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Art and Architecture in Ladakh

Cross-Cultural Transmissions in
the Himalayas and Karakoram
Edited by

Erberto Lo Bue and John Bray

LEIDEN | BOSTON

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Contents
List of Contributorsvii
List of Illustrationsxii
Introduction1
Erberto Lo Bue and John Bray
1 Ancient Petroglyphs of Ladakh: New Discoveries and
Documentation15
Tashi Ldawa Thsangspa
2 Embedded in StoneEarly Buddhist Rock Art of Ladakh35
Phuntsog Dorjay
3 Historic Ruins in the Gya Valley, Eastern Ladakh, and a
Consideration of Their Relationship to the History of Ladakh
and Maryul
With an Appendix on the War of Tsede (rTse lde) of Guge in 1083 CE
by Philip Denwood68
Neil and Kath Howard
4 An Archaeological Account of Ten Ancient Painted Chortens in Ladakh
and Zanskar100
Quentin Devers, Laurianne Bruneau and Martin Vernier
5 The Chorten (mChod rten) with the Secret Chamber near
Nyarma141
Gerald Kozicz
6 The Dating of the Sumtsek Temple at Alchi159
Philip Denwood
7 The Iconography and the Historical Context of the Drinking Scene in the
Dukhang at Alchi, Ladakh167
Marjo Alafouzo
8 The Wood Carvings of Lachuse. A Hidden Jewel of Early Mediaeval
Ladakhi Art191
Heinrich Poell
9 The mGon khang of dPe thub (Spituk): A Rare Example of 15th Century
Tibetan Painting from Ladakh226
Chiara Bellini
10 Chigtan Castle and Mosque: A Preliminary Historical and Architectural
Analysis254
Kacho Mumtaz Ali Khan, John Bray, Quentin Devers
and Martin Vernier

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contents

11 Lamayuru (Ladakh)Chenrezik Lhakang: The Bar Do Thos Grol


Illustrated as a Mural Painting274
Kristin Blancke
12 The Lost Paintings of Kesar298
John Bray
13 Tshogs zhing: a Wall Painting in the New Du khang of Spituk
(dPe thub)314
Filippo Lunardo
14 From Benaras to LehThe Trade and Use of Silk-brocade329
Monisha Ahmed
15 Conservation of Leh Old TownConcepts and Challenges348
Andr Alexander and Andreas Catanese
16 Revealing Traditions in Earthen Architecture: Analysis of Earthen
Building Material and Traditional Constructions in the Western
Himalayas364
Hubert Feiglstorfer
17 Conservation of Architectural Heritage in Ladakh388
John Harrison
Bibliography400
Index428

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Tshogs zhing: A Wall Painting in the New


Du khang of Spituk (dPe thub)
Filippo Lunardo

Introduction
Tshogs zhing is a compound consisting of the terms tshogs: assembly, mass,
group, or verbs such as to gather, to collect, etc.; and zhing, field in the
sense, for example, of a farmers field (Yablonsky 2000:4950). Within specific
instruction and liturgy literatures, both tantric and exoteric, this compound
refers to the visualization of gurus conceived as a complex spiritual field. By
means of such visualization, the meditator receives from the assembly of masters and deities the blessings, inspiration and transformative energy necessary
for the accumulation of spiritual merit and for the destruction of negativity
and obstacles, aimed at obtaining the goal set by the instruction that is put
into practice.
The Tshogs zhing, basically defined as field of the accumulation of merit,
envisages the visualization of a root guru, the one from whom the lineage or
religious order has sprung, as its main figure, considered as fully divine. All
around this figure there are the lineage holding masters, and masters associated
with specific experiential practices which are in any case related to the lineage.
Besides these groups of figures are found diffferent classes of deities, ranging
from the main yi dam of the anuttarayogatantra cycle down to the divinities of
lesser spiritual level considered to be the protectors of the Buddhist religion in
general and in particular of the path of the spiritual practitioner. All the figures
of the tshogs zhing, always considered as emanations of the root guru, are visualized as positioned on a wish-fulfilling tree that functions as an axis mundi
whose various parts symbolize diffferent experiences of the Buddhist Dharma.1

1 In the dGe lugs pa order of Tibetan Buddhism, the literature that describes the visualization
of tshogs zhing in relation to tantric instructions is that of the bla ma mchod pa, which is
essentially linked to the liturgy that revolves around devotion to the guru. On the other hand
the tshogs zhing linked to instructions unrelated to initiations is that which is prescribed
especially in lam rim literature, the gradual path to awakening.

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The tshogs zhing Tradition within the dGe lugs pa Order


Within the dGe lugs pa order there are three traditions relating to the visualization of the field of the accumulation of merit. According to the first, the root
guru is visualized in the likeness of the Buddha kyamuni. In this tradition
he represents every type of master and deity, and thus comes to be visualized
alone and not surrounded by any other figure.
In the tradition stemming from the lam rim tradition the visualization of
the field of accumulation of merit is arranged around the figure of the guru
visualized as the Buddha kyamuni, though surrounded by lamas and deities.
This type of tshogs zhing is called khrom tshogs.
In the tradition stemming from tantric and exoteric liturgy and practices
connected to the guru devotion, that is to say the bla ma mchod pa tradition,
the tshogs zhing has the founder of the dGe lugs pa order itself, Tsong kha pa,
as its principal figure. Tsong kha pa appears as an emanation called Bla ma Blo
bzang rdo rje chang, surrounded by masters and deities. Such type of tshogs
zhing goes by the name of mtho brtsegs.
In the lam rim and bla ma mchod pa literature, the visualization of the
tshogs zhing belongs to the so-called preliminary practices, sngon gro, despite
the fact that the meditator continues with them throughout the whole course
of his or her practice.
In the lam rim tradition the visualization of the field of accumulation of
merit belongs to the fourth of six preliminary practices known as sbyor chos2
(Dalai Lama 1991:22, 2839.), whereas, in the case of the bla ma mchod pa, the
visualization of the tshogs zhing (Panchen Lama 2003:59; Dalai Lama 1996:76
111; Pabongka Rinpoche 1997:157161, 768/769) follows the literature of the taking of refuge, the tantric practice of the practitioners self-generation in the
form of a yi dam, usually two-armed Vajrabhairava, and the blessing of offferings that are considered to be derived from the union of bliss and emptiness.

The Artistic Tradition


Both in relation to lam rim instructions and to those of the bla ma mchod pa,
the iconographic codification of the visualization of the tshogs zhing is structured around the wish-fulfilling tree. This functions as the actual vertical axis
of the entire image. According to the instructions found in the relevant literature, both the Buddha and Tsong kha pa should be depicted seated at the
2 sbyor bai chos drug.

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centre of the tree, but in fact this only occurs in the oldest images, or at least
in those which refer back to the earlier textual sources3 (Figure 13.1). In efffect,
by the beginning of the nineteenth century the two figures come mostly to be
represented above the tree (Figure 13.2).
To the right of the principal figure, there is a representation of the
Bodhisattva Maitreya along with the masters and lamas linked to instructions
related to the bodhisattva ethics as this has been handed down from the Indian
Yogcra philosophical school. To the left, by contrast, we find a representation
of Majur along with the masters and lamas connected with the philosophical vision of the Madhyamaka school. Directly above the head of the root guru
we find Vajradhra along with the masters holders of the tantric practices.
These three groups of figures are not represented within the bounds of the
tree, but in the area of the sky around.
Below the head guru, subdivided into eleven iconographic groups arranged
on eleven strata of an enormous lotus (which as a matter of fact masks the
whole figure of the tree) there are various classes of deities: the yi dam of the
four classes of the tantric cycles,4 Buddhas, bodhisattvas, pratyekabuddhas,

3 In relation to the images relative to the bla ma mchod pa tradition, these have undergone
iconographic and compositional evolution in the course of time, such that they reflect the
same evolution undergone in the bla ma mchod pa literature itself. The practices of bla ma
mchod pa derive from the oral instructions defined as essential, man ngag, and later codified
in a specific literature specifically linked to a literary field better known as guruyoga. Bla
ma mchod pa literature has undergone important change and evolution over the centuries,
above all in regard to the explanations and methods of practice, but leaving the philosophic
and spiritual vision unchanged. This sheds light on the fact that a living tradition maintains
itself thanks to its own internal change, linked to the personal experience of the masters
and yogins within the lineage who practice or realize the instructions to then be transmitted
directly on to their disciples. In the course of our studies we have been able to identify at least
three chronological phases into which to classify three diffferent phases of tshogs zhing. Just
as in the texts the images show changes in the form of various elements of greater or lesser
importance, it has been noted that the first representations appear some centuries after the
text to which they refer. The most ancient tshogs zhing related to the bla ma mchod pa can
be dated to the end of the 18th century or beginning of the 19th century. The figure of Tsong
kha pa comes to be represented precisely at the centre of the composition, thus within the
bounds of the wish fulfilling tree. However, we do not see any structural order for the representation of the various masters and surrounding the root guru. Such an order codified at the
beginning of the second iconographic phase relative to the 19th century, tends to represent
and identify a distribution of the various figures according to a spiritual hierarchy. However,
this will be better explained in a forthcoming work.
4 Anuttara, yoga, cary and kriytantra.

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tshogs zhing

Figure 13.1

317

The tshogs zhings oldest iconography, late 18th century/early 19th century.

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318

Figure 13.2

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19th century tshogs zhing, Courtesy of Renzo Freschi Oriental Art.

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tshogs zhing

Figure 13.3

319

19th century tshogs zhing, Courtesy of Renzo Freschi Oriental Art.

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arhats, kas and kins, the dharmaplas and, usually, but not always, outside the tree, the guardians of the four directions (Jackson 2005:1011).
Underneath the tree, which is represented as springing from an ocean of
special waters (Dalai Lama 1996:80),5 there are the symbols of the treasure of
the universal monarch, of the universe with the cosmic Mount Sumeru at the
centre of the four continents and eight subcontinentsbased on the cosmological conception of Vasubandhus Abhidharmakoa (Brauen 1997:1821)
and of a haloed monk (Jackson 1996:236241; Linrothe 2001:30),6 alone or with
other monks and lay devotees, who is represented in the act of the maala
offfering (Figure 13.3).
A Wall Picture in the New spyi khang of Spituk Monastery
(dPe thub) in Ladakh
During some of our research in Ladakh, carried out since 2006, we have been
able to document an important evolution of the tshogs zhing iconographic
themes connected to the bla ma mchod pa liturgy in the new spyi khang of
Spituk monastery (Thub bstan dpal ldan 1990:112116; Snellgrove and Skorupski
1977:109).
First of all, the field of accumulation of merit is not depicted on a thang ka
but on a wall, which is an unusual example according to our documentation
for these images. The picture is painted on the main wall opposite the entrance
to the hall. The image is not covered, in contrast to the thang kas which, if they
are not on show in the small museums of monasteries, are usually kept covered
away from the eyes of the uninitiated.
However, the great innovation in the Spituk mural is the fact that it does
not show at all the wish-fulfilling tree, which is the vertical axis of the image
and the space where the deities would be positioned. In the spyi khang the
5 The 14th Dalai Lama explains that it represents an ocean of milk, which symbolism is tied
to the three principal aspects of the Buddhist path. In any case, the water element connects
with the theme of cosmic waters, the container of all that is necessary for life, much beloved
of Indian cosmology.
6 The representation of this figure immediately recalls a specific iconographic form, related to
a series of representations belonging to the lineage of the Pa chen lamas executed at sNar
thang by Tsong kha pas disciple mKhas grub dGe legs dpal bzang po. In the course of the
time, within the dGe lugs pa order, such iconography, though always linked to the presence
of an image of Tsong kha pa, has also been employed to portray in a generic from the category
of practitioners, perhaps even patrons of the tshogs zhing images themselves, shown while
looking at the field of merit in a devoted way while carrying offferings.

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tshogs zhing

Figure 13.4

321

Central portion of the Spituk/dPe thub New Du khang tshogs zhing.

vertical structure of the tshogs zhing is exchanged for a structure having three
horizontal registers superimposed on one another where the groups of masters and classes of deities have found their place, arranged surrounding the
chief figure of Tsong kha pa, which is in turn immediately surmounted by that
of Vajradhra (Figure 13.4). Thus here the representation of the tree is wholly
missing.
As for the commissioning of the image, both the artist who executed the
mural painting, Tshe ring dbang dus (Lo Bue 2005:365373),7 as well as several
monks of the monastery, confirmed that it was the former Bakula rin po che
and his root master who wanted the work to be executed. This was carried out
at the time of the building of the spyi khang at the beginning of the 1970s. In
any case, neither the monks nor the artist were able to give an explanation as
to the variation in the iconography that is to be seen in the image. Nor were
they able to provide any information as to the existence of written records relative to the wishes of the Bakula rin po che in relation to the mural painting. It
therefore appears that further investigation is necessary.
Nevertheless, both the artist and the monks have indicated that the image
shows the visualization of the field of merit in line with the spyor chos related to
the lam rim tradition. In this way it constitutes an interesting evolution within
7 We would like to use the occasion to thank Tshe ring dbang dus for the helping us during our
research, and in particular for the interview given in September 2008.

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the iconography of such images. In the first place, the chief figure of the tshogs
zhing of the spyi khang is that of Tsong kha pa and not that of kyamuni,
as would be expected in the lam rim tradition. Moreover, the iconography of
Tshong kha pa here suggests that it follows the bla ma mchod pa tradition, where
the root guru takes the name of Bla ma Blo bzang thub dbang rdo rje chang
(Dalai Lama 1996:87/88; Pabongka Rinpoche 1997:188192),8 even though in
the case of Spituk according to the monks the iconography would not exactly
fit that of the bla ma mchod pa, since in the heart of the small Buddha who
this time is positioned within Tsong kha pas heart, the image of Vajradhra is
missing and replaced by the seed syllable h. According to the monks there,
this would be due to the fact that the presence of kyamuni instead of the
Buddha Vajradhra within Tsong kha pas heart is a clear indication of specific lam rim practices (Figure 13.5). However, we need to note here that, linked
to the tradition of Pha bong kha bDe chen snying po (Pabongka Rinpoche
1997), the modern texts of the bla ma chod pa and the tshogs zhing visualization related to these practices always require the presence of kyamuni in the
heart of the central guru, whereas Vajradhra is to be visualized in the heart of

8 Bla ma indicates that the root guru has to be identified with the practitioners own guru; Blo
bzang reminds us that in the dGe lugs pas tradition guru has to be identified with Tsong kha
pa himself; Thub dbang indicates that the practitioners guru, as Tsong kha pa himself, has
the same nature of the Buddha kyamuni when he granted to his disciple instructions based
on stras; rDo rje chang indicates that the guru, as Tsong kha pa himself, has the nature of
Vajradhra in giving instructions based on tantras. All those are diffferent emanations of the
same essence: an enlightened mind that appears as kyamuni/Nirmakya in the exposition of the stras and as Vajradhra/Sambhogakya in the exposition of the tantras. In the
exposition of the entire Dharma, it appears having the aspects of great masters such as Tsong
kha pa and as the practitioners own guru that represents in essence all the Buddhas as expressions of the wisdom of the Dharmakya. This complex experience is usually represented in
the tshogs zhing iconography by the image of Tsong kha pa seated in the varja posture, making the gesture the vitarkamudr with his right hand and the dhynamudr with the left one.
The hands hold two lotuses holding up a sword and a book, emblems of Majur, and a bowl
in the left hand. In the heart of Tsong kha pa, a small kyamuni is represented and, in the
heart of him, Vajradhra with the consort. This visualisation is very important For the bla ma
mchod pa instruction, because, according to Pha bong kha bDe chen snying po, Tsong kha
pa and kyamuni at his heart have to be experienced as the samayasattva, together they are
the commitment-being, Vajradhra in the union with his consort, representing the great bliss
wisdom that experiences emptiness, and which has to be experienced as the jnasattva, the
gnosis being, and the h at the heart of this has to be meditated on as the samdhisattva,
the concentration-being.

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tshogs zhing

Figure 13.5

323

Detail of the main figure of the tshogs zhing, Tsong kha pa.

the historical Buddha.9 Pha bong kha describes various traditions in relation
to the visualization of this field of merit, also indicating that it was actually
his root master, the dwags po Blo bzang jam dpal lhun grub (18451919), who
unified them into one unique transmission which was handed down by Pha
bong kha in his teachings. From these the most widespread tshogs zhing of
today originated.10 The field of merit of the spyi khang of Spituk, by way of its

10

In the bla ma mchod pas literature tradition previous to Pha bong kha bDe chen snying
po, the term thub dbang was meant to be an adjective understanding Vajradhra: thub
dbang translates the Sanskrit munndra, the lord of the sages, a term which can be used
for every Buddha of any time and dimension. The 14th Dalai Lama, expounding on a commentary on the bla ma mchod pa, understands the term thub dbang in the same way as
Pha bong kha, i.e. indicating the figure of the Buddha kyamuni. In a private communication in Rome, in the September 2008, the dGa ldan byang rtses dge bshes Thub bstan
dar rgyas, explained to us that the meaning of the visualization of Vajradhra in the heart
of kyamuni is that Vajradhra, here thought of as a Sambhogakya experience of the
tenth bhmi, cannot be directly perceived by conventional minds: those minds are able to
directly perceive only an experience generally considered easier to approach and understand. The Nirmakya/kyamuni is the only form of the Sambhogakya experience a
conventional mind can approach, and, once again, the guru, following kyamuni, is the
best embodiment of the Nirmakya a practitioner can relate to.
The root guru sits in the centre of the entire image: below there are the eleven categories
of deities, placed on the tree; at the sides there are the Madhyamaka and Yogcra gurus;
below we find three sub-lineages of the bKa gdams pas and, below those, a group of dGe
lugs pa masters, starting from Tsong kha pa. Above the root guru there are five vertical

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unusual iconography, may thus represent yet another evolution of this theme,
unrecorded in any text, though it seems that the specific image was painted
more in order to indicate the lam rim practices than those of the bla ma chod
pa. Further studies are necessary in order to come to a better understanding
of this problem.
Analysis of the tshogs zhing Iconography of Spituks New
spyi khang
The key figure of the whole imagery, placed at the centre of the mural, depicted
with a greater size in relation to all the other figures,11 is that of Tsong kha
pa. All around him, on the central register, feature the four yi dam connected
with the most important anuttarayogatantra cycles of the dGe lugs pa order.
Directly to the gurus right, we find Guhyasamja12 and Vajrabhairava, linked to
the so-called father tantra classes, while on the left we find representations of
Cakrasavara and Hevajra, linked to the classes of the so-called mother tantra.
Above Tshong kha pas halo, on the upper register, Vajradhra is represented
with his consort in the yab yum form. To his left is the siddha Tilopa, while to
his right is the siddha Nropa. These three figures together represent the entire
tantric lineage of practices and blessings. Apart from Vajradhra, the Buddha
who confers the tantric teachings and who is the one who symbolizes the ultimate experience shared by the tantric systems of the gsar ma traditions, it is
necessary to note that just as in the bKa brgyud pa orders, Tilopa and Nropa
are venerated as the principal tantric masters who connect the dGe lugs pa
order to the Indian tantric tradition. Beneath the root guru there are three figures, all seated. The central figure represents Tsong kha pa himself, however
the iconography represented here shows the attributes of the root guru, i.e.
the sword and the book, both held by the lotus whose stem originates from the
right hand of the master, and the flask containing the amta, placed in Tsong
kha pas left hand which is resting in his lap.
Such iconography represents a special form of the master used for a particular long-life pj. To the sides of Tsong kha pa we find his direct disciples: mKhas

11

12

rows of diffferent lineages of tantric transmission: the Guhyasamja, Vajrabhairava, dGa


ldan snyan rgyud, the Sixteen Drops of the bKa gdams pas, and Cakrasavara.
The rules on proportional symbolism apply here. Furthermore, we need to know that
according to the bla ma mchod pas instructions: all the figures in the field of merit, representing masters or deities, ought to be experienced as emanations of the root guru.
This deity is considered as king of the tantras by the dGe lugs pas.

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tshogs zhing

Figure 13.6

325

The portion of the tshogs zhing to the proper left of the main, central figure,
Tsong kha pa.

grub dGe legs dpal bzang po, on his right, and rGyal tshab Dharma rin chen on
the left. In the dGe lugs pa iconographic tradition such a triad as this tends to
represent as well the main deities of the Mahvairocanbhisabodhitantra,
a tantra of the carytantra class. Tshong ka pa represents the Buddha
Mahvairocana, while his disciples embody the Bodhisattvas Avalokitevara
and Vajrapi, shown immediately to the sides of the triad. Preceding the
Bodhisattva Avalokitevara there is an image of a dGe lugs pa master depicted
as larger in size to the triad, but nevertheless there are no inscriptions that
permit his identification.13
On the upper register, to the left of the siddha Nropa (Figure 13.6) there is
the Bodhisattva Majughoa, and to his left are depicted the images of nine
masters linked to Ngrjunas Madhyamaka tradition. The last figure on this
register is that of the Bengali master Atia, and below this in the identical position on the lower register is his direct disciple Brom ston pa.
On the central register, to the left of the yi dam Hevajra, are found arranged
the figures of Sarvavid, Mahvairocana, Green Tr, Sarasvat and kyamuni,
while on the lower register, to the left of the Bodhisattva Vajrapi, are found
the images of the rvaka Nanda and that of the arhat Bakula, who is recognizable because of the image of the mongoose. This is followed by a white ka
who holds a amaru, a khavga and a kapla. This is probably Vajradharma
(Chandra 1991:497), who is then followed by Dharmarja without his consort,
and finally the guardians of the directions Vairavaa and Virpka.
13

Thus far the monks have not been able to help us in the identification of this figure.

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Figure 13.7

The portion of the tshogs zhing to the proper right of the main, central figure,
Tsong kha pa.

On the other portion of the image, beginning from the upper register to the
right of Tilopa (Figure 13.7), there are nine masters of the Yogcra tradition,
headed by Asaga and Vasubandhu. Just as in the case of the figure of Brom
ston pa, also the last master of the Yogcra tradition is depicted as the last
figure on the lower register.
On the central register, beginning from the right of the yi dam Vajrabhairava,
we find depicted the deities Sittapatr, Vajravidhra, Amityus, Sitatr
and Bhaiajyaguru, whereas on the lower register, starting from the right of
the Bodhisattva Avalokitevara, there are the representations of the arhats
Panthaka and Agaja, of a ka similar in colour and position to the ka
Vajradharma, but with a kartar in place of the amaru. Then follow the representations of abhuja Mahkla, Yellow Jambhala, and the two guardians of
the directions Dhtarra and Virhaka.

Conclusions
The main iconographic elements of the traditional tshogs zhing, based
on the vertical element of the tree, in the depiction of the field of merit of
the new spyi khang of Spituk are confirmed by the present investigation.
In the tshogs zhing, the spiritual hierarchy of the diverse classes of figures is
generally respected and each class is accordingly distributed in distinct positions within the representation. The chief figure is that of the root guru, positioned in what is truly the fundamental point of the whole image, i.e. the
centre. After that of the root guru, the most important class of figures is that

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of the direct masters and the lineage masters. To them is reserved, as is natural
to their spiritual status, the background sky in the upper register of the mural.
The diverse classes of deities, beginning with the yi dams of the anuttarayogatantra up to the guardians of the directions14 are depicted on the various
petals (eleven, as a rule) of a great lotus placed on the wish fulfilling tree.
In the tshogs zhing of the spyi khang of Spituk the vertical structure of the
image created by means of the tree is completely absent, and the formulation
of the hierarchical division of the various classes of figure seems to be a complete innovation. No longer vertical but horizontal, we find a simple structure
on three registers one above the other, with the most important figure, that of
the root guru, naturally in the central position.
On the upper register, which is therefore assigned the same symbolic value
as is given to the sky in the vertical tshogs zhing, the area which is the most
important in the image, the fundamental tantric masters of the dGe lugs pa
order, Tilopa and Nropa, as well as the masters linked to the Madhyamaka
and Yogcra philosophical traditions, are depicted. In the central register,
we find the deities connected with all the four diffferent classes of tantra, as is
the image of the historical Buddha who comes to represent the entire class of
Buddhas or the 35 Buddhas of the confession. Finally, in the lower register, we
find representations of classes of bodhisattvas, of the pratyekabuddhas and of
the arhats, as well as those of the protectors and guardians.
It is certainly true that in comparison to the figures of the vertical tshogs
zhings, the representations mentioned above at Spituk are far fewer in number, but this comes as a result of a deliberate choice such as having Tilopa and
Nropa selected to represent the whole group of siddhas and tantric masters
in general. The most beloved masters and the most important deities for the
practices adopted by the dGe lugs pa order are here taken up to symbolize
whole classes of masters and deities.
In any case, we can take note of the fact that in the images in Spituk, compared to modern renderings of vertical tshogs zhing which come from the Pha
bong kha transmission, the figure of Hevajra is chosen and placed in the location usually preferred for representing the tantric system of the sixteen drops
of the bKa gdams pa. The only representation belonging to Atias tradition
is the image of the Bengali master and of his direct disciple, while in modern
vertical tshogs zhing the bKa gdams pa order is depicted through a number of
14

The classes of the deities that are represented are: the yi dams of the cycles of the four
tantric classes, the class of the Buddhas, those of the bodhisattvas, kas and kins, of
pratyekabuddhas and arhats, of the protectors of the Dharma and those of the guardians
of the direction.

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lunardo

important figures divided into four sub-lineages and placed in the sky to the
side of the root guru. One of these sub-lineages represents the actual lineage of
the sixteen drops, portrayed in place of the Hevajratantra transmission.
The tshogs zhing of Spituk is important because it reflects a modern development of an iconography that has never really been firmly established. Such
an image lends support in demonstrating that over the centuries, a tradition
maintains its vitality when it reflects the experience of masters and practitioners. This in the end represents a direct agent in the evolution of literature and
texts relative to the tradition itself.15
It is precisely for this reason that it would be interesting to know the reason
why Bakula rin po che wanted such an image in such a position, and why he
commissioned the depiction of particular figures to represent entire spiritual
classes.
Until similar images in other areas of Tibetan culture are either discovered
or described, we can afffirm that the tshogs zhing of the new spyi khang of
Spituk represents a distinct form of the experience of Buddhist Ladakh, and
underlines the freshness and brightness of a tradition that is constantly renewing itself.

15

This will be the topic of a work in preparation.

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