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Proceedings of the Conference held in Rome on the 3rd November 2010




Trimestrale I prezzi ufficiali di abbonamento cartaceo e/o Online sono consultabili presso il sito Internet della casa editrice Print and/or Online official subscription rates are available at Publishers website I versamenti possono essere eseguiti sul conto corrente postale n. 171574550 o tramite carta di credito (Visa, Eurocard, Mastercard, American Express, Carta Si) Fabrizio Serr a editore Pisa Roma Casella postale n. 1, Succursale 8, I 56123 Pisa Uffici di Pisa: Via Santa Bibbiana 28, I 56127 Pisa, tel. +39 050542332, fax +39 050574888, Uffici di Roma: Via Carlo Emanuele I 48, I 00185 Roma, tel. +39 0670493456, fax +39 0670476605, * Sono rigorosamente vietati la riproduzione, la traduzione, ladattamento anche parziale o per estratti, per qualsiasi uso e con qualsiasi mezzo eseguiti, compresi la copia fotostatica, il microfilm, la memorizzazione elettronica, ecc., senza la preventiva autorizzazione scritta della Fabrizio Serra editore, Pisa Roma. Copyright 2012 by Sapienza, Universit di Roma and Fabrizio Serra editore, Pisa Roma Fabrizio Serra editore incorporates the Imprints Accademia editoriale, Edizioni dellAteneo, Fabrizio Serra editore, Giardini editori e stampatori in Pisa, Gruppo editoriale internazionale and Istituti editoriali e poligrafici internazionali. issn 0392-4866 isbn 978-88-6227-461-6 isbn elettronico 978-88-6227-462-3

Preface Contributors the art in traditional tibet Alessandro Boesi, Preliminary report on the Art of representing Tibetan Materia Medica Erberto F. Lo Bue, Newar artistic influence in Tibet and China between the 7th and 15th century Filippo Lunardo, The dGe lugs pa tshogs zhing: the difficulty in understanding the transmission lineage of the Bla ma mchod pa instructions Donatella Rossi, A preliminary note on the mandalas of the Bonpo tradition the tibetan art in himalayan plateau Chiara Bellini, Examples of beauty at the court of Seng ge rNam rgyal: the style of painting in Ladakh in the 17th and 18th centuries Elena De Rossi Filibeck, From text to image: an example from Lamayuru (Ladakh) Luigi Fieni, The art of Mustang and its conservation the tibetan art 0f today Filippo Salviati, Tibetan art between past and present. Dialogue with the past: an overview of contemporary Tibetan artists Livia Liverani, From master to student: continuity through a brush stroke 157 169 95 117 135 15 25 63 83 9 11

Tshogs zhing is a compound word indicating both the visualization of a spiritual field of masters and divinities gathered together, as well as specific images which codify such visualizations. In the dGe lugs pa tradition, the visualization and the images of the tshogs zhing are connected to the liturgies and to the literatures of the Lam Rim and the Bla mchod pa (the latter is a tantric practices linked to the figure of the guru). The aim of this article is to present an analysis and reading of the lineages shown in the different representations of the tshogs zhing linked to the liturgy of the Bla mchod pa. In particular, this paper focuses on reading the lineage of the transmission of instructions of the Bla mchod pa ritual as represented in the oldest images, dating back to the end of the eighteenth or early nineteenth century. For this lineage, the reading of the spatial location of the various masters does not adhere to the general rule proposed by David Jackson in his article Lineages and Structure in Tibetan Buddhist Painting: Principles and Practice of an Ancient Sacred Choreography (2005, JIATS, 1, pp. 1-40) wherein he states (with some exceptions) that for the images after the sixteenth century, the main figure is located in the middle of the series of masters, followed by the rest of the lineage holders who are placed alternately to the right and left of the central figure. However, it is not possible to use this method to determine the lineage of older tshogs zhings. The alternating pattern of the figures does not follow the standard tradition and the placement of the various masters in their specific spaces seems to be random, if not chaotic. This article presents a hypothesis for establishing a structured reading based on the degree of spiritual relationship between the different figures that are represented.

he compound word tshogs zhing consists of the terms tshogs (nouns meaning assembly, mass, group, or verbs such as to gather, to collect etc.) and zhing (field, in the sense of a farmers field).1 In the dGe lugs pa Tibetan Buddhist tradition, this compound identifies both the visualization of a complex spiritual field hosting gurus, masters of lineages and deities2 and the images (and the subsequent iconographic varia-

1 Yablonsky 2000. 2 The tshogs zhing is also known as the Merit field for the presence of gurus and deities at the beginning of meditations and practice who reassured the adept about issues such as blessings, transformation of bad attitude and influences on the spiritual path and getting inspiration.


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tions of them that developed over the centuries) that have been used to codify that visualization. In particular, there are two liturgical traditions in which tshogs zhing is implied as an expression of the meditative practice: exoteric liturgy, linked to the Lam rim literature (the gradual path to enlightenment) and esoteric liturgy, linked to the traditional literature of the Bla ma mchod pa (tantric practices having devotion for the guru as the central element) the first of these texts appears to have been written by the First Pan chen Bla ma Blo bzang chos kyi rgyal mtshan (1567-1662).3 To gain access to the Bla ma mchod pa literature and to be able to follow the instructions and perform the meditative praxis of visualizing the tshogs zhing, one needed to get the four principal empowerments as requested bythe tantric cycles of the anuttarayogatantra classes: officially an image of the Bla ma mchod pas tshogs zhing could not be seen by someone without empowerments. During our studies and research on the Bla ma mchod pas tshogs zhing, we were able to identify at least three iconographic developments, owing to the different formal developments of reference literature throughout the centuries. The oldest images can be traced back to the end of the 18th century or the beginning of the 19th (Fig. 1), while later phases found a typical expression in the period from the beginning of the 19th century until the beginning of the 20th (Fig. 2).4 The last phase is inspired by the late Pha bong kha bDe chen snying po (1878-1941) (Fig. 3). It is important to remember that the different typologies of tshogs zhing were also realized several centuries later than the texts the images related to.5 Moreover, very often the images tended to represent elements and details that the linked literature didnt include or express. This could testify to the possible existence of influences or oral traditions that ran parallel to the referential literature. In his writings, Pha bong kha himself6 stated that different readings of the same instructions were due to different teachers holders of the lineage of the Bla ma mchod pa. He collected the instructions of three different gurus through the teachings and the instructions of his root teacher, and starting with the first years of the xx century, unified the transmissions of the instructions concerning the Bla ma mchod pa literature, specifying the criterion for the iconographic representation of the tshogs zhing.

3 First Panchen Lama 2003. 4 We want here to thanks the antiquarian Renzo Freschi for his advices and for showing us his tshogs zhing thang ka for our research. 5 For example, tradition states that the written literature of the Bla ma mchod pa started with the root text of the First Pan chen Blo bzang chos kyi rgyal mtshan, 1567-1662, and that the first images of the tshogs zhing are directly linked to this text. The oldest images of a tshogs zhing in the dGe lugs pa tradition date back to the period from the late 18th century to the early 19th century. 6 Pabongka 1997, pp. 194-195.


the dge lugs pa tshogs zhing


Fig. 1.

The iconography of the tshogs zhing is of course the most complex among the figures and images of gurus and deities worshipped in the dGe lugs pa tradition. In that iconography we notice a sort of chronicle of the most beloved cults and gurus of the Dalai Lama tradition; for example, the three typologies


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Fig. 2.


the dge lugs pa tshogs zhing


Fig. 3.


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Fig. 4.

we identified show that over the centuries there was a development regarding the number of protector deities, dharmapalas, and gurus related to the different lineages of transmissions of different instructions. In fact, while the number of figures representing Yamaraja and Mahakala (two of the three main protector deities related to the three spiritual aims of a practitioner) increased, the number of gurus of the Indian philosophical and tantric lineages and the number of Tibetan teachers of the Bla ma mchod pa lineage also increased, undergoing an important development in which symbolic value came close to fulfilling particular historical and social needs. Although the root text relates to the Bla ma mchod pa, the Pan chen Bla ma text doesnt identify each single teacher of the linage: for example, it only gives indications of the gurus of direct lineage of the main figure of Tsong


the dge lugs pa tshogs zhing


Fig. 5.

kha pa in their respective order. From the very first images it is evident that there was the need to separate the different philosophical and tantric lineages in their representations, while later developments distinctly manifest the different teachers attended by other gurus related to the same lineage. The dGe lugs pa tradition adopts the Madhyamaka Prasangika as a main philosophical view and model of interpretation of the Prajaparamita literature, also utilizing it as the code of behavior and path of the bodhisattva, the Yogacara tradition. Though this is not indicated in the root text, it can be seen in the oldest tshogs zhing through the figures of the bodhisattva Majuri and Maitreya surrounded by three Indian Madhyamaka gurus, beginning with Nagarjuna (Fig. 4), and by three other Indian Yogacara gurus, beginning with Asanga (Fig. 5).


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Fig. 6.

In the images of the second typology, the number of teachers related to the Indian lineages increased and the typology underwent an important development manifested by the presence of Indian masters depicted with


the dge lugs pa tshogs zhing


Tibetan monks of the bKagdams pa and dGe lugs pa traditions. We used a text on Bla ma mchod pa of the yongs dzin Ye shes rgyal mtshan (1716-1793)7 as a reference for this phase, but once again, it doesnt give any details for this development, it only repeats the instructions previously given by the First Pan chen Bla ma. We can observe the need to represent the two lineages through the most important figures in the first images and in those of later tshogs zhings: the bKa gdams pa tradition unified the instructions of the two Indian lineages through the work of Atia, and the dGe lugs pa order inherited this Tibetan lineage. This topic has been underlined in the tshogs zhing of the third typology (Fig. 6), where, below the representations of the teachers of the Indian lineages we found three bKa gdams pa sublineages and one of dGe lugs pa masters. Both of the Tibetan lineages are symmetrically represented through the same figures below the Madhyamaka and the Yogacara teachers. This would also testify to the dGe lugs pa concept of fidelity to the pure preservation of the transmissions coming from India and the concept of maintenance of a real spiritual authority from a long, uninterrupted transmission linked to a line of demonstrated spiritual authority masters, a line accepted by all Tibetan Buddhist orders and schools. An analogous situation can be observed in the representation of the tantric praxis transmission lineage. Texts do not specify which gurus to visualize, but the oldest images clearly define the reference figures, in addition to Buddha Vajradhara with consort or alone, as the siddhas Tilopa, Naropa, ombhi Heruka and Atia (Fig. 7). These figures are always represented above the head of the main subject of the tshogs zhing, the root guru Tsong kha pa. In tshogs zhing of the second typology in the xix century, this representation became more complicated with the addition of a large number of other siddhas, including Mar pa and Mi la ras pa, but without the presence of Atia (Fig. 8). Gene Smith8 tells us that since the 18th century the mahasiddha cult has increased and improved in the dGe lugs pa tradition: he quoted the klong rdol bla ma Ngag dbang blo bzang (1719-1794), who also lived in Lho brag on the site of the tradition in the famous nine storey tower of Mi la ras pa. The klong rdol bla ma wrote a list with the names of seventy-two siddhass and to those he added another thirty names of siddhas all coming from the dGe lugs pa tradition, using the title of smyon pa (mad) for one of them. Probably, the inclusion of a greater number of siddhas in such a context as the tshogs zhing tells us that, in a particular historical phase, the dGe lugs pa practitioners felt that it was important (or necessary) to consider (or relate to) a larger number of teachers (especially Indians who were considered as real vajra holders, ful7 Bla ma lhai rnal byor gyi khrid dmigs kyi bsdus don rsnyan rguyd gter mdzod byed pai lde mig ces bya ba bzhugs pa. See De Rossi Filibeck 1994, p. 189 (n. 188/2). 8 See Linrothe 2006, pp. 67-69.


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Fig. 7.

ly enlightened and essential for blessings, inspirations and spiritual realizations) in order to remove the interferences to the spiritual path and achieve the final goal.


the dge lugs pa tshogs zhing


Fig. 8.

It is also important not to forget that beginning in the 19th century, a new spiritual and cultural movement (the ris med non-sectarian movement)9 affirmed itself (particularly on the eastern side of Tibet) which included all the most important spiritual Tibetan traditions (excluding the dGe lugs pa tradition). The importance of a siddhas cult in the dGe lugs pa tradition, a cult that from the beginning was more renowned in other traditions such as the bKargyud pa, could lead one to think of it as a further attempt to legitimate and reaffirm both the political and the spiritual authority by the tradition of the Dalai Lamas through a sort of legacy linked to an uninterrupted lineage of Indian and Tibetan masters, this time exclusively affiliated to the tantric path; a sort of a new affirmation of religious orthodoxy which was superior to that of the other traditions through elements as the siddhas cult, which was also quite important for the other traditions. Starting in the 20th century, through the instructions of Pha bong kha,10 the members of the tantric lineage as represented in the tshogs zhing were then represented through their affiliation to the different annuttarayogatantra cycles as the Guhyasamaja, Vajrabhairava, the bKa gdams pas sixteen drops and the Cakrasamvara (Fig. 9). These representations depict all of the gurus of a single lineage, piled up one above the other and structured in four verti9 Samuel 1993. 10 Pabongka, op. cit.


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Fig. 9.

cal columns surrounding a central column directly above the head of the main tshogs zhing figure, the Tsong kha pa one. Pha bong kha justified such an image, defining it as the result of unifying three different tshogs zhing vi-


the dge lugs pa tshogs zhing


Fig. 10.

sualization traditions: Blo bzang sgom chung (1672-1749), Ngag dbang byams pa (1682-1762) and bla ma, known by the title of yongs dzin rin po che which is probably the same as Ye shes rgyal mtshan. The direct transmission lineage of the Bla ma mchod pa The transmission lineage of the Bla ma mchod pa is known in the dGe lugs pa tradition as the dGa ldan snyan rgyud, lineage11 of tantric adepts who, starting with Tsong kha pa himself, orally transmitted instructions related to the Mahamudra, gCod and the Bla ma mchod pa. In the tshogs zhings, all of these gurus are always depicted in the sky in the second most important area of the image, the first being the area where the main central figure of Tsong kha pa is depicted (Fig. 10). In the images of the first typology, all of these figures are represented surrounding the Vajradhara figure; those in the second typology are represented around the siddhas group, as well as in a column in the centre of this group; and the images of the third typology are depicted as the central column in the middle of the four lineages of the annutarayogatantra cycle each guru is depicted with the bodhisattva Majuri features. Here well analyze the images related to the first typology. In general, as delineated by David Jackson12 in the article Lineages and Structure in Tibetan Buddhist Painting: Principles and Practice of an Ancient Sacred Choreography, the representation of a lineage by Tibetan art denotes a certain historical concreteness, both in practice and in the religious literature, and although there are some roots in the Indian experience, here the particular cultural aspects of Tibet are manifested. The depiction of a lineage and the names of the single gurus allow for chronological identification that is often more trustworthy than purely sty11 Willis 1995, pp. xiv-xv. 12 Jackson 2005, pp. 14, 38.


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listic references from an artistic point of view. Identifying a single guru leads to identifying a correct temporal sequence, where the last depicted master of the lineage indicates the chronological terms with which we can date the image. In fact, without any other contrary inscriptions, we may hypothesize that the image was realized during the lifetime of the last teacher represented, or shortly after his death. The literature pertaining to the realization of the image and any inscriptions found on the image itself also contribute to further identification and knowledge of each individual guru and his specific position within the structure of the lineage. The order of the disposition of each figure can be established by the spiritual seniority status (and this has nothing to do with the concept of chronological seniority), doctrinal superiority and by the status of spiritual equality between two guru. In Tibetan art, the depiction of lineages, in particular those related to tantric experiences, need to undermine a fundamental concept typical of the Vajrayana, the important topic of the guru-disciple relationship. As one can notice by the depiction presented in the tshogs zhing, this relationship has its root in a context that transcends historical reality: the first guru is Vajradhara, hypostasis of akyamuni in the act of teaching tantras, a symbolic experience of the Sambhogakaya condition and adhibuddha for the gsar ma traditions. He is the holder of the vajra and therefore, a real symbol of the undifferentiated state that unifies the condition of meditative equipoise on the extension of suchness and the nature of that extension, to quote Tsong kha pa. Vajradhara is the union of the truth, body and the nature of a Buddha. From such an experience the following expression is Majuri, expression of enlightened wisdom, and from such a matrix come all the gurus of the lineage. The relation between a practitioner and the transmission lineage transcends simple reference to historical data: the power of its roots is intrinsic to the lineage only because it comes from a transcendental reality not a historical reality. In the tshogs zhings of the first typology, identification of the dGa ldan snyan rgyud masters as the gurus of the transmission of the Bla ma mchod pa was facilitated by finding a number of contracted names (in a form of word contraction called sdus yig) in a block print we studied in the library of the Is.I.A.O. in Rome. Note: until now, the occasional descriptions of tshogs zhings that we found in the catalogues of Tibetan art dealt with the topic in a very mediocre and banal way: for example, figures gathered together were mistakenly described as being the Dalai and Pan chen Lama, and in another case, the bodhisattva Majuri was identified as the bodhisattva Maitreya, evidence of very poor knowledge of the tradition, history and literature of the Bla ma mchod pa-Gurupujavidi. The main difficulty in identifying the lineage is in understanding the spatial disposition of the individual figures, necessary for comprehending the structure of the complex grouping of all the figures together.


the dge lugs pa tshogs zhing


Fig. 11.

The spatial disposition of the figures analyzed here show two deities and a series of gurus divided into three groups: the central group with three figures and the other two groups placed on the sides, on three different levels. Theoretically, the reading scheme for this particular way of representing a lineage should follow the rules suggested by Jackson for images after the sixteenth century: a main figure, usually Vajradhara for the gsar ma traditions, placed centrally above, and all the other figures, both gurus and deities, placed in alternating order to the right and left of the main figure. This pattern of alternation follows for the other levels or rows if present in the image. However, an exception to this way of reading can be observed in the sKu bum of rGyan rtse, in the lam bras lha khang realized in the year 1425,13 where theres a plastic representation of the Lam bras lineage waiting for the placement of its gurus, similar to the reading we are discussing here. The reading of the dGa ldan snyan rgyud figures in their temporal sequence delineates a basically different placement structure in respect to the one presented by Jackson14 for images from the same period of our tshogs zhings (Fig. 11). In fact, while Jacksons order is respected for the first three figures (Vajradhara Majuri and the master dbu ma pa dPa bo rdo rje, 14th century), the fourth figure, Tsong kha pa, is placed on the row below these figures, in particular below the figure of Majuri, and the fifth, representing the Master Jam dpal rgya mtsho, is on the first row directly to the right of the bodhisattva. As we can note from the numbering of the single figures as showed in fig. n. 11, this anomaly also relates to the depictions of other lineage holders. Even if the reading suggested by Jackson resumes from guru n. 5 to n. 8, in the lower row, n. 9 and 10 are placed exactly at the opposite sides of the image; n. 12 is placed below n. 11, and n. 14 and 15 below n. 13 and 10. This is an

13 Lo Bue & Ricca 1990, pp. 433-442.

14 Jackson, op.cit.


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attractive hypothesis with foundations on historical reality, but the grade of spiritual relationship linking all the teachers appears to be better. For example, guru n. 12 represents dKon mchog rgyal mtshan (1612-1687), indicated by tradition as the main disciple of the First Pan chen and he himself the guru of the Second Paa chen. In the tshogs zhing this master is placed directly below the depiction of the First Pan chen, figure n. 11 in the image. This line of succession has been confirmed by the names of the masters of the transmission lineage of the Lam rim, and it is not surprising that we find the depiction of the Second Pan chen in the tshogs zhing as teacher n. 13. Masters n. 14 and 15 depict Ngag dbang jams pa (1682-1762) and Blo bzang bsod nam pa (xviii century). These figures seem to be placed on an oblique line, directly below n. 13, the Second Pan chen. Both Ngag dbang jams pa and Blo bzang bsod nam pa were disciples of Pan chen and then gurus of the Third Pan chen, Blo zang dpal ldan ye shes (1738-1780), n. 16, direct guru of the Eighth Dalai Lama Blo bzang jams dpal rgya mtsho (1758-1804), the last figure of the lineage as depicted in the tshogs zhings of this typology and n. 17 of the series. This unique depiction of a Dalai Lama give us the chronological term for dating the images of this typology or at least for formulating this iconography, placing it between the late 18th century and early19th century. Through the elements analyzed here we can thus delineate a particular convention for reading a lineage that would otherwise be somewhat indefinite and chaotic. In this context, the historical data prove to be a necessary tool for comprehending what must be observed in a lineage: a historical experience articulated through criterion underlining religious needs and the need of the person who commissioned the work to be able to immediately and easily recognize the lineage. The historical concreteness quoted by Jackson is manifested, but for scientific investigation to be carried out, the context of the analysis of an image like that of the first typology, the continuous reference to the texts which generated the image, consideration of the time that passed between the writing of the reference texts and the genesis of the related images, and knowledge of the moment in history when a particular iconography was created, all appear to be necessary tools for analysis and study. To identify a single figure is no longer enough; both the religious and historical reasons for these kinds of depictions have to be understood. An example can be observed in the siddhas group iconography as seen in the 19th century images: an ever-changing iconography, implying social-political elements (as seen above) which at the same time faithfully reproduces developments correlating to reference literature or shows concepts and external elements which are probably related to oral reality running parallel to the traditional literature. In addition, the historical data itself and the dates of the Eighth Dalai Lama lead us to quite certain dating of the image, surely more than the sman bris


the dge lugs pa tshogs zhing


gsar ma style, a style primarily used for identifying these images which was particularly adopted in central Tibet at the beginning of the 18th century. Therefore, when approaching the study of Tibetan art, it is important to remember that at the genesis of religious images such as the tshogs zhings, very often we encounter social and historical aspects that affect the developments of an iconography; aspects that may be suggested in the image through elements and details but that may not really be present in the reference texts. In Tibet, although art is almost always considered as a purely direct religious experience, it is also a symbolic and intuitive manifestation of events that extend beyond mere religious context. Bibliography
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