Description Vajradhara, the primordial Buddha, is considered to be the original teacher of the tantric Buddhist (Vajrayana) teachings. Blue in color, he holds a vajra (a ritual scepter identified as masculine, and symbolizing compassionate action) and a bell (identified as feminine, and symbolizing wisdom). Crossing his hands, he expresses the union of these qualities in the state of enlightenment. Here, Vajradhara is flanked by two wrathful goddesses and is surrounded by mahasiddhas: great tantric practitioners who attained both special powers and spiritual enlightenment, usually through unconventional means. In the second row from the top, the figure on the far left is Virupa, who halts the sun’s movement with his raised hand; fond of drink, he had promised to pay his tavern bill once the sun set, so he prevented it from setting. On the right, the fifth figure from the top is Anangavajra, who had a vision of the Buddha as he was herding swine, a task his guru had assigned to him. Here, he holds a boar’s forelegs as he grasps a knife, while a golden Buddha image hovers before him. The reclining figure on the bottom row is Bhusuku, a lazy monk who regularly skipped recitation at his monastery, but was granted great wisdom by the bodhisattva Manjushri. Each mahasiddha belongs to a tantric lineage that traces its teachings to Vajradhara.
- Desire and Devotion: Art from India, Nepal, and Tibet in the John and Berthe Ford Collection. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara; Albuquerque Museum, Albuquerque; Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham; Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong. 2001-2003.
- Holy Madness: Portraits of Tantric Siddhas. Rubin Museum of Art, New York. 2006.
Provenance Chino Ronconi, Paris [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; John and Berthe Ford, Baltimore, November 1992, by purchase.
Credit Promised gift of John and Berthe Ford
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