Dharmadhatu Vagishvara Mandala (Primary Title)
thanka (Object Name)

Unknown (Artist)

third quarter of 16th century
opaque watercolor on cloth
Central Tibet,Tsang
Framed: 44 1/2 × 31 in. (113.03 × 78.74 cm)
Overall: 33 1/2 × 25 3/4 in. (85.09 × 65.41 cm)
Image: 21 1/2 × 19 1/4 in. (54.61 × 48.9 cm)
Not on view

Seated at this vibrant mandala’s center, at the hub of the Realm of Truth (Dharmadhatu), is the Lord of Speech (Vagishvara). The four quadrants of cosmic space unfold around him, in blue, yellow, red, and green. Four-faced and eight-armed, this pacific form of Manjushri makes a teaching gesture with his principal hands, conveying wisdom, eloquence, and insight into reality’s true nature.

The figures depicted on many Tibetan Buddhist paintings are understood to be very much alive. On the reverse side of the mandala are inscriptions through which a mere object is transformed into a residence populated by animate beings. During a consecration ritual, a lama first visualizes the actual beings represented on the front of the painting entering into the two-dimensional image. A lama then seals those visualizations into the object by inscribing the syllables om, ah, and hum—symbolic of the being’s body, speech, and mind—behind the brow, throat, and heart of each of those figures. Because the painting’s many figures occupy the mandala’s architecture, the pattern of the inscriptions mimics its configuration.

The inscription on this mandala identifies it as the twelfth picture in a series of the Vajravali.
Gift of Berthe and John Ford
Awaken: A Tibetan Buddhist Journey toward Enlightenment, VMFA, Richmond, April 20-August 14, 2019
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

Some object records are not complete and do not reflect VMFA's full and current knowledge. VMFA makes routine updates as records are reviewed and enhanced.