1740: Thangka Depicting Vajrabhairava


Thangka Depicting Vajrabhairava (1740)

This thangka, a type of Tibetan painting that uses ground mineral pigment on cotton or silk, shows Yamantaka Vajrabhairava, a deity in the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism. He is shown with nine heads (the largest that of a buffalo), thirty-four arms, and sixteen legs. He embraces his consort Vajravetali and tramples underfoot a menagerie of animals, birds, humans and minor deities. Above the circle of flame that surrounds them sits the primordial Buddha Vajradhara in union with his consort Vajrayogini; they in turn are flanked by lamas, bodhisattvas, and monks. An inscription on the reverse reads as follows:

Due to the wisdom of all the Buddhas who achieved the best compassion, this wrathful image of Vajrabhairava, lord of the past, present and future, is made by compassion for the benefit of all sentient beings. In the three worlds of the past, present and future, may the fierce Vajrabhairava qualm all frightening forces. May this conqueror, the hero who overwhelms Yama, lord of death, speak to all sentient beings. By the compassion of the Buddha, there is the great brilliance of this one who conquers and makes the red blood flow from the heart of all the demons.

On this day which is the time of desiring to make the mandala ritual, may the ferocious brilliance of the wrathful one show all the power of his fierce nature. At the top of his head, there is the Buddha who is the lord, then there are surrounding heads of the protectors of the word of the Buddha, and marvels [of the Buddha’s teachings] thus [this appearance] frightens the demons completely. By the glorious means and manifestations [of this mandala and the thangka portrait of Vajrabhairava], may it be particularly noble and auspicious. This Vajrabhairava has his body dancing above the many corpses, manifesting his vision and his attention to all the phenomenal world.

May the capable Namkha Lodro Zangpo, who is the master of the mandala, completely achieve the full blessing of the strength, the intelligence and uphold the mantra [of Vajrabhairava]. By the meditative visions of Vajrabhairava, may it be a source of earnest desire for doing good and achieving the full moment of this power over enemies. Here in the land of the snowy mountains, where the Vajrayana teachings are firmly understood and practiced, in this unrivalled place of solitary meditation, may there be the liberation [from all suffering] by this best of all religious paths. May this state persist without any obstructions during all the lifetime.

The wisdom of Dharma is the way for all sentient beings. May all sentient beings reach the unparallelled level of Vajrabhairava without delay. May the above wishes come to fruition, at the great Shri Danyakatakuri College of Jamgon Lama Tsongkapa, according to the teaching of his mantra and sutra. May the consciousness of the faithful Wangchuk Gelek, also known as Gyatso, be in the presence of Bhairava. This commission (of the thangkha) has been called for to assure reincarnation during this time of the reign of the 30th throne holder of the seat of Gonlung Jampa Ling, who is the pristine third reincarnation of the great Palden Gyatso, Ngawang Geleg Gyatso. [Dated] in the Year of the Iron Monkey, and in the common year of 1740, at the seat of Gonlung Jampa Ling. (source)

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