Portrait of Shakyashribhadra with His Life Episodes and Lineage


Not on view

This portrait of the renowned Kashmiri monk Shakyashribhadra (1127–1125 or 1145–1244) is a masterpiece of Tibetan portraiture. He is known by his ordination name, Shakyashri, to which was added in later life the honorific suffix ‘bhadra’, meaning blessed or fortunate. It is a painting which combines a penetrating study of this famed practitioner of esoteric Buddhism with a beautifully realized depiction of the holiest of Buddhist sacred sites, the Mahabodhi temple at Bodhgaya and the Bodhi (‘wisdom) tree that mark the location where the historical Buddha experienced his full spiritual awakening. Shakyashri was famed for his command of advanced meditation skills, including being exceptionally adept at tantric practices. He is credited with being a master of visualizations and recorded as summoning pure visions of such deities as Chakrasamvara, Kalachakra, Mahakala and Tara. At the great monastery (mahavihara) of Nalanda in Bihar, eastern India, he was awarded the title of Mahapandita for his advanced knowledge in theology, philosophy, logic and meditation practices, and served as its last abbot until its ruination by hostile forces in 1192. He was invited to Tibet in 1204, accompanied by nine other learned monks (panditas) and resided there for ten years, travelling and preaching, before returning to his native Kashmir where he died aged 99. As the last Indian pandita to propagate the teachings of Indian Vajrayana Buddhism in Tibet he was of enduring importance to the development of Tibetan Buddhism, now cut off from its spiritual homeland. This portrait honors that legacy.

Portrait of Shakyashribhadra with His Life Episodes and Lineage, Distemper on cloth, Tibet

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