three Jewels (Buddha, teaching, and community of monks); furthermore the Buddha Vajrasattva is then invoked and requested to wipe away and forgive all sins and unkept vows and to become one with the body, speech, and mind of the disciple. The protective circle practice precedes the sevenlimb basic practice, in which the meditator acquires more merits: he prostrates before K≤lacakra; lets various letters emanate into his heart; admits infringements of the precepts; rejoices in the meritorious deeds of others; asks the Buddhas to transmit the teaching; requests them to abstain from liberation for the time being for the sake of all living beings and at the same time to assist the meditator to help others gain enlightenment. There follows the promise to develop in the future the altruistic thought of enlightenment (bodhicitta), give up egoism, and practice the ten perfections (p∂ramit∂) and the four principal virtues: love, compassion, sympathetic-joy, and equanimity. The meditator thus concludes the phase of gathering the accumulation of merits with the promise that he will

attain the four doors to liberation — i.e., emptiness, signlessness, wishlessness, and non-action.

PROTECTION OF SELF AND OF PLACE In a further visualization, the meditator purifies his own body, speech, mind, and deep awareness by imagining a moon dragged three times through his body from top to bottom, which peels his body from head to foot like a snake shedding its skin. This makes the body as white as the moon disk. Thereupon the meditator generates seed syllables in the six cakras, which transform into Tath≤gata Buddhas — thus each cakra establishes a connection with a Tath≤gata family and can be assigned one of the directions in the mandala (Appendix Table 12). After this first purification by means of the Tath≤gata Buddhas, in which evil is dispelled, the meditator transforms his body into a diamond body by mentally emanating vajras, first to the six energy centers, then to the elbow, wrist, hip, knee, ankle, finger and toe joints, ears, nostrils, eyes, tongue and glottis, genitals, palms, soles, and anus. From these vajras radiates in all directions a spherical mandala with enormously powerful light: green upward, blue downward, black to the east, red to the south, white to the north, and yellow to the west. In these rays all hindrances and demons that harm living beings are burned up. The visualization that follows next — for the protection of the place in which the mandala ritual will be carried out — deserves particular attention inasmuch as in this visualization a mandala that resembles the actual K≤lacakra Mandala is already fashioned. Above a space mandala arises an air mandala, and above that a fire, a water, and an earth mandala, which join together in a single disk, in the center of which stands a palace. The meditator visualizes himself in the wrathful form of K≤lacakra (Vajravega), standing on a lotus in the center of the palace. Vajravega is blue in color, has three necks, four heads, and twenty-four

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hands and is clad in snake and bone ornaments and a tiger-skin loincloth. In the form of Vajravega, the meditator generates sixty protective deities in the heart cakra, which leave the body in a certain order through the ears, nostrils, eyes, mouth, urethra, anus, and an opening in the crown and arrange themselves in a mandala in six concentric circles. Each group of deities purifies one of the six elements, and two groups each guard the body, speech, and mind realms (Appendix Table 13). Still in the form of Vajravega, the meditator then fetches with hooks beings who have already attained perfect wisdom (gnosis beings); each unites with one of the sixty protective deities so that gnosis being and protective deity become of a single taste. In this state specific deities grant the eleven initiations. After several intermediate steps the six groups of protective deities each penetrate into one of the meditator’s six cakras and there transform into seed syllables (Appendix Table 13).

GENERATION STAGE As already mentioned, in Anuttarayoga Tantra, to which the K∂lacakra Tantra too belongs, a distinction is made between the stages of generation and of completion. The generation stage is divided into four: generation of the supreme victorious mandala, supreme victorious activity, the yoga of the drops, and the subtle yoga 60 — stages that correlate with phases of human development.

FIRST STAGE: THE SUPREME VICTORIOUS MANDALA (DKYIL ’KHOR RGYAL MCHOG) As described above, the meditator generates a cosmos within himself: from the syllables YAΩ, RAΩ, VAΩ, and LAΩ come the four element-disks of air, fire, water, and earth. Upon these rises Mount Meru.61 Right at the




top, in the middle of the mountain, from the syllable K∆A∫ grows a lotus flower, on the corolla of which appear three planets: white moon, red sun, and black R≤hu with yellow K≤l≤gni, these last two counting as one. All these separate elements unite to form the ten interlocking letters and characters (see Appendix Table 16), from which a cosmos arises once more. On top, from the syllable HūΩ is formed a vajra tent and inside it, from BHRUΩ, a palace of enormous brilliance, the diamond palace. Each realm of the palace — whether body, speech, or mind mandala — is enclosed on the outside by a luminous, shining wall (Fig. 5.7). Along both the inside and the outside run platforms, upon which in the course of the visualization the individual deities take their seats (in the mind mandala they occupy an upper floor as well). The mandala deities are begotten like human beings, develop like embryos and fetuses, and are born analogously to human children. The interpretative explanation: the palace on Mount Meru is produced instead of the lotus flower, which symbolizes a female sex organ; while the vajra tent, enclosing the entire realm, corresponds to the male sex organ, and the three planets to the three principal wind channels.62 In the further course of the meditation a white moon disk marked with thirty-two vowels, a red sun disk beneath (with eighty consonants), and a white HūΩ riding on a black HI, unite in the center of a lotus in the palace, which represents the womb.63 From this mixture arises the syllable HAΩ, and from that the victorious K≤lacakra; from the syllable PHREΩ 64 emanates a chopping knife, and from that K≤lacakra’s female partner, Vi√vam≤t (Appendix Table 14). The following correlations also bear witness to the analogy between the generation of the central divine couple and that of a human being: the moon disk corresponds to the white bodhicitta drop (from the father), the sun to the red bodhicitta drop (from the mother), the white HūΩ to the clear light consciousness, and the black HI syllable to the wind that serves as the vehicle of that consciousness. The moon and other elements of the visualization each symbolize a type


of profound wisdom (gnosis), one of the Tath≤gata Buddhas, and one of the five aggregates of the yogin, showing once more that according to Tantric conceptions the seed of buddhahood lies dormant in every being. Analogously to the development of a person, in which the ten winds arise very early on, from K≤lacakra and Vi√vam≤t emanate first of all the ten goddesses (πakti; nus ma), who gather round the central divine couple.65 The remaining deities of the K≤lacakra Mandala develop in a complicated process after the birth of these ten πakti goddesses.66 These correspond to the aggregates, elements, sense powers, sense objects, action faculties, and activities, that is to the components of a person (Appendix Table 8); they develop analogously to the human fetus.67 Attracted by the sounds of pleasure from the central divine couple, these deities find their way into the meditator who has taken on the form of K≤lacakra and there merge with the aggregates, elements, etc. Riding on rays of light, they get into the body of Vi√vam≤t and back into the body of the meditator via the crown aperture. In the crown the deities mix with the white bodhicitta — a drop that dissolves in the fire of great passion (gtum mo), flows down in the central channel, and via the sexual organ enters the partner Vi√vam≤t. The drop then transforms into the various seed syllables, these into the emblems, and these in turn into the 720 other deities of the K≤lacakra Mandala.68 Only then, after this sojourn in the womb, do the deities take the seats they are entitled to in the mandala, a process that suggests simply the conclusion of development in the womb, but not birth itself. The deities discussed below are emanated into the mandala in the same way. A first group of seventy deities to be emanated belongs to the mind level of the mandala (Fig. 5.7). The generation of these deities is analogous to the first five months of the development of the embryo or fetus. The meditator emanates the central couple, K≤lacakra and Vi√vam≤t, the ten πaktis, and the vases and corner insignia; this corresponds to the embryonic

phase, i.e., the first three months in which, according to the Tantric Buddhist view, the principal channels and the ten winds along with the six cakras are formed. The first twelve deities are related to the twelve shifts of the breath, but also — in the outer wheel of time, that is, the universe — to the twelve signs of the zodiac, and thus to the twelve wind-tracks around Mount Meru. The generation of the five male and female buddhas (also called mothers), which symbolize and purify the aggregates and elements, is analogous to fetal development in the fourth month (the embryo becomes the fetus). The fifth month, the time in which the six senses develop, corresponds to the emanation of the twelve males and twelve female bodhisattvas, who represent and purify the six senses and their objects, and of the twelve wrathful deities, who represent and purify the action faculties and activities. The generation of the eighty deities of the speech mandala, or speech level of the mandala, is believed to be analogous to fetal development in the sixth and seventh months. In accordance with the construction of the mandala palace, on the lowest level of the palace the emanation of the deities of the body mandala: the 360 gods of the days, who symbolize and purify the 360 days of a year in the outer wheel of time, and the 360 bones and joints in the inner wheel of time; as well as the six wrathful couples, who represent the twelve apertures of the human body.69 This stage of development corresponds to the eighth month in the development of a fetus, in which it takes on its final form. In the last phase are formed the ten n∂ga couples and the ten ladies of the charnel ground, who take their seats outside the palace walls of the mandala and are responsible for purifying the remaining energy channels. Then, during the ninth month a fetus develops pores, hair, and skin. Finally, in the tenth month,70 arise the twelve offering goddesses, who establish themselves on the platform outside the mind mandala, and the thirty-six ladies of desire, who stay outside the speech mandala and are responsible for desire to act (for example to

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speak, move, spit, or scratch), as well as the thirty-six ladies of non-desire (outside the body mandala), who cause the wish to act to be absent. These emanations are still linked to the development of an embryo inasmuch as they are the last but also indispensable preconditions for birth.71

MANDALA DEITIES AND HUMAN CONSTITUENTS Every constituent of a human being is connected with a certain direction, an emblem, and so forth, but it is also true that each individual deity in the mandala is assigned to a particular part of the person, for which it stands and which it purifies in the course of the mandala ritual (Appendix Table 8). The correspondences between mandala deities and the human body also include analogies between the most important deities of the three mandala realms and the energy centers (see Appendix Table 15).72 Finally, the comparison in Appendix Table 16 explains the analogies or correlations between the universe, the person — here a woman — and the so-called tenfold mighty one. The seven letters, three additional signs, and fine line form as a whole the root mantra of the K≤lacakra Mandala ritual, a symbol for the outer, inner, and other K≤lacakra.73

SECOND STAGE: THE SUPREME VICTORIOUS ACTIONS (LAS KYI RGYAL MCHOG) The deities in the meditatively generated mandala have not yet awakened to life but have simply developed like a fetus in a womb. According to the K≤lacakra tradition, just as in the birth of a human being, so too in the mandala meditation there now follows the phase of awakening: the four female Buddhas M≤mak◊, P≤≥∑ara (V≤sin◊), T≤r≤, and Locan≤, each embodying a profound wisdom, awaken K≤lacakra and Vi√vam≤t




with their melodious songs and by taking their places in certain cakras — just as they bring about the birth of a child with their songs (Appendix Table 18). Again the eight πaktis arise round the divine couple K≤lacakra and Vi√vam≤t, arranged in mandala-fashion like the winds in the human body, with which they are in fact identical;74 and much as described before, the deities of the mandala are generated in the womb of Vi√vam≤t and then born.75 In the s∂dhana there now follows a phase that seems complicated but becomes intelligible when related to the birth process. From the syllable HūΩ in the meditator’s heart emanates Vajravega, the wrathful form of K≤lacakra. Grinning and gnashing his teeth, Vajravega stands on a cart drawn by a mythical creature: he thrusts a hook into K≤lacakra’s navel, ties his hands, threatens him with weapons, and drags him in front of the meditator, in whose heart he finally dissolves. Here, in coded form, a central yoga practice is described, which gains importance in the final phase of the s∂dhana and inverts an important birth event: the winds of deep awareness, which during birth leave the body and bind their objects, are calmed down by the tying of K≤lacakra’s hands and then returned to the central channel at the level of the navel cakra — i.e., the point at which they left the central channel at the moment of birth. Thus each of the winds of consciousness (mental, visual, auditory, tactile, gustatory, olfactory) is returned to the central channel. After the binding of the winds of consciousness, the deities are ready to receive the eleven initiations in the course of which they are purified together with the constituents of the meditator. According to Tibetan tradition, the initiations are described before the mandala meditation. We here depart from this sequence because the initiations are related to phases in the life of a growing child and consistently follow the previous events, which demonstrate striking analogies with the generation and birth of a child.


THE SEVEN BASIC INITIATIONS The complicated Tantric ritual is carried out with a gradual procedure, to which different categories of initiations or empowerments (abhi�eka; dbang bskur) also belong: the seven initiations of entering like a child, in which phases of childhood are imitated, the four high, and the four very high initiations.76 The first group of initiations is discussed below. After particular vows have been made and after the curtain veiling the mandala has been removed, the candidate for initiation, dressed as a deity, is ready to enter the mandala in visualization. As he is blindfolded at first, the vajra master (also the emanation of the principal deity of the mandala) leads him like a small child.77 Vows to the five Tath≤gata Buddhas, the meditative transformation of the disciple’s six elements into the six female Buddhas, and the setting of the seed-syllables of the six male Buddhas in the cakras78 are followed by a visualization in the course of which all Buddhas existing anywhere penetrate and dissolve into the disciple. Once again he must make numerous vows; only then should he enter the mandala with his guru by the east gate and circumambulate the body mandala three times. Back in front of the east gate, he transforms himself into Ak∂obhya, then into Amoghasiddhi. Following a complex ceremonial sequence, the candidate next wanders through the mandala, in the process taking successively the form of each of the six Tath≤gata Buddhas. Next follow two prognostic actions whose outcome tells the vajra master how he should lead the disciple into the mandala. As soon as the blindfold is removed from his candidate’s eyes, a color briefly appears to the master, which gives him information on the kind of Buddha-activity (’phrin las bzhi: calming, increasing, subduing, controlling) this disciple should practice. Then one disciple, acting on behalf of all the others, throws a flower onto the mandala itself, or onto a diagram symbolizing it. From the position of the flower the vajra master sees which Tath≤gata Buddha the disciple has a special inner relationship with.79

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5.43 Symbol of the unity between the guru and the deity of initiation, H.H. the Dalai Lama, in front of a K≤lacakra scroll painting.

The previous evening the disciples had been asked to lay kuπa grass under their mattress and pillow to analyze attentively the dreams coming in the fourth watch of the night—around dawn, and according to the type of dream prepare themselves appropriately for the important moments of the initiations and apprise themselves of the possible success or failure of the initiations.80 When these preparations are concluded, the candidate can finally take off the blindfold and behold the entire mandala in all its splendor. The initiations purify

the disciple systematically and gradually so that he eventually becomes a suitable vessel for Tantric practice.81 Because of that the principal deity and other deities empower him to practice different meditations, which all help him to experience the inherent mind of clear light and at the same time to open him to the sorrows of all living beings. The initiations are consequently steps on the path to buddhahood (Fig. 5.43). It would be wrong to suppose that purification takes place solely through consecrated external substances. The basis of purification is formed by powers




© Arnoldsche Art Publishers 5.44 Headdress with two pendants Tibet: 19th century Silk, bronze, five turquoises 18 ½ x 6 ¼ x 6 ¼ in. (47 x 16 x 16 cm) Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich Inventory #: 14816 a-b 5.45 Headdress symbolizing the candidates’ five aggregates and the five male Tath≤gatas and the principal winds.

and substances that every being carries within itself. The purification of body, speech, and mind is carried out in two initiations each, and in the seventh initiation deep awareness (great bliss and understanding of emptiness) is purified. The tetrad of body, speech, mind, and deep awareness is related to the four drops in the brow, throat, heart, and navel cakras, therefore these four drops are purified for the first time by the initiations — a purification that will be continued in later phases of the s∂dhana.

During the seven initiations the disciple experiences a birth four times in visualization: at the beginning of the first, third, fifth, and seventh initiations, in fact in front of each of the four faces of K≤lacakra in turn, and thus always in a new direction, in another quadrant of the mandala (Appendix Table 17). In each of the four spiritual births, the disciple mentally enters via the mouth of the vajra master — who has transformed himself into K≤lacakra — into the body of the deity, passes through it, and by way of K≤lacakra’s penis






(vajra) reaches the vagina (padma) of the goddess Vi√vam≤t, where he dissolves into a drop of emptiness. Out of the emptiness (π∏nyat∂) arises a syllable, which turns into one of four symbols — and this in turn into a six-armed deity and its female partner. The deity represents a Tath≤gata Buddha and thereby an aspect of K≤lacakra. As the initiatory deities come and unite with him, the fire of great desire (gtum mo) ignites in K≤lacakra’s heart: the white bodhicitta in his crown melts, flows down through the central channel, and then finds its way into Vi√vam≤t’s womb. The meditator, abiding in Vi√vam≤t’s womb, thus receives an internal initiation and is born as a Tath≤gata Buddha and set on the initiation seat.82 In a corresponding way before the third, fifth, and seventh initiations the yogin again becomes one of the Tath≤gata Buddhas. The four steps are related to the drops of the four states, one of which is purified in each initiation stage: in the first and second initiations the drop in the brow cakra, in the third and fourth the drop in the throat cakra, in the fifth and sixth the one in the heart cakra, and in the seventh the one in the navel cakra (Appendix Table 19). For each of the seven initiations a special initiation substance is needed, which purifies a group of the disciple’s constituents on the one hand and on the other a particular group of mandala deities. Thus water, the substance of the first initiation, purifies the disciple’s five elements and the five female Tath≤gatas of the mandala; the five-lobed crown (Figs. 5.44, 5.45) purifies the five aggregates of the person and the five male Tath≤gatas, and so on (Appendix Table 20). During demanding visualizations the candidate must mix each of the thirty-six most important components of his being with the corresponding portion of the initiation substances so that a certain seed syllable arises. From it emanates the symbol of the relevant direction (sword in the east, jewel in the south, etc.) and from that one of the thirty-six deities of the mind realm. In this way the correlation between the thirty-six constituents of the person and the thirty-


six most important mandala deities is again made plain. A representative example, one of the thirty-six visualizations, may illustrate: The five elements of the student and the water in the vase 83 turn into emptiness. From within emptiness the space element of your body and the upper and lower portions of water, mixed with the water of the conch,84 appear as two85 seed-syllables ∫, which transform into two vajras, from which are generated two green Vajradh∂tv∑πvar∑s, with three faces … and six arms … , embraced by Vajrasattva.86 After the goddess (female Buddha) has been initiated herself and entered the external initiation substance — in the case of the first initiation, water — she bestows initiation on the disciple: she touches his crown, shoulders, upper arms, thighs, and hips with the relevant substance. Touching the internal substance (one of the thirty-six constituents) with the external initiation substance leads to purification as well as to great bliss and understanding of emptiness. The transformation of any constituent into a deity takes place in one of the six cakras — thus, for instance, the space element becomes Vajradh≤tv◊√var◊ in the crown cakra. Step by step, the disciple visualizes all the important groups — the grosser ones to begin with, then the more subtle ones — in the form of goddesses and gods, who eventually enter the disciple’s body via the relevant cakras. The four-stage purification and transformation of the body sows the seeds for a later phase of the mandala ritual, in which the qualities of the respective deities are attained — all the aspects of buddhahood. Corresponding to the position of the initiation deities in the mandala, each individual initiation is closely related to a particular level of the mind mandala. Thus the first and second initiations take place in the intermediate region, the third and fourth in the center, and the fifth and sixth on the border of the mind mandala, while the last, the seventh, initiation, like the fourth,

is connected with the center (comparison of Appendix Tables 4, 5, 6 and 7 with the description of the mandala deities makes clear the analogies between the individual deities in the mandala palace and the inner mandala). In addition the seven initiations are related to essential stages in childhood (Appendix Table 20), parallels that confirm once again that the entire mandala ritual must be understood as a natural process, whose regularities and rules are universal but still have to be knowingly and consciously experienced.

THIRD AND FOURTH STAGES OF THE GENERATION STAGE The two last phases of the generation stage include yoga practices that because of their complexity can only be described here in summary. They have parallels with a human being’s passage to adulthood on the attainment of sexual maturity. In the third stage, the yoga of the drops, the socalled four joys are experienced by means of the descent of the white bodhicitta drop. First of all the disciple must transform himself into K≤lacakra and visualize seed syllables in his own and Vi√vam≤t’s energy centers in the following sequence: OΩ in the brow cakra, ≈∫ in the throat cakra, HūΩ in the heart cakra, HO∫ in the navel cakra, HAΩ in the sexual cakra, and long H≈ in the crown cakra. In addition the sexual organs of K≤lacakra and Vi√vam≤t are blocked with the syllables PHA and A∫ respectively, so that the white bodhicitta drop cannot leave the body. Either through mediation or by the power of the embrace of the two buddhas the downward-emptying wind kindles the inner heat (gtum mo) in the navel center, whose heat rises up the central channel and melts the white bodhicitta drop above, which then flows downward in the central channel. Each time the drop passes one of the cakras, the meditator experiences a state of joy — in the end, simultaneous joy, the simultaneous experience of bliss and emptiness.

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In the fourth part of the generation stage, the subtle yoga (phra mo’i rnal ’byor), the four joys are experienced again, this time through the bodhicitta drop from below rising into the crown cakra. Even though the joys in subtle yoga are distinguished by bliss and knowledge of emptiness, not all impurities have yet been eliminated, and emptiness is not yet perceived directly and completely. This is achieved — at least in Anuttarayoga Tantra — only in the completion stage. Subtle yoga should enable the adept to see the mandala in full vividness for four hours, and in addition to visualize the mandala with all 722 deities in a tiny drop in the upper opening of the central channel, between the eyebrows. This four-hour vision should moreover be so clear that the yogin can see even the whites of the individual deities’ eyes. Subtle yoga is concluded by recitation of the mantras of all the deities assembled in the mandala, making offerings, and completely dissolving the various groups of deities each into an energy center (cakra) or a part of the body: K∂lacakra and his partner Viπvam∂t√ melt into a fivespoked 87 vajra in the yogin’s crown cakra; the ∏aktis into a nine-spoked vajra in the heart cakra; the male and female Tath∂gata Buddhas into a seventeenspoked vajra in the brow; the male and female bodhisattvas and wrathful deities into a thirty-threespoked vajra in the throat cakra; the deities of the speech mandala into a sixty-five-spoked vajra in the nave; and the protectors of the body mandala into a thirty-three-spoked vajra in the sexual cakra. The twelve great Hindu gods become vajras in the organs of action and the serpent spirits (n≤ga) and element gods vajras in the limbs and fingers. Finally the meditator dissolves into emptiness and is regenerated as a simple K≤lacakra with one head and two arms, a manifestation one should try to maintain all day long. And as the practices began with the wish that all beings may be granted liberation through one’s own efforts, so this important part of the mandala




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5.46 Dismantling the mandala: wiping together the colored powder …

5.48 … and at the end of the ceremony is poured by H.H. the Dalai Lama in to a nearby river …

5.47 … which is put in the vase dressed like a deity …

5.49 ... where it forms one last mandala.





ritual, the s∂dhana, ends likewise with the altruistic wish that the merits accumulated through ritual and meditation may be of use for the spiritual development of all sentient beings. From now on, the person undertaking the practices attempts to live all day — when eating, sleeping, getting up, working, and so forth — that which he experiences in meditation and to aim for the final goal, the completion stage.

THE COMPLETION STAGE The four yogas of the generation stage ripen the practitioner and prepare his stream of consciousness in advance for the completion stage, which leads to the attainment of perfect buddhahood in the form of K≤lacakra and his partner. This stage, too, involves demanding visualizations, which can only be properly understood and carried out under the guidance of a spiritual teacher. Because of this, and also because the practices can be performed away from the actual K≤lacakra Mandala, we content ourselves here with a brief account of the most important stages. The ultimate goal of Tantric practices is to attain the four perfectly pure and complete aspects of a Buddha — here of K≤lacakra and Vi√vam≤t. To achieve this, the four drops must be purified and transformed, an undertaking that begins in the generation stage and is gradually brought to completion in the six yogas as follows: the body drop in the crown cakra turns into the manifestation of empty forms (nirm∂Ωak∂ya state),88 the speech drop in the throat cakra into the sound of emptiness (sa∞bhogak∂ya state),89 the mind drop in the heart cakra into nonconceptual supreme wisdom (dharmak∂ya or jñ∂nadharmak∂ya state), and the drop of deep awareness 90 in the navel cakra into immutable great bliss (svabhavak∂ya state).91 The goal of the first yoga, withdrawal of the senses (so sor bsdud pa), is to stop the activity of the wind energies of the six sense organs and fetch back the winds into the central channel, practices that can only


be successful if certain rules are observed, concerning the right time of day, posture and point of gaze.92 Correct performance of the practices leads to ten manifestations or signs of empty forms, four gross and six subtle,93 which a dying person perceives on entering death. The first sign is like thin smoke, the second like a mirage, the third like fine glowing embers sometimes emitting sparks (fireflies), and the fourth is likened to a steadily burning butter lamp. The subtle signs are described as follows: a fire vision or glow (yellow and related to the planet K≤l≤gni); a pale white like the light of the full moon in the autumn sky or the moon just appearing on the horizon; a refined red like sunlight pervading the morning sky; a heavy darkness like that of a starless sky after nightfall (sign of the planet R≤hu); the natural color of the sky when it is free of either sun- and moonlight or darkness.94 The sixth sign is a blue drop, in which appears last a hairthin black line (n∂da), and within this is seen minutely small the empty form of K≤lacakra and his partner — a manifestation on which the meditator has to concentrate as long as possible. Only now is the adept ready for the second yoga, concentration or contemplation (bsam gtan). He is meant to perfect this ability by himself, becoming the tiny divine couple at the upper end of the central wind channel and attaining the so-called five certainties.95 In the third yoga, wind control or vitality-stopping (srog rtsol), the mediator makes the tamed winds from the left and right flow into the central channel and brings them into the navel cakra, at the same time blocking the openings of the two side channels. The winds, especially the life-holding and downward-emptying winds, are united in the navel cakra by two techniques: vajra recitation (or vajra breathing) and vase breathing. In the first, the meditator makes use of a special breathing technique that teaches him to concentrate the energies in the navel cakra, or, in a more advanced stage, in the heart cakra.96 In the vasetype meditation 97 and breathing, the winds from the upper and lower regions of the body are brought through the central channel into the navel cakra and

united there with the drop of sexual ecstasy and also with the mind and empty body of the meditator. As N≤ropa expressed it, “The energies above and those below are brought together and kissed with the mind.” 98 In the fourth yoga, retention (’dzin pa), the gathered winds are held continuously in the central channel 99 and prepared for the fifth yoga. During the fifth yoga, mindfulness (rjes dran), the meditator imagines that he is K≤lacakra and unites himself with the five female Tath≤gatas Buddhas and the ten πaktis. This unification can be performed with an actual partner (karmamudr∂), with a merely visualized one (jñ∂namudr∂), or with the empty body of Vi√vam≤t (mah∂mudr∂), depending on whether the practitioner has dull, medium, or sharp mental ability.100 Through this actual or merely imaginary union, the fire of inner heat (gtum mo, also the fire of great desire) is kindled, which melts the white bodhicitta drop in the crown cakra. As a result the drop flows down the central channel, so that the four great states of bliss are experienced and remains fixed on the tip of the vajra (penis). At the same time the red bodhicitta drop moves up to the crown cakra, where it must be left until exceedingly great immutable bliss arises.101 This, too, occurs analogously to an event at the moment of death: the white bodhicitta flows down and leaves the body there, while the red bodhicitta rises and leaves the body through the nostrils. It is, however, crucial in the fifth yoga to prevent this flowing out, i.e., both white and red bodhicitta are held. In the sixth yoga stage, meditative stabilization or concentration (ting nge ’dzin), the yogin continues the transfer of the white male and red female drops. This is done in twelve steps, in each of which 1,800 white drops reach the bottom and 1,800 red drops reach the top — so that in the end 21,600 white and 21,600 red drops are stacked one above the other in the central channel. During the moving up and down, the 21,600 karmic winds dissolve — the same winds that blow through the human body in the course of a day and serve as a vehicle for all kinds of consciousness. The

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practitioner thus purifies himself step by step of all defilements and eventually attains buddhahood.102 Through the power of piling up the white and red constituents, Twenty-one thousand six hundred in number, Up and down throughout the central channel, May the material constituents of my body be consumed as iron is by mercury! May the 21,600 immutable Great Blisses realizing Emptiness Cease that number of karmic winds, Quickly purify obstructive predispositions, And I attain a Conqueror’s exalted body! May I easily achieve these wishes Without hindrance, becoming a supreme captain Releasing transmigrators through this supreme path Into the supreme land of jewels of a Conqueror! In short, through whatever collections of wholesome virtue, As illustrated by this, have been accumulated, May I quickly take birth in Shambhala, the treasury of jewels, And complete the stages of the path in Highest Yoga Tantra! 103 Once buddhahood is attained, aids such as depictions of deities, ritual objects, and indeed the mandala itself are no longer necessary. They can be destroyed. In the case of the K≤lacakra Mandala, the colored powder from which it was sprinkled is wiped together carefully (Figs. 5.46, 5.47) and poured into a river (Fig. 5.48), where it forms one final mandala — when the powder trickling into the water makes concentric circles, which soon vanish in the infinity of water droplets (Fig. 5.49).





THE MANDALA AND THE WEST © Arnoldsche Art Publishers

Attempts have been made to establish the original source of the mandala and its spread over great distances from a clearly defined region of origin. For example, Schuyler Cammann finds that mandalas were already known in Dunhuang in northwestern China. Their basic structure shows similarities to representations on the backs of mirrors of the Han period (209–2 BCE, 25–220 CE).1 In particular, Cammann notes that the typical T-markings of these mirrors, which render the four gates of the middle kingdom in the center of the world (i.e., China), are reminiscent of the four T-shaped entrances of a mandala palace. According to present-day understanding, however, it is a most questionable undertaking to draw the conclusion, based on individual matching elements, that mandalas and yantras go back to Chinese cosmic diagrams of the Han period, not least because mandala representations are known not only in Tibet but all over the Indian subcontinent. If one followed Cammann’s logic, all these mandala representations too would have to go back to the Han tradition, which as a matter of cultural history is well-nigh impossible. Yet Cammann is not alone in his theory. Siegbert Hummel, who refers


to Cammann’s work, likewise conjectures that the mandala diagram arose not in India but in Tibet or in neighboring China, in prelamaist times. Hummel goes even farther back in time than Cammann, when he establishes that in some prehistoric sites from the Tibetan megalithic we have the forerunners of presentday lamaist mandalas.2 So, according to Hummel, it is perfectly justifiable to regard the mandala and the gnosis associated with it as a megalithic legacy and to look for the mandala principle prevailing in Tibet in prehistoric traditions.3 These hypotheses are built on little reliable material and lead no further; in the end, mandala-like shapes and rituals can be established in many places in the world. In this connection one contribution of the Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung (1875–1961) is the fruitful hypothesis that the circle and the quaternity are symbols deeply rooted in the human soul that can emerge in different places without implying any direct diffusion.4 Jung showed himself to be very open-minded toward eastern teachings of wisdom, and we have at least to thank him for the fact that the word mandala is not entirely unknown in the West.




In spite of the valuable basic approach and in spite of the important introduction of the mandala into the European world of thought, a certain caution is called for as to Jung’s attempt to interpret individual elements of Tibetan mandalas. For example, he interpreted the outermost fire circle of the mandala — for him it was apparently synonymous with a yantra — as “the fire of desire, from which proceed the torments of hell.” He called the mandala palace a monastery courtyard; equated it without further ado with the concept of yin and yang, which comes from the Chinese world of thought; and even spoke of Tibetan Buddhist mandalas in relation to emanations of the Hindu god iva.5 We should not forget that Jung’s knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism was strictly limited, in part because of the dearth of reliable publications and studies at the time, which led almost inevitably to these misunderstandings and misinterpretations. Jung nevertheless grasped intuitively a great deal of the deeper meaning of the mandala ritual, as a few lines from his unfortunate interpretation of a Tibetan mandala show: The goal of contemplating the processes depicted in the mandala is that the yogin shall become inwardly aware of the deity; that is to say, through contemplation he recognizes himself as the deity and thus returns from the illusion of individual existence to the universal totality of the divine state.6 This is an observation we can agree with, in accordance with the discussion in this book from the Tibetan Buddhist point of view, as long as by divine state is meant not an image of the divine shaped by Christianity but rather as buddhahood. Why did Jung interpret mandalas as images of the divine? For him, mandalas were “real or natural symbols of unity, as they appear to us in dreams and visions,” i.e., “quaternities, or rather multiples of four, or squared circles”.7 These “unifying symbols” or symbols of unity:


are usually fourfold and consist of two intersecting pairs of opposites (e.g. right/left, up/down). These four points define a circle, which represents the simplest symbol of unity apart from the point, which is why it is also the simplest image of the divine.8 Thus Jung perceives the central point, circle and quaternity as well-known symbols of the divine.

the same, or very similar, symbols in all times and places. “The archetypes are rather like organs of the pre-rational psyche. They are perpetually passed on, identical forms and ideas without specific content.” 13 According to Jung, it is therefore the collective unconscious that brings forth the archetypal symbols of unity, such as the forms of mandalas.

DIFFICULTY OF COMPARISON ARCHETYPES? Carl Gustav Jung also analyzed the function of the mandala, the protective circle. It seems to him to be “the traditional antidote for chaotic states of mind.” 9 He was led to this realization not least by some of his patients, who in states of psychological dissociation or disorientation created mandalas and apparently used them as a center to attain inner order and regain unity of the psyche, the so-called self. Jung speaks of “an attempt at self-healing on the part of nature, which does not spring from conscious reflection but from an instinctive impulse.” 10 But it should be made clear that Jung did not believe that all mandala representations were derived from chaotic or conflict-filled states. According to him, people all over the world draw, paint, carve in stone, and build such spontaneous imaginative productions, when they let them “happen psychically,” arising without consideration from within. Such mandalas arising from dreams and visions are to be found in Europe, says Jung, above all in medieval natural philosophy, which leaned on ecclesiastical use of allegory based on sets of four, for example four evangelists, four rivers of heaven, and four winds.11 Jung used his theory of archetypes to explain the fact that mandala-like structures — among which he also included the cross and other quaternity symbols12 — are found worldwide. Archetypes were primeval images based on an “unconscious disposition of as it were universal distribution” (impersonal collective unconscious), a disposition capable in principle of producing

Jung recognized that a mandala does not really have to be painted or drawn but can also be danced, as some of his female patients did,14 or executed and experienced in ritual, just as we have shown in the section on Ritual preparations (see pp. 75–106). On the basis of an early Christian ritual described in the apocryphal Acts of John (ca. third century), he exemplified the ritual circle process as follows:

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mystical round dance that Christ arranged before his crucifixion. He ordered his disciples to take hold of each other’s hands and form a circle. He himself stood in the middle. They moved in the circle while Christ sang the song of praise 15 What Jung wrote in his commentary on this Christian round dance could be reused almost uncut as a commentary on a Buddhist mandala round-dance (see for instance Fig. 5.24): From time immemorial the circle and center has been a symbol of the divine, illustrating the unity of the incarnate god: the single point in the center and the many of the circumference. Ritual circumambulation often leans consciously on the cosmic allegory of the rotating night sky, the ‘round dance of the stars’, an idea still contained in the old equation of the twelve Apostles with the constellations of the zodiac. … In every case the ceremonial round dance aims at and brings about the impression of the circle and center as well as the moving of each point of the circumference

into the center. Psychologically this arrangement denotes a mandala and thereby a symbol of the self, on which are aligned not only the individual I, but at the same time many others of like mind or linked destiny.16 For Jung, Christ standing in the center was someone towering above the ordinary man and embracing unity, a symbol for the self of every human being; the mandala round-dance was an act of dawning of higher consciousness, understood as the connection established between the consciousness of the individual and the higher symbol of unity.17 The Swiss psychologist was aware that despite the archetypical origin he assumed, there were differences between the various mandala forms. He pointed out a divergence between Christian and Buddhist mandalas, whose significance should not be underestimated: a Christian will never say in his contemplation, “I am Christ,” but only, with Paul, that Christ lives in him. A Buddhist, however, meditates in the conviction that he can be and ultimately is Buddha.18 This raises the complicated topic of the comparability of different religious contents and concepts. As mentioned, Jung’s commentary on the round dance of Christ resembles one on the Buddhist mandala ritual — with the exception of the last part, which speaks of the self and the “I,” terms that must obviously not be described indiscriminately as identical with Buddhist concepts of the same name. Is consciousness in Buddhism to be understood the same way as it is for us in the West? Does the ego in Buddhism correspond to the ego of Jung? Does Buddhism also recognize an unconscious, and, if so, does the idea have anything in common with the unconscious of the Jungian school? These are questions that cannot be answered here, all the more so since both Buddhism and Western thought have developed a variety of psychological concepts. So the point of the final pages of this book should not be to compare Jung’s depth psychology in detail with the Tibetan Buddhist body of thought; 19




© Arnoldsche Art Publishers 6.1 Systema munditotius C. G. Jung (1875–1961; Switzerland) drawn in 1916 11 ¼ x 12 ½ in. (29 x 32 cm) © Erbengemeinschaft C. G. Jung, reproduced with permission “This is the first mandala I constructed in the year 1916, wholly unconscious of what it meant,” C. G. Jung wrote on the reverse side of this drawing. Jung published it in one of his books and called it “a mandala of a modern man.” The title on the drawing, Systema mundi-totius, means “the system of all the worlds.” The work goes back to Jung’s experiment that started around 1913, when he developed waking fantasies, or what he later called “active imagination.” “Systema is hand-inscribed with a medieval Gothic script favored by Jung in recording his waking fantasies. The inscriptions are in Latin, with a smattering of Greek. Systema consists of fourteen rings centered on a sixteen-point star. It appears to be a cross-section through a series of concentric spheres. It is a complexion oppositorum. The oppositional symbols that become evident in translating the inscriptions are oriented in three ways: vertically, horizontally and inner/outer. The opposites paired vertically and horizontally combine to create a symmetric cross, concentric with the circles. The outer set of four rings corresponds to the macrocosm. Inside this is a ring of fire, that Jung called the ‘inner sun.’ Moving inwards, the outer set of rings is repeated, although inverted vertically. Another ring of fire then appears, followed by a further iteration of the four outer rings. Although scale did not permit the detail, Jung describes this sequence as repeating endlessly towards centre wherein lies the microcosm. Representing his inner and outer worlds, then, Systema is best described as Jung’s psychocosmology.” Barry Jeromson: “Jung History,” Philemon Foundation, Winter 2005–2006, Vol 1, Issue 2





rather I should like to formulate a few basic ideas about the mandala ritual as a stimulus to independent study of the mandala phenomenon.

DANGERS AND OPPORTUNITIES OF THE CENTER-RITUAL A visualization — not only one about a mandala — is a typical center ritual. Visualization is thus a process of seeking and finding one’s own center. Even if Buddhism strives to dismantle, undo, and dissolve the ego, the meditator stands at the center of the ritual events. Does this mean a visualization, and in particular a mandala visualization, is tantamount to an egocentric practice, an ego trip? The impression could actually arise from a superficial evaluation of the process. But what actually happens in a supposedly egocentric visualization – or better, what ought to happen? The closer a meditation comes to the center, the center of the mandala and the center of the deity whose form the meditator has assumed, the more it loses substance and concreteness, until in the end the emptiness of everything, even of the meditator himself, is recognized, including his own manifestation as a deity. In addition, the whole course of the mandala ritual makes it clear that the goal of the diverse spiritual and meditative efforts cannot be one’s own release alone. The goal is instead twofold: one’s own liberation for the benefit of all other living beings. Indisputably, however, there is a danger that visualization may lead not to a dissolution of the ego but to its enhancement. After all, the person meditating feels himself to be a god or goddess; he says to himself again and again he has divine qualities and is enlightened! This latent threat of egocentrism explains the urgency of the Buddhist warning that under no circumstances should one practice visualization thoughtlessly and unaccompanied by a spiritual teacher. Through demanding yoga practices, destructive powers can also arise. In this connection Jung speaks of:


the sphere of the chaotic personal unconscious, in which everything is found that one would willingly forget and that one would at all costs admit neither to oneself nor to another and would anyhow not take to be true.20 Meditation, too, touches on these inexpressible matters. Carried out correctly, the visualization process, as we have come to know it, has an auto-suggestive effect, the importance of which must not be underestimated. A visualization is not only about experiencing and recognizing emptiness but also at the same time is about accepting the here and now, living together with other beings who are empty and devoid of any essence but nevertheless need our support and affection. The meditator accepts his own being, admittedly having attained insight into his true nature and confidence in himself. According to one Buddhist spiritual master, the attitude that says one can do nothing and that one has no inner power is false. He says:


view we also find formulated by early Christian theologians, such as Origen (ca. 185–253):

We live in a time in which we are coming to sense ever more clearly how strongly we are bound up with the outside world, how much we are part of a living, lifesupporting system contained in the so-called biosphere, which extends from the skin of our planet or beyond to the depths of the earth and the ocean. Human beings threaten at least three of the elements mentioned repeatedly in the mandala ritual, namely earth, water, and air. These elements are exploited, manipulated, and polluted by us — and slowly, modern civilization is starting to understand that by felling entire primeval forests, eradicating many plant and animal species, endangering genetic diversity, destroying the ozone layer, overusing the soil, and allowing nuclear and chemical contamination it is polluting itself. In this situation it is worth reflecting on the Tantric Buddhist idea that we are part of a cosmic whole, limbs of this world. Of course when we say that our arms and legs are the continents of the universe (see Offering of the Universe: the Grain Mandala, p. 60), we do not have to take it literally; rather such an allegorical mode of expression means: the world is us, and we are the world; or, in the words of Tantric Buddhism, “As it is without, so it is in the body.” 23 When the world or a part of it is suffering, I too suffer; when I suffer, the world suffers. When I harm the world, I harm myself and other beings and components; when I exploit them, I exploit myself! We have encountered various aspects of the fundamental wisdom of Tantric Buddhism, according to which structures and events recur endlessly from the expanse of the macrocosm to the minuteness of the microcosm, and everything appears as a copy of another copy.24 in other words, we have discovered that the person and all other beings are not part of the cosmos but contain the cosmos within themselves, in such a way that all beings are constructed similarly to the macrocosm and the same processes take place within them, as in the world around them. This is a

Understand that you have within yourself herds of oxen … flocks of sheep and herds of goats. … Understand that in you are even the birds of the sky. And marvel not if we say that these are within you, but understand that you yourself are another little world and have within you the sun, moon and stars.25

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Buddha is in us: compassion, wisdom, power: you must realize this! Now! Don’t doubt yourself! … Instead of thinking, God or Buddha is up there, we think: I am God, I am Buddha. … In this moment you identify yourself with divine qualities.21 Concentrating on the one, the absolute center, allows the isolated individual to experience unity and with it security, confidence, power, and bliss. In this process, the role of the person who leads and escorts the mandala-dancer raises a problem, which concerns the phenomenon of transference (to use a term from Western psychology), of becoming totally dependent on the guru. Every student needs the leadership of a guru, and it is necessary for him to imagine the guru as Buddha, in fact that guru and Buddha are one for him. This can result in unwelcome commitments, but Tibetan Buddhists, at least the far advanced among them, have also recognized this danger. Milarepa, for example, was once able to advise Gampopa, “Regard even your guru as an illusion!” 22

Such a view implies the recognition that outside and inside and object and subject represent pairs of opposites that lead to confusion and wrong conduct and must therefore be overcome. The world view of Tantric Buddhism denies the possibility of tackling impurities and faults selectively, postulating instead holistic action that takes into account mutual interrelations and the right of all of nature to exist. Mandala meditation is an aid that makes it easier to discern far-reaching interconnections, while time after time reminding us of the divinity, or buddhahood, that underlies everything and allows us to experience it. What a difference from the numerous rites of violation of our modern technologically oriented and consumerist world, with its attitude that the world belongs only to us and is our rightful property.






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Lo Bue 1987: 796. Lo Bue 1987: 221–24. According to Béguin, mandalas with figures are body mandalas, those with the deities’ syllables speech mandalas, and those with only the emblems mind mandalas; Béguin 1981: 18 (cf. the ‘three seals’ described by Khedrub Je, see pp. 104–5). 4 Leidy 1998: 22ff. 5 See for instance the small Indian terra-cotta plaque from the sixth century in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, in Leidy 1998: Figure 14. 6 In aivaite Mandalas also this area schematically depicts a temple and is called the house (bhavana) of iva; in accordance with Ś∂rad∂tilaka, after Brunner 1986: 25. The palace does not necessarily have to be square. There exist a few mandalas with a round palace: bSod-nams rgya-mtsho & Tachikawa 1989: 98. 7 Luczanits mentions as a great exception mandalas dedicated to Vajrabhairava that point towards the south Luczanits 2006b: 73. 8 The Sanskrit word “Tath≤gata,” literally ‘thus-arrived’ — i.e., one who has arrived at a perfect realization of ultimate reality, known as suchness or thusness — is a synonym for Buddha. It is used particularly in relation to the Five Buddha Families, the principal Buddha in each family being referred to as the Tath≤gata of the family. 9 Sonam Gyatso 1991: 25; in a very small number of mandalas the deities are distributed asymmetrically in the palace. Sonam Gyatso 1991: 2, 60 and 75. 10 This element seems to appear relatively late, perhaps from the eleventh or twelfth century. It is neither mentioned in the root texts nor found in the mandalas from Dunhuang. According to Luczanits: 2005. 11 See Sonam Gyatso 1991: 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 48-53, 67, 90, 91, 92, 112; in some of them, circles with skulls are to be seen instead. 12 Lo Bue 1987: 789. 13 Tharchin 1987: 78. 14 Khedrub Je in: Lessing & Wayman 1978: 271; see also Mullin 1985a: 151. 15 Lo Bue 1987: 795. 16 E.g., Anne Chayet 1985; Boerschmann 1925, Fig. 1, Fig. 2, Abb. 17. 17 “Exploring the Mandala; see also: Mandala: The Sacred Circle of Vajrabhairava,” video, written and produced by Daniel Cozort, Snow Lion. 18 Brauen, Martin & Peter Hassler, 2008: Kalachakra Mandala: Computer 3-D-Animation. Volkerkundemuseum der Universitat Zurich. DVD. 19 Buddhist Basics & Kalachakra Animated, An Interactive Multimedia CD ROM by She Drup Ling, Graz, Austria, Mandala – The Sacred Cosmos, Digitalogue, 2000, Japan. Others have been produced by Edward Henning: Bernag chen und Kalacakra (not published), in the monastery of Penor Rinpoche in South India by Ajam Rinpoche and his brother (not published), etc. 20 Published 2007 in Japanese language. 21 See: 22 I thank Christian Luczanits for this detail. 23 Buton’s list of teachings states that there were three different versions of the vajram∂la or vajr∂val∑: 55, 42 or 28 mandalas, according to Heller 2004: 72.


24 See Sonam Gyatso 1991/Musashi Tachikawa 1989. 25 See Namdak T., et al. 2000. 26 Tibetan authors have fiercely debated the question of what the typical characteristics of the Tantric path are and in what they differ from those of the s∏tra path. Thus it is asserted that the Tantray≤na is marked by a large repertoire of methods, which enable the different characteristics of individual practitioners to be taken into account more strongly. The view is also held that the Tantric path offers a quicker and simpler way to liberation or is open only to highly developed people; on this, see: Doboom Tulku 1988. 27 E.g., Mullin 1988: 276. 28 The far more common color sequence is: east = white or blue; south = yellow; west = red; north = green.


1 2 3 4 5

6 7


1 2


4 5

6 7 8 9


11 12 13 14 15 16

The brackets mention other possible translations. In the first Tantric class, great weight is attached to external rites, for instance ritual purification. The second is marked by equal weight given to outer activities and inner yoga. In the third class, inner yoga practices gain the upper hand, while in Anuttarayoga Tantra inner yoga stands unambiguously in first place. To the collection The Ngor Mandalas of Tibet by Sonam Gyatso and Musashi Tachikawa there belong 19 mandalas of Kriy≤, 2 of Cary≤, 20 of Yoga and 77 of Anuttarayoga Tantra. See Sonam Gyatso/Musashi Tachikawa 1989. The translation of the word “π∏nyat∂” is not simple. Alex Wayman has argued that when translating the term in English it would be better to say ‘voidness’ than ‘emptiness’ (Wayman 1978b: 72); in German there is no corresponding distinction. [The present translator, finding Wayman’s arguments — and those of Guenther (1972: n.4 to Chapter V) rejecting both alternatives — transparently fallacious, is unmoved in his preference for “Emptiness,” in which he has no shortage of worthy company (MW)]. Hopkins 1983: 36. According to Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 412. After Maitreya, according to Hopkins 1985: 14. On this point Buddhism is often incorrectly understood, e.g., by Max Weber, who imputed to it a “specifically asocial character” and claimed the Buddhist ethic was one of inaction, unconcerned with the welfare of one’s neighbor; Weber 1988: II, 230. According to Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 396; see also Thurman: 12. Elsewhere in the K≤lacakra Guruyoga it even says one should hold the wish to attain buddhahood even at the cost of one’s own life; Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 389. Dhargyey 1985: 122 f. Dhargyey 1985: 127. Loc. cit. n.9; Tsang Nyon Heruka 1982: 92. Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 391. Jamyang 1985: 4. Mullin 1982: 53.

La Vallée-Poussin 1923–31: II, 139. La Vallée-Poussin 1923–31: II, 142. According to other traditions the south face of Meru is yellow. Schabert 1990: 23 f. Not, as one sometimes reads in Western literature, below Mount Meru: La Vallée-Poussin 1923–31: II, 148 ff. Which is equivalent to nine miles. This is according to the K≤lacakra tradition, from which the parable comes; according to abhidharmakoπa, half this, i.e. 7.5 km. The parable is taken from Newman 1987: 499. Kalu Rinpoche, 1986: 66–67. Schuh 1973: 48 f. gives another, differing, description: “The Earth is represented as a hemisphere of radius 200 000 yojanas … built up of four shells each 50 000 yojanas thick. These four shells … are composed materially each of one of the four elements …” And later: “The resulting vertical extension of the world … suggests the conclusion that one started with a complete sphere as the form of the world.” The sole publication in which both Buddhist pictures of the Cosmos are reproduced accurately and to scale is that of Iwata & Sugiura (1989). While the Japanese depiction of the abhidharmakoπa Universe largely agrees with that in the present volume, several data on the K≤lacakra Cosmos in the publication mentioned have been misintepreted and misdrawn: the disks of the different elements lie on top of one another, not nested inside one another, and the Mount Meru standing on the Earth disk is significantly higher than is shown in the Japanese publication. This depiction also omits the very important planetary tracks, which enclose Meru like an umbrella. The function of the twelve wind tracks is not yet sufficiently well known. According to one view, the twelve wind circles transport only the Sun (Imaeda 1987: 630 and oral communication by A. Berzin). The circles are evidently also related to the 27 lunar mansions: twelve meeting segments of the twelve circles form a kind of ellipse that is divided into 108 (= 12 x 9) equal sectors, each four of which make one of the 27 lunar mansions (nak�atra). Schuh (1973: 59) thinks the twelve signs of the Zodiac were perhaps imagined as a boat, circling on the tracks around the World Mountain, the wind as mover prescribing the direction in the sense of a clockwise rotation. In this connection, motion in latitude could be thought of as quite individually variable, as with sailing boats (see also n. 2 to Chap. 4). Olschak & Wangyal 1972 and Gerner 1987: 46 incorrectly claim these representations show the origin of the World. Rinpoche 1978: 4; Schuh 1973: 45; Huang Mingxin 1987; Berzin (undated). Lessing 1976; Schubert 1954; Tharchin 1987: 61 ff.; Wayman 1973: 101 ff.; Kalu Rinpoche 1991: 83. According to Tharchin 1987: 78; see also Evans-Wentz 1958: 324 f. In the DharmamaΩ≈ala S∏tra also the human body is seen as a mandala with the trunk as the center and the arms and legs in the four cardinal directions; Lo Bue 1987: 789, 795. This interpretation agrees with that of Mus, who reached this conclusion by quite a different route; Mus 1933: II, 114. In Sri Lanka, according to Mus 1933: 360, the harmik∂ is called the citadel of the gods. Mus 1933: II, 245. The dome is also called egg (a≥∑a), recalling the egg-shaped Hindu Universe.

16 17

Mus 1933: II, 248. Govinda 1976; Mus 1933; Snodgrass 1988; Tucci 1988a, I, etc. 18 Govinda 1966: 219; Lauf 1972: 140; Essen & Thingo 1989: 45. 19 Tucci 1988a. 20 Tucci 1988a: 41 f.; Govinda 1976: 55–63; see also the Tibetan version of the m∏lasarv∂stiv∂da Vinaya K�udrakavastu, in: Roth 1980: 183 ff.; Kriy≤sa≠graha in: Bénisti 1960: 89 ff. On the Japanese tradition of the making of correlations between st∏pa levels and elements: Saso 1991: 123 ff. 21 The five elements — in the K≤lacakra tradition, from bottom to top: space, air, fire, water, earth — contain at the same time the seven joyless worlds, the homes of the n∂gas and the asuras. The quite widespread interpretation, according to which the lowest level of the st∏pa represents earth and the uppermost space, leaves unanswered the question of whether this ‘cosmos’ in the form of a st∏pa stands as it were on its head. For the cosmos — in both the abhidharmakoπa and the K≤lacakra traditions — consists of lighter parts below and heavier above. Govinda’s attempt (1971) to demonstrate that early st∏pas with their big domes already represented the five elements does not seem plausible to me, as on this interpretation the dome must be equated with the water element. Mus (1933) and not least we too in this book show, however, that the dome represents something else, namely the vault of the heavens, which extends over earth and water. Because the Tibetan st∏pa is set on a prominent plinth and its heavenly realm is elongated, no doubt the original analogies must have fallen into oblivion and given way to secondary explanations (Fig. 21). 22 Irwin 1980: 20ff. 23 Stein 1962: 170. 24 The dagger-shaped form of Meru stands out still more sharply if the invisible cosmos-head existing above the mountain is interpreted as a hilt. Obviously this interpretation of Meru as earth-dagger still needs to be corroborated with additional data, which is why it must be understood as merely a hypothesis for the time being. 25 Irwin 1980. 26 Irwin 1980: 16; also Mus 1933: II, 362 holds the opinion that the y∏pa recalls the cosmic tree, the pillar that separates heaven and earth, the giant, the mountain, the cosmic arrow or lance, that is, the world axis. 27 E.g., in the st∏pa of Swayambunath, Nepal, as came to light during repairs according to Mus 1933: II, 361. 28 For instance in Vedic India, in ancient China, in Germanic mythology, and in the mythologies of Central and Northern Asia; Éliade 1958: 52 ff. 29 Strictly it ought to be the center of the southern continent, Jambudv◊pa, but sometimes the bodhi tree and with it Bodhgay≤ appears to be regarded as the center of the entire world. 30 See the Tibetan depictions of the Wheel of Life. See also Norbu & Turnbull 1972: 22–23. 31 Already in Ancient India the cosmic axis could take four by and large interchangeable forms, namely those of the mountain, the pillar, the tree and the giant, of which Buddhism has taken over at least the mountain and the tree; Mus 1933: II, 117. 32 Also in: Mus 1933. 33 Gyalzur & Verwey 1983: 179. 34 Tucci 1988a: 17; tshangs thig really means ‘purity line’. The same term is used for the central axis of the Mighty Ten

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Stacked Syllables (daπakarovaπi; Fig. 64) [and for the northsouth and east-west axes of any mandala]. Tucci 1988a: 47 ff. Bénisti 1960: 97 ff.; Mus 1933: II, 105 ff., 213 ff.; see also the interesting remarks and drawings in: Saso 1991: 122 ff., 139, 149, etc. According to Saso, in the Lotus Meditation of Tendai Buddhism a st∏pa is formed in the body of the person meditating in the lotus posture: square, yellow earth beneath the stomach, round, white water disk above the navel, triangular, red fire in the heart area, crescent-shaped, dark blue air in the throat area and leaf-shaped, green space in the head cakra. Then this st∏pa is transformed into vajrasattva. Elsewhere (Saso 1991: 203) the meditator visualizes that a large st∏pa filling the entire cosmos dwindles to the size of the body and all buddhas enter it, becoming part of the body. Sang hyang Kamahayanikan, according to Mus 1933: II, 214. On each of the four sides of the harmik∂ of a Nepalese st∏pa, two eyes are often painted. The Tath≤gata(-Buddha) Vairocana, sitting in the center, is looking here with one face in each of the four directions. Govinda 1986: 7. Mus 1933: II, 102. Leidy 1998: 31 writes, “that at least the top part, if not the entire structure, should be identified as a type of mandala.” Heine-Geldern 1982: 72. Rinpoche 1978: 7. Shambhala is one of the ‘hidden countries’ (bas yul), which only those with faith and right motivation can find. Another bas yul, Khenpa Lung in the Himalaya, also shows a mandala structure: there four paths lead to the four gates, one in each of the four cardinal directions. The center is formed of a mountain surrounded by (four?) lakes, which have the colors of the mandala; Diemberger & Schicklgruber, n.d.: 13 ff.; Bernbaum 1980. Gutschow 1982: 50 ff. Gutschow (23 ff.) also shows that shrines or temples dedicated to the 24 Mother Goddesses enclose the city of Kathmandu (in three concentric circles of eight), and — at least in imagination — form a mandala. It is interesting that to each temple in this imaginary mandala is assigned a mantra, a part of the body, an energy channel (n∂≈∑), a deity and so on — an idea similar to one we shall meet in the K≤lacakra Mandala. During the ritual visit of the 24 shrines over a period of twelve months (two shrines each month) the faithful meditate on each of the 24 parts of the body. For Kirtipur: Herdick 1988. The city, which appears to be based on idealized Indian treatises, is symmetrically divided into six or twelve districts. Kirtipur, like for example ancient Burmese towns also (Aung 1987), shows twelve gates, which are connected to the twelve districts. For China: Ledderose 1980: 238; Eck 1987. Heine-Geldern 1982; Aung 1987. Heine-Geldern 1982; Eck 1987. Schabert 1990: 15. Schabert 1990: 20 ff.; Herodotus I, 28. Further examples of mandala-style city layouts are Nicosia (Cyprus) and Palmanova (Italy). We know from India and Thailand that besides individual buildings, whole complexes of buildings, cities, or even considerably larger territories could constitute a mandalastyle cosmogram. Thus the four Indian places of pilgrimage Badrinath (in the north), Rameshvaram (south), Puri (east) and Dvarika (west) form the vertices of a sacred area embracing the greater part of India, which the pilgrim circumambulates or travels round like a mandala or temple; Eck 1987; Fischer et al. 1987.


3 4


6 7



Tucci 1961: 87, 108–109. An exact assignment of the winds on which the planets “ride” and the most important winds in the person is not easy to carry out. Usually the teaching is of ten principal winds in the person, but apparently there also exists a presentation of twelve winds in the person, as Serkong Rinpoche explained in a teaching in Madison. In the K≤lacakra system there are ten planets, in five pairs: Moon and Sun; R≤hu and K≤l≤gni; Mercury and Mars; Venus and Jupiter; Ketu and Saturn (Newman 1987: 433) Around Mount Meru run twelve circular wind-tracks, which are no doubt to be interpreted in the first place as signs of the zodiac, but perhaps also as planets. I am indebted to Reinhard Herdick of Munich for the remark that the twelve tracks can be connected with the Sun or Moon as follows. If we divide the year into twelve sections and observe the track of the Sun (or Moon) in each section, we discover that the Sun (Moon) covers different tracks, supposedly of varying length, of which two each are the same in the twelve months, so that we get 6x2 tracks. Indeed, the twelve wind-tracks can be split up into two sets of six colors each. Even if the twelve wind-tracks around Mount Meru should indicate the twelve solar months of the zodiac (= exact division of the ecliptic into twelve sections), they can be related to the planets too, as assignments of the planets to the signs of the zodiac are well known: e.g., Majupuria & Gupta 1981: 18; see also Wayman 1973: 158. E.g., Éliade 1957: 76 ff. Kramrisch 1946: 57 ff. There is a diagram of the vastupuru�a in Becker-Ritterspach 1982: Fig. 10. According to one tradition the spine of the deity appears to coincide with the central axis of the temple, the mouth with the main gateway, the head with the dome (Kramrisch 1946: Vol. 1, 71; Vol 2, 359). It is, however, questionable whether this actually refers to the vastupuru�a, as this appears to lie flat on the ground. According to Heine-Geldern (1982: 9), it is also true for Thailand that each monastery represents a small diagram of the structure of the world. According to Tenzin Gyatso (1985: 277–8, etc.): “pristine mind (bliss).” Certain joints also seem to belong together: left elbow and right knee (and vice versa), left wrist and right hip (and vice versa), and left shoulder and right ankle (and vice versa). According to one source there are 80 000 channels (Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 298). Genesis of the 72 000 winds: initially there arise four channels in the center and four outer ones surrounding them, making eight channels. The four outer channels, each assigned to a cardinal direction, divide again. The now eight outer channels (which are connected with the heart cakra) divide again, each into three channels, producing 24 finely branching channels. Adding the twelve channel-cords (four central plus eight outer) to the base makes 36, a number that seems to correlate with the 36 deities of the Seven Basic Initiations and the 36 principal components of a person that have to be purified. Division of all 36 channels (or division into three of the 24 channels) generates 72 channels, each of which splits up into a thousand extremely fine channels, producing 72 000 channels (partly after Dhargyey 1985: 104; see also Lati Rinpoche & Hopkins 1990: 93). caΩ≈∂l∑, avadh∏ti or su�umn∂ (especially among the Hindus).



10 11 12

Lalan∂ or ida (especially among the Hindus). rasan∂ or piΩgal∂ (especially among the Hindus). Markel 1990; see also n. 2. In the nine-planet system, the eclipse planets are R≤hu and Ketu (‘Comet’), but the introduction of the tenth planet, K≤l≤gni, as second eclipse planet frees Ketu to resume its original role as comet. A description of the n∂≈∑s may be found for example in: Chang 1963: 56 (1982: 170–71), which also mentions some variations. 13 In India the word “cakra” stands for several terms at the same time: wheel, discus, potter’s wheel, circle (Mode 1987: 925). 14 E.g., Mullin 1985a: 164. 15 Mullin 1985a: 163 ff. 16 One partner symbolizes Method or the Path (e.g., the white deities), the other Wisdom (e.g., the red deities). 17 The sketch reveals to us another possible explanation for the apparently not quite consistent course of the Mandala Ritual. If we compare for example the spatial arrangement of the aggregates or elements with the order in which they are purified in the relevant initiations (Appendix Table 4), the following sequence can be established: east, south, north, west (instead of west, north) — an order we shall come across time and again. With the help of Fig. 4.5 this sequence can be better understood: corresponding to the K≤lacakra cosmos, each initiation begins with the first element, Space (green = center), and goes by way of the second element, air (black = east), to fire (red = south), water (white = north), and thence the fifth element, earth (yellow = west). 18 The word bodhicitta in this connection means not so much the altruistic Thought of Enlightenment as “drop” (bindu; thig le). Every person possesses white (male) and red (female) bodhicitta drops, whose distribution in the body and role in the concluding yoga practices will be explained later. 19 Lati Rinpoche & Hopkins 1990: 95 and Dhargyey 1985: 117. 20 Five of these winds correspond to the five principal winds in other Tantric systems, but the remaining five winds of the K≤lacakra system are not identical with the so-called five secondary winds of other schools (see also n. 2), though they have the same names as those of Hindu Yoga and Ved≤nta. The idea that the human body has winds flowing through it is well known to Hinduism. Thus in the Ch≤ndogya Upani∂ad (II, 13) there is a teaching of five winds, which can be related to the five directions, five channels, sense organs, deities, and five elements – sun, moon, fire, rain, wind (Mus 1933: II, 441–50). On the correspondence between wind and breath, see also Mus 1933: 144 ff. 21 According to Dhargyey 1985: 119 f. and Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 291; see also Mullin 1985a: 165, who renders some names differently. 22 Śakti is a term that is normally scarcely used in Tibetan Buddhism (see p. 133, n. 77). 23 According to Schuh 1973: 65 ff., the natural day is divided into 60 chu tshod (n∂≈∑), each of which contains 60 chu srang. In each chu srang come six breaths (pr∂Ωa; dbugs). The weekday therefore contains the length, taken as an absolute measure, of 21 600 breaths. “The basis for all time measurements in … calculations and the formulation of laws of motion of the planets (apart from the Sun) in the K∂lacakra Tantra is the natural day and its subdivision down to the smallest unit, the duration of a human breath.” See Newman 1987; 52off; Gnoli & Orofino 1994; 27off; Schuh 1973; 65ff. ‘Breath’ translates as the Tibetan dbugs.


We have used the expression ‘shift of the breath’ to translate the Tibetan term ’pho ba. There are 12 ’pho ba in a (solar) day, (dina, nyin zhag). One ’pho ba is equal to 1800 breaths, or 5 n∂≈∑ (or danda, or ghati). One n∂≈∑ (chu tsod) is equal to 360 breaths, or 24 minutes. There are 60 n∂≈∑ in a day, and 1,800 (i.e. 30 x 60) n∂≈∑ in a month. A month may also be divided into 5 “mandalas” of 360 n∂≈∑. 24 See n. 2; a Tibetan text that establishes a correlation between the signs of the zodiac and the human winds (which, however, display different names from in this book) is found in Wayman (1973: 157 ff.). 25 According to Hopkins 1985: 114 ff.; Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 308 ff. 26 On this, Dhargyey 1985: 121 ff.; Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 260 ff.; Sopa 1985 (2): 148; Mullin 1985a: 166. 27 After Dhargyey 1985: 121 ff. and Mullin 1985a: 167. According to Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 260, this drop is found in the crown cakra. 28 While the winds of the lower half of the body come together in the navel cakra. 29 The lower in the sexual cakra. 30 The lower in the sexual cakra; according to Hopkins (1985: 121), in the middle of the uppermost part of the sexual organ. 31 According to Dhargyey (1985: 121 ff.), in the crown cakra, while the winds of the lower half of the body remain in the sexual cakra; according to Hopkins (1985: 121), on the tip of the sexual organ. 32 The four stages or states are also related to the four Buddha Bodies: nirm∂Ωak∂ya (manifestation body), sa∞bhogak∂ya (enjoyment body), dharmak∂ya (absolute truth body), and sahajak∂ya (innate body), also known as svabhavikak∂ya (self-existent or nature body). 33 According to the Tantric Buddhist conception consciousness rides on wind; the two are mutually dependent, just as a man who can see but cannot go and a blind man who is capable of going depend on one another if they want to pick a fruit from a tree in the distance. This example after Dhargyey 1985: 129. 34 Traces of the two bodhicittas, the male, white and the female, red, also exist in the remaining cakras, however. The chief location of the white bodhicitta is the crown, of the red the navel. In the heart cakra the white and red bodhicitta balance one another; see also Mullin 1985a: 166. 35 There are five songs involved: each goddess first sings a song alone, then all four sing a fifth song together. 36 The four goddesses are related to the four elements air, fire, water, and earth, but also with the four cakras as well as with the four types of deep wisdom (Appendix Table 17). 37 According to the K≤lacakra tradition — and contrary to other Tantric schools — certain winds also blow after birth through the central wind or energy channel: the winds of the element of deep awareness. These number 675 per day, i.e., 56 ¼ among each of the twelve breath-cycle units. 38 In Tantric Buddhism s∂dhana (sgrub thabs) means a kind of meditation in which the meditator invokes a deity and identifies himself or herself with it. In Anuttarayoga Tantra this means the stage in which the mandala and its deities are generated; according to Jackson 1985 (2): 120. 39 According to Gedrundrub (in Mullin 1985a: 180. see also p. 134, nn. 126, 131). Dhargyey (1985: 83) and Mullin (1985b: 119) deviate somewhat. According to Deti Rinpoche: “The Water element of the body weakens the Fire. Separated from the Fire, Earth sinks into Water. Water is dried up by Wind. Wind absorbs into Consciousness. Consciousness dissolves into Space.”

According to Mullin and also Chang (1963: 103 ff. [1982: 232 ff.]), each dissolution of an element is followed by a vision, corresponding to the four gross after-death visions: mirage, smoke, embers, butter lamp. 40 According to Dhargyey (1985: 91), there exists within the “drop that is indestructible during the lifetime” another, the “forever indestructible drop.” This drop is “indestructible throughout this life, through death, through the intermediate period, through the full duration of one’s existence in the cycle of existence, and right on through to one’s attainment of Enlightenment and, following that, as an Enlightened Being” — an idea that stands in a relationship of a certain tension with the Buddhist teaching of the transitoriness of all things. 41 Dhargyey 1985: 91. 42 These visions are similar to those in the six yogas. 43 In this way a yogin unifies the Mother Clear Light (Clear Light of Death) and the Son Clear Light (Clear Light attained through meditation).




Although each of the centers and each of the ten winds is closely related to one of the six aggregates, according to the K∂lacakra Tantra the dissolution of the winds takes place in all the centers, regardless of the specific correlations. In other Anuttarayoga Tantras (e.g., Guhyasam∂ja), three bases — death, intermediate state, and birth — must be purified, whereas in K≤lacakra the intermediate state is dropped. These traditions also differ in their meditative path, which regards the intermediate state as an important part: the Effective Clear Light and the so-called Illusory Body, the body assumed by a deceased being in the intermediate state, should be united, as only this allows direct perception of Emptiness. It is true that in these traditions, too, the winds are guided into the central channel, but they are dissolved in the heart cakra into a drop the size of a mustard seed. After the Pure Illusory Body created by the yogin has finally fused with the Effective Clear Light, the last impurities disappear and the Three Buddha Bodies (k∂ya) can be attained. Jackson 1985 (1): 30; according to Dhargyey (1985: 151) and Mullin (1985a: 182 f.), a yogin of dull mental ability consummates the union first of all in the form of a karmamudr∂, a yogin of middling ability in the form of a jñ∂namudr∂ and a sharp-minded one directly in the form of a mah∂mudr∂ (see also n. 132). According to Dhargyey 1985: 30, 152. Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 248. E.g., Hopkins 1985: 27. For this purpose the deity can be imagined sitting in a palace (Tenzin Gyatso 1981: 117). According to Tenzin Gyatso 1981: 19–20 and Tsong-ka-pa 1981: 115–138. Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 386, n. 9, after Sopa & Hopkins 1976: xvi. The following description is after Tenzin Gyatso 1981: 21–24 and Tsong-ka-pa 1981: 103–14. Tenzin Gyatso 1981: 22. Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 401–2; see also Dhargyey 1985: 58 ff. See also Schöne 1983. Tucci 1980: 63–64. Mircea Éliade, in History of Religions, Vol. 11: “Spirit, Light and Seed.” Such mandalas made of colored powder are called rajomaΩ≈ala (rdul tshon gyi dkyil ’khor). According to Macdonald (1962: 104) the fine powder is made from rice. In the K≤lacakra Mandala sprinkled at Rikon, Switzerland, in Autumn 1985, silicon dioxide (quartz) was used, practically free of solid inclusions. Examined under the microscope, the quartz grains were all very angular and sharp-edged, which suggests that the quartz minerals were ground. Investigation of three test colors revealed: the white sand was without added coloring, i.e., consisted of the basic quartz substance (SiO2); the black color was caused by a fine, black powder, probably soot, adhering to the surface of the quartz; and the red color was created similarly with organic pigments (Investigation of the Eidgenössischen Materialprüfungsund Forschungsanstalt [Swiss Materials Testing and Research Institute], Dübendorf, No. 134 432, Dr H. Vonmont). The analysis of material used to make a Yam≤ntaka (Vajrabhairava) mandala at the Linden-Museum in Stuttgart

© Arnoldsche Art Publishers 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

showed that calcium sulphate dihydrate was used (analysis report by Landesmuseum für Technik und Arbeit, Mannheim, 6.1.1995). The mandala was made in December 1992 by six monks from the Tse Chok Ling monastery, Dharamsala. 17 This text reveals a departure from the K≤lacakra universe already described in detail: definite geometric shapes are ascribed to the element disks, which do not agree with the visible K≤lacakra universe, as there the elements clearly form gigantic round disks. 18 Palden Yeshe, n.d.: translation adapted from p. 5 (Eng. version), 10 (Ger.). 19 Palden Yeshe, n.d.: after p. 5 (Eng.), 11 (Ger.). 20 The mind mandala on top is subdivided into mandalas of deep awareness and great bliss. 21 Dhargyey 1985: 57. 22 I was helped in this by Messrs Rottermann and Glauser of the Rocad company, Bern. Peter Nebel converted the computer drawings produced by them into models. In the meantime some of the computer drawings were used to create a computer animation (see Brauen and Hassler 1997). Some of the drawings are reproduced in Brauen 1994. 23 Berzin, n.d.; Serkong Rinpoche 1982. 24 Palden Yeshe, n.d.: after pp. 5–6 (Eng.), 11–12 (Ger.). 25 Éliade 1937: 196; Éliade 1958: 64; Kramrisch 1946. 26 Kramrisch 1946: 39. Tibetan temples (lha khang) also often display the mandala principle. Besides wall paintings with depictions of mandalas, the architectural plan of the temple is often determined by the mandala structure. One thinks of the Jokhang in Lhasa (Fig. 3.27) or the monastic precinct of Samye (Fig. 3.25). The central temple of the Chokhor monastery in Tabo also forms a mandala, similar to the Sarvavid Vairocana Mandala, as Shashibala (1989) has shown. Also worth mentioning in this connection is Pule Si in Jehol (Chengde, China), whose main hall, the Xuguang Ge, forms a mandala and encloses a three-dimensional Sa≠vara Mandala (Chayet 1985: 39 ff.). 27 More accurately, the rulers of the 28 lunar constellations plus four rulers of the planets, “who rule over the equinoxial and solstitial points referred to the cardinal points” (Kramrisch 1946: 31 f.). 28 According to Kramrisch 1946: 35. 29 Interestingly enough, in Vedic times the altar consisted of 32 stones arranged about a central, 33rd stone (Kramrisch 1946: 95). 30 The 32 regents, in Java for example, are regents of the 28 provinces, standing for the heavenly regents of the 28 lunar constellations, and the four ministers, standing for the four directions (Heine-Geldern 1982: 33). 31 Blondeau 1990: 97 ff. 32 Lessing 1976: 31 ff. 33 Lessing & Wayman 1978: 281; Kalsang Gyatso 1987: 6. According to Kalsang Gyatso, charnel-grounds, places near (calm) water and so forth are favorable. 34 This idea is also typical of Hinduism: according to Vastuvidy∂, VII, 2–6, the v∂stumaΩ≈ala underlying a temple is covered with a great serpent, which turns a little bit every day on the mandala surface so that after a year it has completed a whole rotation (Kramrisch 1946, Vol.1: 62, 90, n.59; Becker-Ritterspach 1982: 59). 35 Before the building of a Tibetan monastery commences, the lord of the soil is drawn similarly on the ground. In the course of the consecration of the ground area, a monk then sprinkles earth taken from the consecrated spot all over the area of the future building, thus creating a kind of

temple consecration mandala. A precise account of the ritual can be found in Bechert (1971: 17 ff.). 36 Lessing & Wayman 1978: 281. 37 The actual deities descend from heavenly realms and find their way into the objects; as opposed to the samayasattvas, or Pledge Beings, symbolic representations of the deities, which are not completely identical with the actual deities. 38 Lessing & Wayman 1978: 282–3. 39 The northeast is considered to be the direction from which (among other things) hindrances come; a mandala should therefore not be set up in the northeast of a town (personal communication from the monk Pema, Dharamsala). 40 See also Lessing & Wayman 1978: 282, n. 16. 41 Here the K≤lacakra ritual deviates once again from the usual traditions, in which the vajra master turns from the east to the south, then to the west and finally to the north. 42 Sekoddeπa≤∑k∂, according to Carelli 1941: 26. Often a kalaπa (bum pa) is indeed vase-shaped, but in other cases (Beyer 1978: Fig. 44) it is a vessel with a long spout that cannot properly be called a vase, so that the translation “flask” is more appropriate. Gnoli and Orofino (1994: 158) give a detailed list of the different types of vases: “In the pacification rites (π∂ntika) the vases are made of crystal; in the rites of increase (pu�≤i) they are made of silver; a human skull is used in the rites of killing, and an iron vase in those of expulsion (ucc∂≤ana) and hate (vidve�a); the vases are of gold in the rites of submission (vaπya), of copper in the rites of attraction (∂k√�≤i), of clay in the rites of paralysis (stambhana), and of wood in the rites of obscuration (mohana). There are ten vases.” These are the characteristics of the vessels to be used in the rites of reconciliation and of increase: “some sixteen fingers wide in girth, twenty fingers in height, two fingers at the final curve (lip), six fingers wide at the neck, and eight fingers wide at the opening (mouth). These vases must be pure as the moon and are to be used for no purpose except the rites of reconciliation and increase.” 43 When very large mandalas are built, like for example the ones in the Yonghe Gong, the Lama Temple in Beijing, the vases are placed directly on the table surface of the mandala (picture of a K≤lacakra Mandala, Beijing (Peking) 1932, in Wayman 1973: 80). 44 Lessing & Wayman 1978: 286–7; see also Beyer 1978: 408–11. It is unclear whether the karma-vase in Khedrub Je is identical with the jaya vase in Carelli (1941: 31). In the consecration of the ground before building a monastery (n. 37), vases are likewise set out arranged in a mandala — they stand on the petals of a lotus flower drawn on the ground (Bechert 1971: 25). 45 Herbs, fragrant things such as saffron and incense, essences, grains, and precious stones, which appear to symbolize the body, speech, mind, actions, and merits of the deities (see table in Wayman 1973: 81). The Sekoddeπa≤∑k∂ mentions as vase ingredients: pulses, grains, precious stones, and metals; in addition, stones whose colors correspond to the direction to which they are related: black for the east and southeast, red for the south and southwest, and so forth. The two vases in the center, according to this text, both contain black stones, not blue and green respectively as one might expect (Carelli 1941: 31). See also Gnoli and Orofino (1994: 175–78), who mention 25 vase-ingredients, and give a detailed description: 25 medicinal herbs, 25 cereals (and vegetables; 5 groups of 5 species), 5 precious stones, 5 semi-precious stones, 5 inferior




47 48 49



52 53

54 55 56 57 58


60 61

stones, 5 metals. If stones and metals are absent, scented flowers in five different colors can be used. Tucci (1961: 24): “A vase remains an indispensable adjunct in all those Hindu ceremonies designed to bring down the divine essence (avahana) so that it may be projected and take up its abode in a statue or other object.” avahana means literally bringing near; one could alternatively read avahana to mean bringing down, or avahana, invoking. For similar ideas in Hinduism, see Bäumer 1986. The order of drawing the lines is not the same in every tradition (Lessing & Wayman 1978: 284 n.18; Lessing 1954). Wayman 1971: 565. The terminology of the straight lines of the mandala grid and the cords used to draw them is readily confused. Sanskrit s∏tra, Tibetan thig and indeed English line are all ambiguous, and of course the cord and the line physically coincide at the crucial moment. Khedrub Je (Lessing & Wayman 1978: 284–7) clearly implies that las thig (working line) and ye thig (gnosis line) refer to the mandala lines drawn and visualized, while the cords (thig skud) used to put them in place are the wet and dry cords (rlon thig, skam thig). Geshe Chokyi Dragpa defines ye thig as ye shes kyi thig drang po, “gnosis straight line,” which seems unambiguous. Also consistent with this interpretation, Bod rgya tshig mdzod chen mo says a las thig is a symbolic line (or pledge line) (dam tshig gi thig) drawn on a mandala and the ye thig is the gnosis line raised in the air above the mandala. The parallel with Pledge Being/Gnosis Being (samayasattva/jñ∂nasattva) means the term ye thig can hardly apply to a physical object. Drawing the first line of a mandala is apparently performed the same way in the Shaivism of southern India (Brunner 1986: 26). According to Khedrub Je (Lessing & Wayman 1978: 286–7) and Wayman (1971: 565), the dry cord is made of five sets of five differently colored threads, so that it comprises 25 (5 x 5) threads altogether. According to another source (Jamyang 1985: 2), the five female partners of the Tath≤gata Buddhas. These colors are typical for the K≤lacakra tradition but disagree with the coloring of many other mandalas (n. 44; see also p. 129, n. 21). no. 16, above. Lessing & Wayman 1978: 290–1; Lessing 1954: Plate 6; see also p. 125, n. 13. See p. 130, n. 49. These are emptiness, signlessness, wishlessness and nonaction. White OΩ = Amit≤bha red ≈∫ = Ratnasambhava black HŪΩ = Amoghasiddhi yellow HO∫ = Vairocana green HAΩ = Ak∂obhya blue K∆A∫ = Vajrasattva The twelve offering goddesses and offerings, which the meditator generates from his heart cakra and reabsorbs into his heart at the end, are grouped in six pairs. Each pair has to purify one of the six elements (deep awareness, space, air, fire, water, earth). It is easy to see from their colors that the six again form a mandala with the four cardinal directions plus center above and center below. These four phases are also known as approach, close approach, realization and great realization. In this way the cosmos is apparently created “upside down” within the body: space is related to the crown cakra, air to the brow, fire to the throat, water to the heart, and earth


to the navel cakra; Meru to the region from the navel to the genitals; and sun, moon, and R≤hu/K≤l≤gni to three channels that meet at the sexual cakra (Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 417; Mullin 1985a: 159 f; see also Fig. 64). 62 Channels for feces, urine, and semen. 63 Jackson 1985 (2): 128; Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 401. 64 It is unclear whether the syllable PHREΩ is generated in the palace. 65 In the mandala only eight πaktis encircle the central couple, the remaining two coincide with the goddess Vi√vam≤t. There are close correlations between the ten goddesses and the ten winds (Appendix Tables 5, 6). 66 Śakti (mighty) is a term little used in Tibetan Buddhism. In the K∂lacakra Tantra, however, the eight or ten goddesses are in fact described as πakti (nus ma), so it seems sensible to use the word (cf. Hopkins 1985: 83; Sopa 1985 (1): 99). 67 E.g., Jackson 1985 (2): 129. 68 Details of the number of deities in the K≤lacakra Mandala vary. Tenzin Gyatso (1985: 253–4) speaks of 722 deities, an enumeration that we follow here; other sources give 702 or 634 deities (Hopkins 1985: 485, n. 94). The XIII Dalai Lama even speaks of 1620 deities mentioned in the root Tantra, whereas the abbreviated Tantra talks about 722 deities (according to Mullin 1988: 300). 69 Two ear, nose, and eye openings; mouth, opening of urethra, opening of vas deferens or vagina, anus, upper and lower openings of the central wind channel. 70 According to Tibetan tradition, from conception to birth takes nine months and ten days; the expression ‘tenth month’ refers to the ten days of the tenth month. 71 E.g., Wayman 1973: 180. Another account of embryonic and fetal development is given by Dhargyey (1985: 106) and Lati Rinpoche & Hopkins (1990: 95 f.): first month — embryo like a fish second month — like a turtle third month — like a wild pig fourth month — fetus like a lion fifth month — fetus like a tiny human being (Lati Rinpoche & Hopkins 1990: 95 : ‘dwarf’) sixth month — development of visual ability, earth element arises seventh month — sense of hearing, water element eighth month — sense of smell, fire element ninth month — sense of taste, air element tenth month — sense of touch, space element 72 E.g., Tenzin Gyatso (1985: 253–4), who mentions 162 main deities (the 156 enumerated in Fig. 63 plus six Tath∂gatas), which correspond to the 162 main channels. Another tradition counts 120 main deities, corresponding to the 120 petals of four cakras (Wayman 1973: 174). In the Vajradh≤tu Mandala of Japanese Tendai Buddhism, the regions of the mandala (or the twelve most important deities) are related to certain parts of the body (Saso 1991: 124). 73 Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 212–3. 74 The group basically includes ten goddesses; eight surround the central deity couple and two are in the center, coinciding with K≤lacakra’s partner, Vi√vam≤t. 75 K≤lacakra, the meditator, is entered by way of the crown aperture, then the white bodhicitta flows down in the central channel and via his vajra (penis) finds its way into his partner, Vi√vam≤t; there the deities are generated step by step (drop -> seed syllable -> emblem -> form of deity plus partner). 76 A detailed division of the initiations can be found in Tenzin Gyatso (1985: 213–4); see also Lessing & Wayman (1978: 311 ff).

77 78


80 81 82 83 84

85 86 87



90 91

92 93 94

According to them, there are four major kinds of initiation in Anuttarayoga Tantra: Flask (kalaπa), eleven types Secret (guhya), one type Insight-knowledge (prajñ∂jñ∂na), one type Fourth Initiation (caturtha), one type The candidate is in fact described as a child (Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 178). For details, Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 186–195; the idea that the six elements are of the nature of the six female buddhas and setting the seed syllables of the nature of the six male ones displays parallels with the inner offering and selfprotection. Spiritual relationship with one of the Tath≤gatas can also apparently be ascertained by the fall of a toothpick that the student throws onto the mandala surface or onto a board representing it. In his commentary N≤ropa has this to say: “The disciple will throw the flower (he holds) in the hollow of his hand outside the mandala, onto the vase of triumph. The flowers, etc., are not to be tossed onto the colored powder as this would damage it; as a consequence of damaging the already marked and consecrated mandala one would succumb to the sin of destruction (st∏pa). Therefore the flower must be thrown outside the mandala, onto the vase of triumph before the gate of the East, for the purpose of observing and determining the family affiliation of the disciple.” (in Gnoli and Orofino 1994: 172ff). E.g., Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 201–3, 207–8; see also Jamyang 1985: 5. Gedun Drub, according to Mullin 1985a: 151. According to Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 264–6; Sopa 1985 (1): 99–100. I.e., the vase assigned to the relevant direction on the side of the mandala table. It was pointed out above that a flask is assigned to each direction: the four cardinal and four intermediate directions and above and below. The conch shell on the ‘vase with the water from above’ (all-victorious vase) contains water from every direction. In the initiations, the initiation substances (water, crown, ribbon, etc.) are therefore broken down into their components and these mixed with the individual constituents of the candidate. Strangely enough, the text speaks of two seed syllables, which turn into two emblems and two deities. Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 267 (adapted). The number of spokes of the vajra minus one (= center, central channel) corresponds to the number of petals in the relevant cakra lotus. Also translated as: emanation body, illusory body, transformation body, radiation body, production body or incarnate physical body. In Tantrism sa∞bhogak∂ya refers to the speech of a buddha and does not have the meaning of enjoyment body (Dhargyey 1985: 130; Sopa 1985 (2): 157, n. 46). It is not quite clear whether this drop is also related to the sexual and crown cakras. Body of own-being (svabhavak∂ya), also known as the innate body (sahajak∂ya); see also Sopa 1985 (2): 157, n. 47; Carelli 1941: 10; (see p. 130, n. 42). The practitioner should concentrate on the upper end of the central channel, i.e., the point between the eyebrows. Or four night signs and six day signs (Dhargyey 1985: 135). Dhargyey (1985: 135) speaks of a sign of bright lightning. All these visions correspond to those that appear after death.


96 97 98 99


101 102

The first four arise when four aggregates (skandha) dissolve, the next six when the white bodhicitta drop descends, when the red bodhicitta drop rises, when the two drops unite in the heart cakra, etc. (Dhargyey 1985: 85–94; see also p. 130, n. 50). Certainty of time, of abode, of the (empty) nature of the deity and his partner, of the body of the deities (who are one with Vajrasattva), and of aspect (the two deities in union) according to Dhargyey (1985: 135 f.). The vajra recitation is described in Dhargyey (1985: 137). A detailed description of the Vase-type meditation is given by Dhargyey (1985: 138 ff.); see also Mullin (1985b: 116). According to Gedun Drub (in Mullin 1985a: 180); see also a similar description by Gedun Gyatso (in Mullin 1985b: 116). According to Gedun Drub (in Mullin 1985a: 180), the elements dissolve in this stage, which recalls the passing of a cosmos and of a person. Earth dissolves into water, and the energies involved reach the heart cakra; water dissolves into fire and flows into the throat cakra; fire becomes air and reaches the brow, air dissolves into space and is brought into the crown, and finally space becomes wisdom, which collects in the sexual cakra. According to Gedun Gyatso (in Mullin 1985b: 119), air dissolves into consciousness and this into clear light (see also p. 130, n. 50). Jñ∂namudr∂ can also be called dharmamudr∂; a slightly different interpretation of mah∂ and dharmamudr∂ from Khedrub Je is found in Wayman (1973: 127); see also n. 3, above. According to Gedun Drub (in Mullin 1985a: 182 f.). Dhargyey 1985: 143; Gedun Drub in Mullin 1985a: 183 ff; Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 420–422. Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 422–3.

22 See Dhargyey 1985: 36. 23 Newman 1987: 473. 24 This world view is astonishingly similar to that of the Russian cosmologist Andrei Linde: “Then it turned out that one cannot understand the exceedingly large without understanding the exceedingly small — from which everything came.” … “The processes dependent on chance that occur before one on a small scale recur in the entire Universe.” Interview in Tages Anzeiger Magazin, 20, Zürich 1990. 25 Origen Leviticum homiliae, V, 2; according to Jung 1981: 75 (CW 9: I, para. 624).

© Arnoldsche Art Publishers 103


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Cammann 1950. Hummel 1958: 167. Hummel 1958: 162. Interesting pictorial material can be found in Argüelles (1972). Jung 1981: 80 ff. (Eng. edn CW 9: I, para. 630 ff.); see also Jung 1938: 122 and Jung 1944: 146 (CW 12: para. 125). Jung 1981: 81 (CW 9: I, para. 633. Hull’s translation adapted). Jung 1954: 198. Jung 1954: 475; see also Jung 1981: 45 (CW 9: I, para. 572). Jung 1954: 13 (CW 9: I, para. 16). Jung 1981: 116 (CW 9: I, para. 714). Jung 1948: 471. Jung 1954: 387 ff. Jung 1972: 49. Jung 1929: 24. Jung 1954: 319. Jung 1954: 322. Jung 1954: 327. Jung 1948: 472. E.g., Moacanin 1986; Kalff 1983. Jung 1948: 467 (Zur Psychologie östlicher Meditation (‘On the Psychology of Eastern Meditation’)). Oral teachings of Lama Yeshe 1979, 1980.

Illustration next page: Amit∂yus Mandala, from a manuscript related to the Tsogdag ritual Central Tibet, Lhasa(?); c. 1665 Ink and pigments on paper 2 pages, 6 ¼ X 17 inches (15.9 x 43.2 cm) each Collection of Thomas Isenberg TC382 No. 47 On this page, comprising two printed leaves, is a mandala with Amit≤yus, the Buddha of Infinite Life, in the center. He cradles in his lap a vessel containing the nectar of immortality. Inscribed in concentric circles around him are various Tibetan mantras, and to the right of the mandala is an extended inscription prescribing the proper procedure for its preparation. For instance, the mandala should be drawn on a ground, or surface, of white birch bark, with ink made from saffron, and yellow thread should be used for the two inner squares framing the Buddha figure. In addition, the inscription details at some length the mandala ritual itself, as a guide for monks called upon to perform the ceremony. The site on which the mandala is to be drawn should be decorated with fruits and the rite held at a “profitable date and time which offers a five-fold expansion and a time in which karmic actions will join together and double themselves.” Not only should the date and time of the ritual be auspicious, but the offerings involved should be of equal merit, including “various types of grains, jewels, and wealth, all of which should be worthy of being offered.” Louis Ho (based on translations and comments by David Templeman)



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APPENDIX © Arnoldsche Art Publishers

Table 1 (page 17) Table 2 (page 23)

L. Forms aggregate (2.5)

SW W NW ̄ Fire element (1.3)

Table 3 (page 164)

R. Feelings aggregate (2.3)


≈ Space element (1.1)

L̄. Earth element (1.5)

U Perceptions aggregate (2.4)


A Consciousness aggregate (2.1.)

SW W NW ≈R Tastes (5.6)


AR Sense of vision (5.5)

AL Sense of touch (5.9)

≈ Other phenomena (5.2) 1 A Sense of hearing (5.1)

≈L Smells (5.10)


A∫ Sounds (5.12) AΩ Mental sense (5,11)

O Sense of taste (5.7)

Table 6 Mandala-style arrangement of the six sense powers (senses) and six sense objects. The first number indicates the mandala initiation in which they are the position in the sequence of purifcations.2 Contrary to this schematic representation, in the actual mandala the Bodhisattvas who correspond to the sense or their objects in the center are not depicted in the center of the mandala but on the left of the four entrances of the mind mandala. 1

Table 4 The five elements and five aggregates. The first number after each element or aggregate indicates the mandala initiation in which the component is purified, the second gives the position of the purification in the relevant initiation (thus fire (1.3) is purified as an element in the first initiation – in third place; perceptions (2.4) as an aggregate in the second initiation – in fourth place).

I Mental factors aggregate (2.2)

SE E NE Ī Air element (1.2)

Ū Water element (1.4)


AI Tangible objects (5.4)

E Sense of smell (5.3)

AU Forms (5.8)


In the mandala the Bodhisattvas connected with these characteristics are not depicted in the center, but on the left (looking out from the center) of each of the four entrances of the mind mandala. However, it is clear from the symbol assigned to them – the vajra – that these elements belong to the center. It is striking that a sense and sense object not belonging together are placed side by side. This arrangement corresponds exactly with that of the Bodhisattvas in the mind realm of the K≤lacakra Mandala, which mediate the fifth initiation. In fact the two components – whose combined value comes to 13 – always belong together, e.g. sense of sight (5) in the south and forms (8) in the northeast.

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Table 5 The ten principal winds, their directional assignments in the human body (or the places in which they flow into the heart cakra), and the seed syllable and element with which each wind is connected. The first number indicates the mandala initiation in which the wind is purified (here always the third), the second refers to the position of the relevant wind purification in the sequence of purifications. 1

2 3

K√kala or k√kara is translated into Tibetan as rtsangs pa, “lizard,” “chameleon.” N∂ga may mean either a snake or a creature that is half-snake, half-human. Dhana∞jaya literally means “wealth-conquering” and devadatta “god-given,” both well-known as personal names. “Fire-accomplanying” or fire-inhabiting wind (Lati Rinpoche & Hopkins 1990:19). In the central channel below the heart cakra. In the central channel below the heart cakra.


LA Faculty of defecation (6.9)



Vitalizing / Life-holding wind 2 (3.9) HOH Space element

HA F. of urination (6.1) H≈ Ejaculating (6.2)

K√kala wind 1 (3.4) HA∫ Fire element

Upward-moving wind (3.3) A∫ Fire element


Tortoise wind (3.2) HA Air element

N∂ga wind (3.7) ≈ Earth element

Dhana∞jaya wind (3.8) H≈ Earth element

Pervading wind (3.5) AΩ Water element


Downward-emtying wind 3 (3.10) PHREΩ Deep Awareness (Great Bliss) element

Fire-accompanying wind (3.1) A Air element

Devadatta wind (3.6) HAΩ Water element


R≈ Going (6.6)

RA Arm faculty (6.5)


L≈ Speaking (6.10)


HAM. F. of ejaculation (6.11) HAH. urinating (6.12)

VA Leg faculty (6.7)

SE E NE Y≈ Defecating (6.4)

YA Mouth faculty (6.3)

V≈ Taking (6.8)

Table 7 Mandala-style arrangement of six action faculties and six activities. The first number indicates the mandala initiation in which the relevant faculty or activity is purified (here always the sixth), the second refers to the position in the sequence of purfications.1 Contrary to this schematic representation, the wrathful deities who correspond to the action faculties and activities in the center are not depicted or visualized in the center of the mandala but the above mandala (6.1, 6.12), or in the body realm of the mandala (6.2, 6.11). 1

According to Hopkins 1985: 115ff; Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 318ff; in this scheme too, activity & action faculty which do not actually belong together are placed side by side, corresponding to the deployment of the twelve wrathful deities that give the sixth initiation. Once again, the two components whose combined count makes 13 belong together, e.g. mouth faculty (3) in the east and speech (10) in the northwest.




Table 8 The most important components of a human being and their correlations with the mandala deities and initiations. As a rule 36 components are counted altogether, thus not six channels but only two (left and right channels); the element and aggregate of deep awareness are not purified in the first and second initiations but separately in the seventh. Through the details of the individual emblems and directions, assignment to one of the six Buddha “families” results (Table 9). 1 In fact two side channels and one central channel each in the upper and the lower parts of the trunk = six channels.

Six elements

Six aggregates


mental factors









SW W NW Wheel Vairocana


deep awareness (great bliss)

deep awareness (wisdom)

6 female Buddhas

6 male Buddhas

First Initiation

Second Initiation


SE E NE Sword Amoghasiddhi

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Six (or two) channels 1

Six senses

Six action faculties


fire-accompanying wind (1) + tortoise wind (2)

lower left

sense of smell

mouth faculty

sword (E)

upward-moving wind + lizard (k√kala) wind

(3) (4)

upper right

sense of vision

arm faculty

jewel (S)

pervading-wind + devadatta wind

(5) (6)

lower right

sense of taste

leg faculty

lotus (N)

serpent (n∂ga) wind + dhana∞jaya wind

(7) (8)

lower right

sense of touch

faculty of defecation

wheel (W)

life-holding wind


upper central

senso of hearing

faculty of urination

vajra (above)

lower central

mental sense

faculty of ejaculation

10 Śaktis

K≤lacakra and Vi√vam≤t

6 Bodhisattvas

6 wrathful deities

Third Initiation

Fourth Initiation

Fifth Initiation

Sixth Initiation

̄ Horse lesh (1.3) Fire element Goddess P≤≥∑ar≤

1 These assignments correspond to the K≤lacakra Mandala, but are atypical of most other mandalas, in which the following assignments are found: east – blue (white) Ak∂obhya (Vairocana) south – yellow Ratnasambhava west – red Amit≤bha north – green Amoghasiddhi center – white (blue) Vairocana (Ak∂obhya)

Navel Cakra Wheel

L. Excrement (2.5) Forms aggregate Buddha Vairocana

L̄. Elephant lesh (1.5) Earth element Goddess Locan̄a

SW W NW Throat Cakra Jewel R. Blood (2.3) Feelings aggregate Buddha Ratnasambhava


≈ Human lesh (1.1) Space element Goddess Vajradh≤tv◊√var◊ Bell Crown Cakra Vajra A Semen (2.1) Consciousness aggregate Buddha Ak∂obhya

u urine (2.4) Perceptions aggregate Buddha Amit≤bha

C N Brow Cakra Lotus

bell (below) Ī Dog lesh (1.2) Air element Mental Goddess T≤r≤

I Bone marrow (2.2) Mental factors aggregate Buddha Amoghasiddhi

ū Cow lesh (1.4) Water element Goddess M≤mak◊

SE E NE Heart Cakra Sword


Lotus Amit≤bha

Table 9 The five directions and the Buddhas (Buddha ‘families’) assigned to them with their emblems in the Kalac≤kra tradition.1

Ten winds


Vajra Ak∂obhya

Seventh Initiation


downward-emtying wind


Jewel Ratnasambhava

Table 10 Mandala-style arrangement of the inner offering, 1 and the male and female Buddhas visualized with it. The first number indicates the mandala initiation in which the substance in question is purified, the second, the position in the sequence of purifications within the relevant initiation. 1 In the Yam≤ntaka system the inner offerings is offered differently: Center – human flesh, Ak∂obhya (or Vairocana) East – cow flesh, Vairocana (or Ak∂obhya) South – dog flesh, Ratnasambhava West – elephant flesh, Amit≤bha North – horse flesh, Amoghasiddhi On this, see for example Wayman (1973: 116).



Place of visualization

Transformation of syllable into planet

Buddha aspect from which planet’s rays bring nectar of Deep Awareness

Effect of nectar on substances in skull cup

Direction in the Mandala

Step of visualization

Corresponding Wisdom

Tath∂gata-Buddha and direction in the Mandala

Aggregate of the Yogin

Moon and 32 vowels

Mirror-like Wisdom

Vairocana (W)


Wisdom of Equality (of all things)

Ratnasambhava (S)



left palm

> OΩ

> white Moon

> Vajra Body of all Buddhas

> purified


plus Sun and 80 consonants


right palm

> ≈∫

> red Sun

> Vajra Speech of all Buddhas

> marvellously increased


plus Consciousness and HŪΩ

Discriminating Wisdom1

Amit≤bha (N)



both palms


> black R≤hu

> Vajra Mind of all Buddhas

> radiant/ luminous


plus Wind and HI

(All-)accomplishing Wisdom2

Amoghasiddhi (E)

Mental factors


in center of both palms

> HO∫

> yellow K≤l≤gni > Vajra Wisdom (Deep Awareness) of all Buddhas

> completely undefiled


Table 14 Stages in the generation of K≤lacakra and correspondences of individual elements of the visualization.

All together transform

1 Or wisdom/deep awareness of the individuality of things. 2 Or action-accomplishing wisdom/deep awareness.

> HAΩ >

Table 11 Second phase of the inner offering. Numbers 1–4 indicate the sequence of the steps in the visualization.

Generation of seed syllable

Wisdom of Reality (of all things)

Ak∂obhya (C)



Table 12 Correlations between cakras and Tath≤gat≤ Buddhas. Numbers 1–6 indicate the sequence of the steps in the visualization.

Table 13 The sixty deities of the protective circle mandala, and their correlations. Numbers 1–6 indicated the sequence in which the deities are generated and transformed in the cakras.

Cakra in which visualization takes place

Disk visualized as base

Seed syllable visualized

Transformation of seed syllable into Buddha

Direction in the Mandala


Brow Cakra

> white Moon disk

> OΩ

> Amit≤bha



Throat Cakra

> red Sun disk

> ≈∫

> Ratnasambhava



Heart Cakra

> black R≤hu disk


> Amoghasiddhi



Navel Cakra

> yellow K≤l≤gni disk

> HO∫

> Vairocana



Crown Cakra

> green Space disk


> Ak∂obhya

C above


Sexual Cakra

> blue disk of Deep Awareness

> K∆A∫

> Vajrasattva

4-petaled crown cakra

4 male and 4 female Buddhas and their partners 2

16-petaled brow cakra

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12 male and 12 female Bodhisattvas and 4 male & 4 female wrathful deities 3

32-petaled throat cakra


Element the deities purify

Realm the deities guard

Cakra the deities reach

Seed syllable they transform into in the cakra

8 Śaktis 4


10 wrathful protectors 1

Deep Awareness

Mind Realm

Sexual Cakra


64 goddesses of the speech realm 5

64-petaled navel cakra


10 gods of the elements


Mind Realm

Crown Cakra

> OΩ

32-petaled sexual cakra


10 protectors of the directions 2


Speech Realm

Brow Cakra


32 protectors of the body realm 6


10 gods of the planets 3


Speech Realm

Throat Cakra


5 6

10 N∂ga Kings



Body Realm

Heart Cakra


10 elementals



Body Realm

Navel Cakra

> L.

1 u∂≥◊∂a, umbha, Sarvan◊vara≥avi∂kambhin, N◊lada≥∑a, Prajñ≤ntaka, akki, Padm≤ntaka, Acala, Yam≤ntaka and Mah≤bala. 2 Brahm≤, Vi∂≥u, Nairti, V≤yu, Yama, Agni, Samudra, Rudra, Indra and Yak∂a. 3 R≤hu, K≤l≤gni, moon, sun, Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Ketu and Saturn.


K≤lacakra & Vi√v≤m≤t plus 2 Śaktis 1

4 R≤ja, Vijaya, Karkotaka, Padma, V≤suki, a∏khap≤la, Ananta, Kulika, Mah≤padma and Taksaka. 5 Various kinds of spirits and demons, many with animal heads. All sixty deities of the protective circle after Jackson (1985b: 125).

8-petaled heart cakra

Table 15 Assignment of the most important mandala deities to particular cakras.

1 nn. 74, 99. 2 The remaining two male and two female Buddhas are not counted here, presumable because they coincide with the central couple. 3 Another four wrathful deities are not counted here, as they are assigned not to the mind mandala but two each to the upwards direction and to the body mandala.

4 Two other πaktis have already been included in the topmost cakra. 5 The two central deities in each group of eight are not included in this number. 6 It is hard to match the number 32 to the deities in the body mandala: possibly 24 main male and female deities in the twelve wheels (=24) plus a protector and a partner in each of the four directions.



Elements in universe

Elements in ‘mother’




great bliss / deep awareness

(central energy channel?) 2

fine, wavy line (n∂da) at top

green or black



right energy channel

dot = anusv∂ra 3 (Ω of HAΩ)

red, yellow or white 4



left energy channel

crescent = visarga (∫ of K∆A∫)

white or red 4



(central energy channel?) 2


dark blue


lotus (on Meru)






sexual cakra 5

MA 6

white, yellow red & black



navel cakra 5





heart cakra 5





throat cakra





brow cakra





crown cakra 5

Table 16 The ‘tenfold mighty one’ (daπ∂k∂ro vaπ∑; rnam bcu dbang ldan) – seven “mighty” interwoven letters and three additional signs – in relation to the elements (universe) and cakras (person).1



vowel A, which ‘gives live’ to all consonants (not shown)

In Grünwedel (1915: 96), other correlations are mentioned: YA – foot RA – shin VA – thigh LA – hip MA – spine KSA – neck to forehead HA – crown crescent and drop – left and right channels n∂da – central channel 2 It is unclear whether 8 or 11 represents the central energy channel. Its upper and lower parts correspond to R≤hu and K≤l≤gni. 3 Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 213. 4 The coloring of the crescent and the dot or “drop” (thig le) is not standar-

10 9



SW W NW Jewel Fire element Goddess P≤≥∑ar≤ embodying Wisdom of Equality (of all things) (2) ≈∫ in Throat Cakra (Speech drop)



6 5 4 3

3 5 5 6 7 8

dized. The following assignments would seem the most sensible: white crescent – left channel–- moon; red dot – right channel – sun; but when the colors are different, the correspondences with the sun and moon and channels may be changed also. When visualizing K≤lacakra there is slight difference in the assignment of hte syllables to the cakras (Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 245): navel – yellow LAΩ heart – black LAΩ throat (neck) – red RAΩ forehead – white BAΩ It is obvious that these syllables are analogous to those from which, according to the K∂lacakra tantra, the individual elements of a universe arise (in that case a final Ω is added); on this visualization see, e.g., Mullin 1985a: 159; Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 213.




Table 18 The four female Buddhas (goddesses) who awaken life with their songs, and their correlations. These are four of the five female Buddhas who perform the first initiation (Table 20). Numbers 1–4 give the sequence of the visualizations. 1

Possibly also in the sexual and crown cakras.

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Seventh Initiation HO∫ Navel Cakra Bliss drop

SW W NW Third and Fourth Initiations ≈∫ Throat Cakra Speech drop

Table 17 Seed syllables emanated from emptiness, then symbols, and finally Tath≤gatas. These are the “births” that the yogin experiences in the first, third, fifth and seventh initiations.

Lotus Water element Goddess M≤mak◊ embodying Discriminating Wisdom (1) OΩ in Brow Cakra (Body drop)

Sword Air element Goddess T≤r≤ embodying All accomplishing Wisdom (3) HūΩ in Heart Cakra (Mind drop)

2 2


Wheel Earth element Goddess Locan≤ embodying Mirror-like Wisdom (4) HO∫ in Navel Cakra 1 (Bliss drop)


Initiation birth precedes


Seed syllable

> Symbol

> Deity

= Buddha




> lotus

> Vajra Body Deity

white Amit≤bha + red P≤≥∑arav≤sin◊




> jewel

> Vajra Speech Deity

red Ratnasambhava + white M≤mak◊




> sword

> Vajra Mind Deity

black Amoghasiddhi + yellow Locan≤




> wheel

> Vajra Deep-Awareness Deity

yellow Vairocana + black T≤r≤


First and Second Initiations OΩ Brow Cakra Body drop

C N K≤lacakra and Vi√vam≤t

Fifth and Sixth Initiations HūΩ Heart Cakra Mind drop


Table 19 The seven basic initiations and their relation to the directions in the mandala and the four drops in the corresponding cakras of the person.




External substance used for initiation

Purification of and transformation into

Corresponding event in human developmentn


From the syllable OΩ arises a Lotus and from that white Amit≤bha with consort; in the form of Amit≤bha, the body is purified (and thence the Body Drop or Waking State Drop in the Brow Cakra) in the north before K≤lacakra’s white, peaceful face: First

Water Initiation


5 elements > 5 female Tath≤gatas

bathing of a newborn baby


Crown Initiation

5-sided crown

5 aggregates > 5 male Tath≤gatas

first cutting of the hair 2

From the syllable ≈∫ arises a jewel and from that red Ratnasambhava with consort; in the form of Ratnasambhava the speech is purified (and thence the Speech Drop or Dream State Drop in the Throat Cakra) in the south before K≤lacakra’s red, ecstatic face: Third

Ribbon Initiation

10-part crown ribbon

10 winds and channels > 10 πakti goddesses

ear-piercing and first adornment


Vajra and Bell Initiation

Vajra and bell

left channel > K≤lacakra

speaking the first word 3

right channel > Vi√vam≤t From the syllable HūΩ arises a sword and from that black Amoghasiddhi with consort; in the form of Amoghasiddhi the mind is purified (and thence the Mind Drop or Deep Sleep State Drop in the Heart Cakra) in the east before K≤lacakra’s black, wrathful face: Fifth


Conduct Initiation

Name Initiation

thumb-ring 4


6 sense powers > 6 male Bodhisattvas

child’s first enjoyment of

6 sense objects > 6 female Bodhisattvas

sense objects

6 action faculties > 6 male wrathful deities


6 actions > 6 female wrathful deities


Permission Initiation


the actual initiation

5 hand-symbols: Vajra, sword, jewel, lotus and wheel

Deep Awareness > Vairocana reading


giving of mantras and 3 substances

eye medicine mirror bow and arrow

Prepares for conceptual realization of Emptiness Helps realization of the illusoriness of all things Helps direct realization of Emptiness in meditation


Master’s Initiation


aggregate of Deep Awareness > Vajrasattva (K≤lacakra) element of Deep Awareness > Prajñ≤p≤ramit≤ (Vi√vam≤t)

child’s first lesson 5

Table 20 The seven basic initiations, their course and correlations. 1 1

2 3


Hopkins (1985: 118) additionally relates the four internal initiations occurring in the first, third, fifth and seventh initiations to phases in the development of the embryo and foetus. Or “fixing up the hair on the top of the child's head” (Hopkins 1985: 110, 118–9; see also Jamyang 1985: 8). Jamyang 1985: 9; or according to Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 304, “a child's laughing and talking.”




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From the syllable HO∫ arises a wheel and from that yellow Vairocana with consort; in the form of Vairocana, Great Bliss/Deep Awareness is purified (and thence the Bliss or Ecstasy Drop in the Navel Cakra) in the west before K≤lacakra’s yellow face established in meditation:



There can also be five rings, one on each finger, related to the five elements – the thumb ring, for instance, correlates with earth and is therefore yellow (Tenzin Gyatso 1985: 308). Hopkins (1985: 119) rightly points out that at least four of these events in the life of a child are so-called rites of passage, and the other three events also constitute important transitions. Jamyang (1985: 11) adopts a slightly different interpretation.

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Painting From C. 1200 to C. 1350.” In: Holy Madness. Portraits of Tantric Siddhas, ed. Robert N. Linrothe, 76–91. New York: Rubin Museum of Art —, 2006b: “Mandala. Form, Funktion und Bedeutung,” in Lee-Kalisch, Jeong-hee (ed.), Tibet – Klöster öffnen ihre Schatzkammern (Essen: Kulturstiftung Ruhr Essen, Villa Hügel), 71–79 Lutz, Albert, 1991: Der Goldschatz der drei Pagoden (“The golden treasure of the three pagodas”). Zürich Mabbett, I.W., 1983/84: “The Symbolism of Mount Meru.” History of Religions, Vol. 23 Macdonald, Ariane, 1962: Le Mandala du mañjuπr∑m∏lakalpa. Paris, Adrien-Maisonneuve Macdonald, A.W. & Anne Vergati Stahl, 1979: Newar Art. Warminster Majupuria, T.Ch. & S.P. Gupta, 1981: Nepal. The Land of Festivals. New Delhi Markel, Stephen, 1990: “The Imagery and Iconographic Development of the Indian Planetary Deities R≤hu and Ketu.” South Asian Studies, Vol. 6, 9–26, London Martin, Dan, 1994: Mandala Cosmogony. Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz Mémet, Sébastien, 1988: “Le monastère de bSam-yas. Essai de restitution.” In: Arts Asiatiques, XLIII Meyer, Fernand, 1981: gSo-ba rig-pa, le système médical tibétain. Paris Moacanin, Radmila, 1986: Jung’s Psychology and Tibetan Buddhism. Western and Eastern Paths to the Heart. London, Wisdom Publications Mode, Heinz, 1987: “Der Chakra. Bildtradition, Symbol, Funktion.” In: Gnoli & Lanciotti 1985–88, Vol. 2 Mookerjee, Ajit & Madhu Khanna, 1977: The Tantric Way. Art, science, ritual. London & New York (Ger. edn, Munich 1987) Mullin, Glenn H. (compiled & trans.), 1982: Essence of Refined Gold. Selected Works of the Third Dalai Lama (bSod-nams rgya-mtsho). Ithaca, NY, Snow Lion —, 1985a: Bridging the Sutras and Tantras. A collection of ten minor works by Gyalwa Gendun Drub (dGe-’dun grub) the First Dalai Lama. Dharamsala, Tushita Books 1981; rev. edn, Ithaca, NY, Snow Lion, 1985 —, 1985b: Tantric yogas of Sister Niguma. Selected Works of the Second Dalai Lama (dG -’dun rgy -mtsho). 1982; repr. Ithaca, NY, Snow Lion, 1985 —, 1988: Path of the Bodhisattva Warrior. The Life and Teachings of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. Ithaca, NY, Snow Lion Mus, Paul, 1932–34: “Barabu∑ur. Les origines du st�pa et la transmigration. Essai d’archéologie religieuse comparée.” In: Bulletin de l’École Française d’Extrême-Orient, 32 (Fasc. 1) (1932): 269–439; 33 (1933): 577–980; 34 (1934): 175–400; also published separately, Hanoi 1935



Musashi Tachikawa and Malcolm Green (ed.), 1983: Tibetan Mandalas, The Ngor Collection. 2 vols. Tokyo: Kodansha Neumann, Helmut F., 2002: “Cremation Grounds in Early Tibetan Mandalas.” In: Orientations, Vol. 33, No. 10 (December), 42–50 Newman, John R., 1985: “A brief history of the Kalachakra.” In ed.: Simon 1985 —, 1987: The Outer Wheel of Time: Vajray∂na Buddhist Cosmology of the K∂lacakra Tantra. PhD Thesis, University of Wisconsin, Madison The Ngor Mandalas of Tibet: see bSod nam rgya mtsho et al. 1991 Ni∂pannayog≤val◊: see Bhattacharyya 1949 Norbu, Thubten Jigme, & Colin M. Turnbull 1972: Tibet. Its History, Religion and People. London, Chatto & Windus 1969, repr. Harmondsworth, Penguin Books 1972 (Ger. edn: Mein Tibet. Geist und Seele einer sterbenden Kultur. Wiesbaden 1971) Olschak, Blanche Christine, & Geshé Thubten Wangyal 1972: Mystik und Kunst Alttibets. Bern & Stuttgart, Hallweg Verlag 1972. Eng.: Mystic Art of Ancient Tibet. London, Allen & Unwin and New York, McGraw-Hill 1973 Oppitz, Michael, 1968: Geshichte und Sozialordnung der Sherpa. Khumbu Himal. 8 vols. Innsbruck and Munich Pal, Pratapaditya, 1997: Tibet. Tradition and Change. The Albuquerque Museum —, 1992a: Art of the Himalayas: Treasures from Nepal and Tibet. —, 1992b: “Himalayan Mandalas in the Zimmerman Collection.” In: Orientations (February). Palden Yeshe (dPal-ldan Ye-shes), 3rd Panchen Rinpoche, n.d.: (Ger.): Abgekürzte Methode zur Vergegenwärtigung des (dreizehn-Gottheiten) Kalachakra Rad der Zeit, der alles überwunden hat, der alles gewonnen hat. Ein Schatzhaus voller Juwelen. (Eng.): Abbreviated method for Actualizing (the Nine-deity) K∂lachakra, Cycles of Time, one who has overcome and gained all. A Treasure House of Gems. (Tib.: Collected Works, CHA, no. 919). Hectographed, no date or translators’ names —: see also Grünwedel 1915 Panchen Ötrul Rinpoche, 1990: “The stages of the rite of a tantric initiation.” In: Chö Yang, The Voice of Tibetan Religion and Culture, No. 3, Dharamsala Perrot, Maryvonne, 1980: Le symbolisme de la roue. Paris Peterson, Kathleen W., 1980: “Sources of variation in Tibetan canons of iconometry.” In: Tibetan Studies in honour of Hugh Richardson, ed. Michael Aris & Aung San Suu Kyi, Warminster Petri, Winfried, 1988: “Die Astronomie im K≤lacakralaghutantra.” In: H. Uebach & J. L. Panglung (eds), Tibetan Studies, Vol. 2, Munich


Piotrovsky, Mikhail (ed.), 1993: Lost Empire of the Silk Road. Milano. Roth, Gustav, 1980: “Symbolism of the Buddhist st�pa.” In: Dallapiccola 1980 Samvarodaya-tantra: see Tsuda 1974 Saso, Michael, 1991: Homa rites and mandala meditation in Tendai Buddhism. ata Piaka Series, Vol. 362, New Delhi Schabert, Tilo, 1990: Stadtarchitektur. Spiegel der Welt (“Town architecture, mirror of the world”). Zürich Schnurr, Eugen, 1985: Gleich dem Lotos (“Like the lotus”). Stuttgart Schöne, Wolfgang, 1983: Über das Licht in der Malerei. 1954, repr. Berlin 1983 Schubert, Johannes, 1953: “Das Wunschgebet um Shambhala. Ein tibetischer K≤lachakra-Text (mit einer mongolischen Übertragung).” In: Mitteilungen des Instituts für Orientforschung, I, Berlin —, 1954: “Das Reis-Mandala. Ein tibetisches Ritualtext” (“The rice mandala. A Tibetan ritual text”). In: Asiatica. Festschrift F. Weller. Leipzig Schuh, Dieter, 1973: Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der tibetischen Kalenderrechnung (“Investigations into the history of Tibetan calender computation”). Wiesbaden Seckel, Dietrich, 1957: Buddhistische Kunst Ostasiens (“Buddhist Art of Eastern Asia”). Stuttgart —, 1980: “St�pa elements surviving in East Asian pagodas.” In ed.: Dallapiccola 1980 Serkong Rinpoche, 1982: Teaching on Kalachakra. (Trans. Alexander Berzin.) Tape recordings, Deer Park, Madison, Wisconsin Shashibala, 1989: Comparative iconography of the Vajradh∂tu Mandala and the Tattva-Sangraha. ata Piaka Series, Vol. 344, New Delhi Sheehy, Michael R., 2009: “A Lineage History of Vajrayoga and Tantric Zhentong from the Jonang K≤lachakra Practice Tradition.” In: As Long as Space Endures: Essays on the Kalachakra Tantra in Honor of the Dalai Lama, 219–235. Ithaca, Snow Lion Publications Simon, Beth (ed.), 1985: The Wheel of Time. The Kalachakra in Context. Madison, Wisconsin, Deer Park Books Skorupski, Tadeusz, 1983: The Sarvadurgatipariπodhana Tantra. Elimination of All Evil Destinies. New Delhi-Varanasi-Patna, Motilal Barnasidass Slusser, Mary Shepherd, 1982: Nepal Mandala — A cultural study of the Kathmandu valley. Princeton Smith, Bardwell & Holly Baker Reynolds, 1987: The city as a sacred centre. Leiden Snellgrove, David, 1967: The Nine Ways of Bon. London, Oxford Univ. Press 1967; repr. Boulder, Prajñ≤ Press, 1980 —, 1981: “Introduction [To the Stts].” In: Sarvatath∂gata-tattva-Sa∞graha. Facsimile Reproduction of a Tenth Century Sanskrit Manuscript From Nepal, ed. Lokesh Chandra,

and David L. Snellgrove, 296, 5–67. New Delhi: Mrs Sharada Rani —, 1987: Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. Indian Buddhists and their Tibetan successors. London, Serindia Publications and (in 2 vols.) Boston, Shambhala Snelling, John, 1990: The sacred mountain. Travellers and pilgrims at Mount Kailash in Western Tibet and the great universal symbol of the sacred mountain. London 1983, repr. 1990 Snodgrass, Adrian, 1988: The symbolism of the st∏pa. 1985, repr. Ithaca, NY 1988 —, 1988: The Matrix and Diamond World Mandalas in Shingon Buddhism. 2 vols. New Delhi, Aditya Prakashan bSod nams rgya mtsho & Musashi Tachikawa, 1989: The Ngor Mandalas of Tibet. Plates. Bibliotheca Codicum Asiaticorum, 2. Tokyo, Center for East Asian Cultural Studies — et al., 1983: Tibetan Mandalas. The Ngor Collection. 2 vols. Tokyo, Kodansha — et al., 1991: The Ngor Mandalas of Tibet. Listings of the Mandala Deities. Bibliotheca Codicum Asiaticorum, 4. Tokyo, Center for East Asian Cultural Studies Sopa, Geshe Lhundup, 1985 (1): “The Kalachakra Tantra initiation.” In ed.: Simon 1985 —, 1985 (2): “The subtle body in tantric Buddhism.” In ed.: Simon 1985 — & Jeffrey Hopkins, 1976: Practice and Theory of Tibetan Buddhism. London, Rider, 1976 (repr. as Cutting through Appearances, Ithaca, NY, 1989) Stein, M. Aurel, 1921: Serindia — detailed report of explorations in Central Asia and westernmost China. 5 vols. Oxford 1921, repr. Delhi 1980 Stein, R.A., 1962: La civilisation tibétaine. Paris; Eng.: Tibetan Civilization, trans. J.E. Stapleton Driver, London, Faber & Faber and Stanford, Stanford University Press 1972 Tambiah, S.J., 1976: World conqueror and world renouncer (chapter: “The Galactic Polity”). Cambridge ten Grotenhuis, Elizabeth, 1999: Japanese Mandalas: representations of sacred geography. Honolulu, University of Hawai’i Press Tenzin Gyatso (XIV Dalai Lama), 1981: “Heart of Mantra.” In: Tsong-ka-pa 1981 —, 1985: The K∂lachakra Tantra. Rite of Initiation for the Stage of Generation. A commentary on the text of Kay-drup-ge-lek-bel-sang-bo. Ed., trans. and introd. by Jeffrey Hopkins. London, Wisdom Publications Tharchin, Geshe Lobsang, 1987: A commentary on Guru Yoga and offering of the mandala. Ithaca, NY, Snow Lion Thurman, Robert A.F., (trans.) 1987: see Kalsang Gyatso 1987 —, (trans.) 1994: The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Liberation through Understanding in the Between. New York, Bantam Books

Tsang Nyön Heruka (gTsang-smyon He-ru-ka), 1982: The Life of Marpa the Translator. Trans. N≤land≤ Transln Committee. Boulder, Prajñ≤ Press Tsong-ka-pa, 1981: The Yoga of Tibet. The Great Exposition of Secret Mantra: 2 and 3. Introd. by H.H. Tenzin Gyatso, XIV Dalai Lama; trans. and ed. by Jeffrey Hopkins. London, Allen & Unwin Tsuda, Shiníchi, 1974: The Samvarodaya-Tantra, Selected Chapters. Tokyo, Hokuseido Press Tucci, Giuseppe, 1961: The Theory and Practice of the Mandala. With special reference to the modern psychology of the subconscious. Trans. from the Italian by Alan Houghton Brodrick. London, Rider & Co. 1961, repr. 1969 (Ger. edn 1949, repr. Dusseldorf 1989) —, 1980: The Religions of Tibet. Tr. from the Ger. and Italian by Geoffrey Samuel. London, Routledge & Kegan Paul (Ger. edn 1970) —, 1988a: St∏pa. Art, Architectonics and Symbolism. ata-piaka Ser., 347, New Delhi, Aditya Prakashan (Eng. version of Indo-Tibetica, I, Rome 1932) —, 1988b: The temples of Western Tibet and their artistic symbolism. The monasteries of Spiti and Kunavar. Ed. Lokesh Chandra. ata-piaka Ser., 349, New Delhi, Aditya Prakashan (Eng. version of Indo-Tibetica, III.1, Rome 1935) Uray, Geza, 1981: “L’emploi du tibetain dans les chancelleries des Etas du Kan-sou et de Khotan posterieurs a la domination tibetaine.” In: Journal Asiatique 269: 81–90 Van der Kuijp, Leonard, 2001: “On the Fifteenth century Lho rong chos “byung by Rta tshag Tseh dbang rgyal and Its Importance for Tibetan Political and Religious History.” In: Roberto Vitali and Tashi Tsering (eds), Lungta 14, Aspects of Tibetan History, Spring, 57–76 Van der Wee, Pia and Louis, 1995: A Tale of Thangkas, Living with a Collection. Antwerp Vasubandhu: see La Vallée Poussin Vergati, Anne, 1986: “Quelques remarques sur l’usage du mandala et du yantra dans la vallée de Kathmandu, Népal.” In: CNRS 1986 Vira, Raghu & Lokesh Chandra, 1961–72: A new TibetoMongol Pantheon. 20 parts. ata-pitaka Ser., 8, New Delhi, Int. Acad. Indian Culture — & Lokesh Chandra, 1995: Tibetan maΩ≈alas Vajr∂val∑ and Tantra Samuccaya. atapiaka Series No. 383, New Delhi: International Academy of Indian Culture, 1995. Wallace, Vesna A., 2001: Inner Kalacakra Tantra: a Buddhist View of the Individual. New York, Columbia University Press Wallace, Vesna A., 2004: Kalacakratantra: Chapter on the Individual Together with the Vimalaprabha. New York, Columbia University Press. Watt, James and Anne Wardwell, 1997: When Silk was Gold. New York

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Wayman, Alex, 1959: “Studies in Yama and M≤ra.” In: Indo-Iranian Journal, Vol. 3. The Hague —, 1971: “Contribution on the symbolism of the mandala-palace.” In: Études tibétaines dédiées à la mémoire de Marcelle Lalou. Paris —, 1973: The Buddhist Tantras. Light on Indo-Tibetan esotericism. New York, Samuel Weiser, and London —, 1974: “The ritual in Tantric Buddhism of the disciple’s entrance into the mandala.” In: Worship and Ritual. Studia Missionalia, 23. Rome —, 1978a: Introduction to the second edition. In: Lessing & Wayman, 1978 —, 1978b: Calming the Mind and Discerning the Real. Buddhist Meditation and the Middle View. From the Lam-rim chen-mo of tson·-kha-pa. New York, Columbia University Press —, 1981: “Reflections on the theory of Barabudur as a mandala.” In: Barabudur: history and significance of a Buddhist monument, ed. Luis Gomez et al., Berkeley —, 1982/83: “The human body as microcosm in India, Greek cosmology, and sixteenth-century Europe.” In: History of Religion, Vol. 22 Weber, Max, 1988: Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Religionssoziologie (“Collected Essays on the Sociology of Religion”). Tübingen Welch, Patricia Bjaaland, 2008: Chinese Art: A Guide to Motifs and Visual Imagery, Tokyo and Singapore: Rutland Willson, Martin and Martin Brauen (eds.), 2000: Deities of Tibetan Buddhism. The Zürich Paintings of the Icons Worthwhile to See (Bris Sku Mthon Ba Don Ldan). Boston: Wisdom Publication Yamamoto, Tetsushi, 1990: “Mandalas for world peace.” In: Chö yang. The voice of Tibetan religion and culture, No. 3, Dharamsala

LITERATURE IN TIBETAN, CHINESE AND JAPANESE Blo gter dbang po, ’Jam dbyangs and Mkhyen brtse’I dbang po. Rgyud sde kun btus: Texts Explaining the Significance, Techniques, and Initiations of a Collection of One Hundred and Thirty Two Mandalas of the Sa skya pa Tradition. Dehli: Gyaltsen and Lungtok, 1971-1972 Bod-rgya tshig-mdzod chen-mo: (“The Great TibetanChinese Dictionary”) 3 vols. Peking, Mi-rigs dpe-skrun-khang (Nationalities Languages Press) 1985 Bsod names rgya mtsho. The Ngor Mandalas of Tibet. Vols. 1–2, Tokyo: The Center for East Asian Cultural Studies, 1991 Chos-kyi grags-pa, dGe-bshes, 1981: brDa’-dag ming-tshig gsal-ba. (Tib. dictionary.) Lhasa 1949; with Chin. trans. added 1957, repr. Peking,

Mi-rigs dpe-skrun-khang (Nationalities Languages Press) 1981 sDe dge mtshal par bka’ ’gyur: a facsimile edition of the 18th century redaction of Si tu Chos kyi ’byun gnas prepared under the direction of the 16th rGyal dban Karma pa. [TBRC, W22084] rGyud sde kun btus (32 volumes). Compiled and edited by ’Jam dbyangs blo gter dbang po under the inspiration of his guru ’Jam dbyangs mkhyen brtse’i dbang po: Texts Explaining the Significance, Techniques, and Initiations of a Collection of One Hundred and Thirty Two Mandalas of the Sa skya pa Tradition. [TBRC, W21295] Ngor chen Kun dga’ bzang po, 199?: Sa bzang bsod nams dpal gyi dris lan. In: Ngor chen Kun dga’ bzang po’i gsung ’bum. Dehra Dun, Sakya Center Han, Shuli. Xizang Yi Shu Ji Cui (Tibetan Arts / Han Shuli Zhu). Taibei Shi: Yi shu jia chu ban she, 1995 Huang Mingxin & Chen Jiujin, 1987: Zangli de yuanli yu shixian. Beijing 1987 Iwata Keiji & Sugiura Kohei, 1989: Ajia-no uchukan — Bi-to Shukyo-no Kosmosu (“Asian Cosmology and Mandalas”). Tokyo

DOCUMENTARY AND COMPUTER-ANIMATED FILMS ON THE SUBJECT OF MANDALAS: Brauen, Martin & Roland Stutz, 2005: Kalachakra Mandala: Erzeugen einer heiligen Sphare. Volkerkundemuseum der Universitat Zurich. DVD Brauen, Martin & Claudio Dal Pra, 2005: The Virtual Mandala: The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Part 1. ArtAdventures GmbH. DVD Brauen, Martin & Claudio Dal Pra, 2007: The Virtual Mandala: The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Part 2. ArtAdventures GmbH. DVD Brauen, Martin & Peter Hassler, 2008: Kalachakra Mandala: Computer basierte 3D-Animation. Volkerkundemuseum der Universitat Zurich. DVD Cozort, Daniel, 1997: Mandala: The Sacred Circle of Vajrabhairava. South Mountain Productions. Video Digitalogue, 2000: Mandala: The Sacred Cosmos. Digitalogue Co., Ltd. Accompany Co., Ltd, IPA. DVD She Drup Ling Graz/ArtRebelg (eds.), 2002: Buddhist Basics and Kalachakra Animated. Edition She Drup Ling Graz/ArtRebelg. 2-DVD set She Drup Ling Graz/ArtRebelg (eds.), 2002: Buddhistische Grundlagen & Kalachakra Animation. Edition She Drup Ling Graz/ArtRebelg. Video



© 2009 The Rubin Museum of Art, New York, ARNOLDSCHE Art Publishers, Stuttgart, and the author All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or used in any forms or by any means (graphic, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or information storage and retrieval systems) without written permission from the copyright holders. AUTHOR Martin Brauen EDITORS Helen Abbott, Helen Chen LAYOUT nalbach typografik, Silke Nalbach, Stuttgart PUBLISHER’S PROJECT MANAGER Dirk Allgaier, assisted by Johanna Eberl OFFSET REPRODUCTIONS Repromayer, Reutlingen PRINTED BY Offizin Andersen Nexö, Leipzig Printed on PEFC certified paper. This certificate stands throughout Europe for long-term sustainable forest management in a multi-stakeholder process.

FRONT COVER Mandala Plate of Buddha Amit≤yus Mandala Tibet; 19th century Pigments on cloth, mounted on wood 12 ¼ x 12 ¼ x 1 ½ in. (31.11 x 31.11 x 3.81 cm) Rubin Museum of Art F1997.36.2 (HAR 553) BACK COVER Nine-deity Amit≤yus Lotus Mandala Central Tibet; 14th–15th century Metalwork 10 x 8 x 7 in. (25.4 x 20.3 x 17.8 cm) Rubin Museum of Art C2003.13.1 (HAR 65215) FRONTISPIECE: Five-deity Mandala of Amoghap≤√a (detail) Mogao Caves, Dunhuang, Gansu Province, China; 8th– 9th century Ink and pigments on silk 80 ½ x 42 in. (204.5 x 107.5 cm) with mount Musée des Arts Asiatiques-Guimet, Paris, France MG26466 Réunion des Musées Nationaux / Art Resource, NY Photograph by Ravaux ART371790 ILLUSTRATION, PAGE 4: Mandala of Buddha ≤kyamuni and the Sixteen Arhats China or Mongolia; 1700–1900 Ground mineral pigment on cotton 14 ½ x 14 ¾ in. (36.8 x 37.5 cm) Rubin Museum of Art C2006.66.270 (HAR 420)

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Brauen, Martin. [Mandala. English] Mandala : sacred circle in Tibetan Buddhism / Martin Brauen. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. "This catalog is published in conjunction with the exhibition Mandala: The Perfect Circle organized and presented by the Rubin Museum of Art, New York, August 14, 2009-January 11, 2010." ISBN 978-3-89790-305-0 1. Mandala (Buddhism) I. Rubin Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.) II. Title. BQ5125.M3B7313 2009 294.3'437--dc22 2009020296

ISBN 978-3-89790-305-0

This revised and updated edition of The Mandala: Sacred Circle in Tibetan Buddhism is published on the occasion of the exhibition Mandala: The Perfect Circle, organized by and presented at the Rubin Museum of Art from August 14, 2009, through January 11, 2010.

PHOTO CREDITS All plates photography by Bruce M. White, unless otherwise noted.

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