The Spiritual Master Padmasambhava

Western Tibet or Ladakh

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 253

This portrait of Guru Padmasambhava (Lotus-Born) is one of the earliest known effigies of the eighth-century Indian mystic, revered as the leading propagator of tantric Buddhism in Tibet. He is believed to have gone to Tibet at the invitation of King Trisong Detsen and there founded the Nyingma Order of Tibetan Buddhism. Popularly known as Guru Rinpoche, here he sits enthroned in a yogic posture and holds a thunderbolt scepter (vajra), symbolizing the clarity of pure Buddhist thought, and a skull cup (kapala), representing detachment. He wears the distinctive cloth cap of his order and has distended earlobes, the mark of an enlightened being. His facial expression is accessible, attentive, and spiritually alive. A dedicatory inscription names a royal patron: Kunga Gyalpo, an otherwise unknown ruler from Western Tibet or Ladakh.

The Spiritual Master Padmasambhava, Copper alloy with copper and silver inlay, Western Tibet or Ladakh

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