Tibet (a Sakya monastery)
Distemper on cloth
33 1/4 x 28 7/8 in. (84.5 x 73.3 cm)
Purchase, Lita Annenberg Hazen Charitable Trust Gift, 1987 (1987.16)
This mandala is in the form of an extraordinary palace seen from above. It is presided over by a female Buddha, Jnanadakini, who is the feminine aspect of Jnanadaka, a fierce manifestation of the Buddha Vajrasattva. Jnanadakini 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's gates. Across the top of the painting is a series of figures, with Sakya Pandita in the center; a Kagyu teaching lineage runs to the left from Sakya Pandita, while a Kadam teaching lineage runs to the right.
The mandala is encircled by three purifying rings composed of lotuses, vajras, and fire. A fourth ring contains detailed depictions of the eight great death-grounds. This last band is included on mandalas with fierce deities at their centers, because, as devotees were advised, it was most effective to meditate on fierce deities in taboo places such as those associated with death. Indeed, two practitioners are depicted performing rituals in each of the death-grounds. This painting was made for a patron of the Sakya sect of Tibetan Buddhism who is depicted in the lower left corner. The painting's fantastic detail, elegant figures, and rich color suggest that the artist was from Nepal or was trained there.