Guru Dragpo (Tibetan Buddhism)

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Artist's Description

Guru Dragpo

Date:18th century
Culture:Tibet
Medium:Distemper on cotton
Dimensions:Image: 24 in. × 17 1/2 in. (61 × 44.5 cm)
Framed: 33 1/16 × 25 13/16 in. (84 × 65.5 cm)
Classification:Paintings
Credit Line:Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 2015
Accession Number:2015.269
Not on view

Guru Dragpo, a fierce emanation of the guru-saint Padmasambhava, stands astride a flaming aureole holding a ritual tool, the vajra, and a black scorpion. The skin of a tiger is drawn around his waist while the flayed skin of an elephant is draped over his shoulders. He wears a crown adorned with skulls and a garland of severed heads. In this wrathful meditational form, Guru Dragpo was an important protector deity of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism. In the upper register are depictions, from left, of Manjushri, Shadakshari Lokesvara, Amitabha, Padmasambhava, and the wrathful deity Hayagriva. In the lower register appear the ireful deities of Guru Dragpo’s retinue, including blue Vajrapani to the left and the yaksha Jambhala, god of wealth, at center.

Guru Dragpo, originating in the ‘Revealed Treasure’ Tradition of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, is a wrathful meditational form of Padmasambhava. Although technically a guruyoga practice the function of Guru Dragpo is that of an ishtadevata (meditational deity). In the Nyingma Tradition, following after the early meditational deities of the Guhyagarbha Tantra and Eight Heruka this practice of Guru Dragpo is possibly the most popular and the most represented in art. In the 16th century the teacher Pema Karpo popularized a variation on Guru Dragpo called Guru Dragpur – principally practiced in the Drugpa Kagyu School.

The meditational deities of the Nyingma can be divided into three principal categories of deities. The first are those deities described in the 1 Guhyagarbha Tantra. The second category are the 2 Eight Heruka including Mahottara. The third category are all of those forms that are included in the 3 ‘Revealed Treasure’ Tradition (terma). Many ‘Revealed Treasures’ are simply variations on the forms of the Guhyagarbha and Eight Heruka, however an entirely new group developed which are based on the being of Padmasambhava. This third group includes deities such as the Outer, Inner and Secret Forms of Padmasambhava which include Guru Dragpo, Simhamukha and many others.
Provenance
[ Arnold H. Lieberman , New York, 2003–14; sold to Davies]; Stephen and Sharon Davies , Pacific Grove, Calif. (2014–15; sold to MMA)

Exhibition History
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “The Arts of Nepal and Tibet: Recent Gifts,” January 16, 2016–January 15, 2017.

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