The Temptation of Shakyamuni Buddha by Mara and Scenes from His Life (Large Thangka)

The Temptation of Shakyamuni Buddha by Mara and Scenes from His Life (Large Thangka)

Item Code: TS71
Tibetan Thangka Painting
Size of Painted Surface 25.0" X 32.5"
Size with Brocade 41.0" X 59.0"
This splendid and rare painting depicts Shakyamuni Buddha at the attainment of his enlightenment. It represents the Tibetan vision of the Buddha’s experience of enlightenment as the consumption of a long process of spiritual and physical evolution. Here Shakyamuni makes the bhumisparsha-mudra as figures representing the onslaught of Mara’s evil forces appear around him. His two chief disciples Shariputra and Maudgalyayana are flanking him. Surrounding the Buddha on all sides are Arhats, and wrathful deities and Buddha’s own former life stories (Jataka), Legends (Avadana) and Biographical Scenes. All the scenes are executed with charming and meticulous detail, vivid colour, and a superb, crisps, flowing, precision sharp line. The scenes are illustrated so much in detail that it is not practically possible to identify each scene. However some important deeds of his life are described below.
The topmost panel depicts twenty figures of Buddhas, Arhats, and Lamas. The top second panel depicts scenes from the life of Buddha. From the left are, preaching Buddha attended by devotees, monkey offering honey to the Buddha, a standing Buddha with disciples, bhumisparsha Buddha, parinirvana Buddha, the divine radiance of the Buddha, preaching Buddha with attendants in a pavilion and two more scenes depicting Buddha within his two his devotees. The top third panel depicts the scenes from his life and from Avadana. Each side of the central image, sixteen Arhats is depicted vertically with wrathful deities, while scenes depicted in vertical panels, each side of the Buddha are related to his deeds in human realm. But these scenes are not in consecutive order, however the scenes depicted in the right panel are –

1. Queen Mahamaya’s dream: Mahamaya is shown sleeping in her palace and a white elephant is approaching in her dream. The elephant is shown in smoky cloud. According to tradition when the time came for Shakyamuni to manifest himself on earth he descended in the form of a white elephant. Queen dreamed of a white elephant that flow through the air and touched her right side with its trunk and she subsequently became pregnant. This scene is depicted just above the top of right vertical panel.
2. Birth of Siddhartha: When queen Mahamaya’s time was approaching she took a trip to her parental home to have the baby there with her mother. At the arrival of Lumbini grove she felt desire to visit the grove and when she reached the park of Lumbini, her divine son was born, as she held the branch of the Shala tree from her right side in standing position. Brahma and Indra were present at the birth. The newborn child walked seven steps towards each point of the compass, exclaiming, “This is my last incarnation.” The scene is depicted below the above scene, in square
3. Raising the Prince Siddhartha: The newborn child was brought to Kapilavastu (capital of Shakyan republic) and named Siddhartha. Queen Mahamaya died seven days after giving birth. Siddhartha’s aunt and foster-mother Prajapati Gautami brought him up. In the scene child Siddhartha is shown first lying on a bed then seated in the lap of his father. A blue complexioned personage is shown here, who may be Asita. According to Buddhist tradition sage Asita had visited Kapilavastu to have the glimpse of the newborn child and after seeing the child he prophesied to his father Suddhodana that the little Siddhartha was destined to be either a universal monarch or a Buddha. Fearing this king brought up Siddhartha isolated in the luxuries of the palace. But since his childhood Siddhartha showed his religious bent of mind and he had little interest in glamour or entertainment.
The scene of first meditation of Siddhartha under the rose-apple tree (Jambu) during his boyhood is depicted below the above scene. It is said that one day Siddhartha had gone outside the palace to participate in a festival where he skipped the company of his friends and sat down under the jambu tree in meditation. Gradually his mind became free of all worldly thoughts and he was filled with utter serenity. Here Siddhartha is shown seated under a tree in meditation, and his other mates are singing and dancing while his father is ploughing the land.
The remaining scenes in this panel are also related to the early life of Siddhartha. Siddhartha received the first education and mastered of all lesson taught to him. He excelled in sports and other contests of skill. The most significant episode of his youth occurred during the contest for winning the hand of princess Yasodhara. Siddhartha had to prove himself in an athletic contest with the arrogant youths of the Shakyan clan. In particular, his cousins Nanda and Devadatta were jealous of him and wanted him to lose. First an elephant was place inside the city gate to test who was strongest. Devadatta killed the animal with one hand. Nanda lifted the elephant and dropped it outside the palace gates. Siddhartha, seeing the mindless killing, pick up the dead elephant lightly and tossed it over the city wall, where it came to life again. This Scene is depicted below the above scene.
Then they competed in swimming and Siddhartha showed that he could fly across the water like a swan. Siddhartha also defeated them in wrestling. Finally, they challenged him in an archery contest, to pierce seven palm trees with a single arrow. Devadatta pierced three, Nanda managed to get through five, but Siddhartha’s arrow shot through all seven. At the tournament, the crown prince excelled in everything and Siddhartha was chosen as the groom. This scene is depicted at the right side of the foreground.

The scenes depicted on the left panel are:
4. Shakyamuni is seated on a throne and followers are paying their respect to the Blessed One. Thereafter the Buddha is shown that he is crossing the river Nairanjana to proceed to Rishipatana, Sarnath for the deliverance of first sermon.
5. After attaining the enlightenment the Buddha had spent four weeks in contemplation under different trees in Bodh Gaya. When he was under rajayatana tree met two merchants, Tapussa and Bhallika, who offered him some gruel of barley and honey. Who were on their way from Utkala to Madhydesha. These two merchants became his first lay disciples. The scene is depicted below the above scene.
6. After enlightenment, whilst the Buddha was still staying in Bodh Gaya near the Bodhi-tree, there was a tremendous rainstorm, which lasted for seven days. During the storm the Buddha was protected by the naga-king Muchalinda, who coiled him and spread his hood over the Buddha’s head to protect him. This scene is depicted below the above scene.
7. Here first three scenes below the above are from the Avadana, which shows righteous deeds of the Buddha. Here Shakyamuni is imparting his teaching to the devotees.
8. The next scene below the shows that Siddhartha secretly leaves the Palace to search truth - One day Siddhartha had a strong desire to see the other places of his republic and asked charioteer, Chandaka to drive him outside the place. On three trips he encountered suffering for the first time in the form of a decrepit old man; then a sick man affected with an ugly disease, followed by a dead body being carried to the cremation ground by weeping friends. On his fourth trip he saw a monk dresses in saffron clothes, carrying a bowl, walking majestically along the road, and looking very calm and peaceful. The charioteer told him that this saffron clad person has renounced the worldly life with all luxuries and pleasures and is looking for truth and peace, that this person has no desire or anger and that he lived by begging for his food. These sights made Siddhartha ponder over the miseries of existence and also on a way of escaping from them. On returning to the palace after his encounters with four sights, he was more cheerless than before. Siddhartha finally realized that home at home; he would never find the permanent solution for the ills of the world. One night there was a big party, when everybody, including his tender newborn son, Rahula and his beautiful charming wife were fast asleep. He secretly left his palace, mounted on his horse Kanthaka went to the forest. His charioteer, chandaka also follow him. Here Siddhartha is shown with his saddled horse outside the palace. Here he is also shown seated in meditation.
9. Siddhartha cut off his long princely hair to became a monk – After leaving the palace Siddhartha went to the forest where he removed his royal garments and jewelry and cut off his long princely hair against a stupa and wrapped himself in a simple monk’s robe. Gautama subsequently sat under a tree in meditation. This scene is depicted just below the above scene.
10. The bottom two panels also depict the scenes from the life of Shakyamuni. The center of upper panel depicts the army of Mara, while lower panel is filled with the scenes from Siddhartha’s participation in sports and games.
This painting is brilliantly drawn and painted and is very much suitable for sadhana and meditation. The brocade is woven with flowers, dragons and auspicious symbols.

This description is by Dr. Shailendra K. Verma, whose Doctorate thesis is on “Emergence and Evolution of the Buddha Image (From its inception to 8th century A.D.)”.

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