Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Vajrayana Buddhism Main Page

Vajrayana Buddhism Main Page | Buddhism Main Page

Subjects & Topics:
- Vajrayana Buddhism Explanation (below)
- Foundational Buddhism Main Page (Hinayana)
- Mahayana Buddhism Main Page
- Three Vehicles Outline Page
- Masterworks
- Confusions
- Others...

Nyingma (Kama, Terma)
- Samantabhadra Buddha
- Padmasambhava
- Twenty-five Principal Disciples

Sarma (Kadam, Sakya, Kagyu, Shangpa, Jonang, Gelug, etc.)
- Vajradhara Buddha
- Eighty-four Great Accomplished Ones (mahasiddha)

Himalayan and Tibetan Buddhism is generally described as being composed of the three 'Yana' or vehicles of Buddhism - the Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana. In the Vajrayana of Tibet there are two traditions, the Nyingma (old or ancient ones) and the Sarma (new ones). For the Nyingma Tradition Vajrayana is principally represented by the primordial Buddha Samantabhadra (kuntu zangpo) followed by Padmasambhava accompanied by the Twenty-five Principal Disciples.

For the Sarma Traditions, made up of the Kadam, Sakya, Dagpo Kagyu, Shangpa Kagyu, Jonang, Gelug and others, Vajrayana Buddhism is represented by the primordial Buddha Vajradhara accompanied by the Eighty-four Great Accomplished Ones (mahasiddha). There are at least five known systems of enumerating the names of the mahasiddhas. Only two of these five are commonly represented in paintings or murals - the Abhayadatta and Vajrasana systems.

Beginning in the 18th century the new convention of painting Field of Accumulation compositions began. This started first with the Gelug Tradition followed by some Nyingma and Kagyu lineages in the 19th century and the remaining Tibetan traditions in the 20th century. This form of art represents an entire Tibetan tradition in a single composition with an emphasis on the Vajrayana while still inclusive of the Hinayana and Mahayana.

Jeff Watt 7-2011 [updated 6-2017]