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Tibetan Buddhist Art temple wall hanging Guhyasamaja

Tangka style Tibetan Buddhist art temple wall hanging Guhyasamaja

Click on the picture for a larger view.

Guhyasamaja ~the Secret Assembly~ is one of the main deities of the highest yoga tantra class. The scriptures associated with this practice are the oldest known. This temple wall hanging is the oldest depiction of Guhyasamaja that I have been able to find. One difference between this depiction and the newer images, and one that I find makes sense is instead of a dharma Wheel representing the mirror-wisdom clan of Vairochana, he and his consort both have mirrors in their hands. The closest depiction in age is about 100-200 years newer and is a statue at the Asian art Museum of San Francisco and none of the implements are present in the hands of that statue.

Highest yoga tantra is the supreme system for achieving enlightenment and the Guhyasamaja tantra provides the key for understanding the unique transformative methods. His consort Sparshavajra has identical qualities as does Guhyasamaja. The proper name for this depiction is Guhyasamaja Akshobhyavajra Father~Mother. please see the iconography for further details about this painting.

The jiantang is seamed horizontally at just about the center of the painting. During the time frame of this painting there were no mechanical looms and the width of cloth was limited to the arm length of the person operating the hand-loom: 30 to 36 inches in width was the typical range. The horizontal orientation of the seam was the most economical way to seam it as both dimensions are greater than 36 inches. This painting is one of a set of five paintings of the 5 Dhyani Buddhas that were inside of the Prayer/Assembly Hall of the Lower Senge Monastery, which was built around 1385 AD after the original was destroyed by a landslide.

One of the 5 jiantang, of which Guhyasamaja is a set member, has an appraised value of $30-35,000, while this one has an appraised value of $23-28,000. The valuation was accomplished by the intake appraiser for the Smithsonian and the White house. The difference being that the $30,000 painting has Tsong Khapa at the bottom of the Jiantang and was painted within Tsong Khapa's life time and may well be the 1st depiction of him.

This piece comes with a Certificate of Authenticity and iconography. This jiantang has been professionally cleaned/restored, removing much of the centuries of soot and incense. The image displayed is prior to being cleaned; I hope to have the cleaned image available soon (some how I lost it in a computer hard-drive crash).

Age: circa 1385-1400
material: mineral pigments over kaolin on cloth canvas
OAH=60.5" x W=42 PH=48.5" x W=31.5"

Contact David to make purchase arrangements.

Price $15,000 plus shipping and handling West coast $88.00 ~Mtn $93.00 ~Mid-west $99.00 ~East coast $110.00 other destinations contact David@Baronet4Tibet.com for a quote.


Guhyasamaja Akshobhyavajra Father~Mother, Guhyasamaja Buddha symbolically represents the union of all of the Buddha clans and is head of the Akshobhya clan. His consort, Sparshavajra, is of his same nature as evidenced by her having identical implements in her hands as he does. Guhyasamaja's name means Secret Union or Assembly of the Secret Ones. They are a union of wisdom and method. In some texts Guhyasamaja is simply referred to as Akshobhya or Akshobhyavajra including the Guhyasamaja Tantra. This text was one of the first translated from Sanskrit into Tibetan and is traced back to the 4th century AD, making it the oldest known texts of buddhist tantra. Je Tsong Khapa referred to the Guhyasamaja Tantra as "the king of all tantras." His main face is dark blue, the face on the right side is either yellow or gold and the face on the left is red and each is adorned with the third all seeing eye or wisdom eye. The three faces have varying interpretations: symbolizing the transmuted delusions of anger, ignorance and attachment; the three major channels of the vajra body; the purified minds, the increase and near attainment; and lastly the experience of illusory body, clear light and union.

The mudras of Guhyasamaja and his consort incorporate the various Buddha families. Guhyasamaja's front two arms are in the Vajrahumkara or Gesture of Union or Hum, often the hands will also hold a vajra (dorje) and a bell. This mudra has a complex meaning, it symbolizes wisdom, sunyata and nirvana, while the crossed arms signify the union of both, meaning that the path and the goal are one. The hum of the Sanskrit name for this mudra, Vajrahumkara is the same HUM as the last syllable of OM MANI PADME HUM, and is the verbal symbol for this unifying concept. Kara refers to the wrist bracelet, Humkara refers to the sound of the syllable HUM. This mudra also symbolizes the Akshobhya buddha family. The three flaming Cintamani represents the Ratnasambhava family; the mirror, the the Vairochana family; the sword the the Amoghasiddhi family and the lotus the Amitabha family, thus all 5 Buddha clans are present.

Guhyasamaja is seated on an Ashoka throne as are the other deities pictured, except for the bottom center Bodhisattva which is seated on a lotus throne. All are sitting in the diamond or Vajrasana position. Each figure has a green nimbus with the exception of Sparshavajra, which has none, typical of a Father~Mother depiction.The Ashoka, the second of the  trinity of holy flowers, sprouts from the holy water-font of the Amitayus, one of the forms in which the Buddha Amitabha appeared (symbolizing the transformation from greed to discriminating wisdom).  The sprout materialized from a tear that Buddha Amitabha shed when hearing of the deeds of the great warrior Ashoka that overcame all of his enemies to win freedom for his oppressed people. True spiritual freedom comes from overcoming the sins and lusts that enslave the soul. The lotus is an important Buddhist motif.  Images of the Buddha and other important persons often are shown seated on a lotus throne.  The growth of the lotus, with its roots in mud, growing through water, and emerging as a wonderful plant above the water's surface, is seen as an analogy of the soul’s path from the mud of materialism to the purity of enlightenment.

Guhyasamaja is wearing a five-pointed crown and large round circular earrings. Five has a special meaning in Tibetan Buddhism: 5 celestial Buddhas, 5 factors of existence, 5 wisdoms, 5 vices: it is generally acknowledged that the 5 pointed crown refers to the 5 wisdoms: the similar, the essentially alike, the different, the complete, and the all-encompassing or transcendental. The earrings are the Precious Queen's earrings and are worn by both main figures and the two bodhisattvas at the bottom. The Queen is one of the seven precious possessions of Chakravartin. The Precious Queen's heavy earrings are taken as a symbol of comprehension of the Buddha’s teachings. The weight of the earrings would have caused the wearers earlobes to elongate. The long earlobes of the Buddha are a symbol of his detachment from all things earthly. In this depiction even the Bodhisattvas that do not have the queen's earrings have the elongated ear lobes. The Queen speaks the truth, using no frivolous words and holding no false vices.

Guhyasamaja is surrounded by a red and gold aura, with the outer ring being filled with Cintamani. There are also two sets of 3 cintamani at the bottom between the bodhisattva's. Cintamani are wish-granting jewels and additionally represent wisdom. When depicted in sets of 3, they represent the body, speech and mind of Buddha such as the practitioner may possess. Cintamani are also referred to as the "Thinking Jewel" and symbolize the importance of teaching and as well as the enlightened mind. In each depiction of 3 cintamani, notice the top jewel is blue in color, this represents Chakravartin's Precious jewel that has 8 magical properties. It cools when the days are hot, warms when the days are cold, illuminates the darkness of night, causes rain to fall or a spring to appear when one is thirsty, it brings to fruition what ever the bearer desires, it heals emotional afflictions, and cures all of the diseases of those who are in its range of its light and lastly prevents untimely death as in fathers passing on before sons.

This temple wall hanging is one of a set of 5 that represented all 5 Buddha families from the Assembly Hall that was built after the 1385 AD mud slides that partially destroyed what is now known as the Lower Senge Monastery. In 1385 AD there was a deluge of rain. The monasteries in the valley had fashioned lakes above them to store and supply water. The hill sides were largely deforested and the banks of the man-made lakes gave way. Senge monastery had several temples and residences destroyed. This new monastery was part of the Senge Monastery, and became known as the Upper Senge Monastery. It was built away from the edge of the hill side by a very safe distance. The lower monastery rebuilt the destroyed temples and this wall hanging is an original painting from the temple rebuilt, starting in 1385 AD. The lower monastery started to rebuild in 1988 after the March 1958 massacres that left the temples in ruins and over 50% of the villagers and monks cruelly killed. During the excavations for the new foundations they uncovered statues and relics that apparently had been buried under several feet of earth; this then confirmed the oral histories of the calamitous mudslides.

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