This is an engaging portrait of Terdak Lingpa Gyurme Dorje (1646-1714), the founder of Mindroling Monastery, which came to be regarded as the chief monastery of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism. Terdak Lingpa wears the robes of a lay practitioner and holds a square casket, a symbol of his role as a revealer of hidden teachings (terma). Several schools of Tibetan Buddhism, particularly the Nyingma, believe that the founding saint of Buddhism in Tibet, Padmasambhava, hid important teachings in the eighth century to be discovered at auspicious times in the future. These teachings, referred to as treasures, were predicted to be found by skilled practitioners called treasure revealers (terton), who could interpret and share the encoded meaning.
Depicted at the lower right is Terdak Lingpa's son, Pema Gyurme Gyatso (1686-1718), who succeeded him as abbot of Mindroling Monastery. He holds a writing tablet. At the lower left is Terdak Lingpa's younger brother, the scholar Lochen Dharmashri (1654-1717/18), holding a stylus and text. This colorful painting contrasts nicely with its yellow brocade border featuring dragons. The back of the painting includes two handprints set on lotus blossoms along with a long poem composed by Terdak Lingpa. Both the brother and son were murdered by the Dzungar Mongols during a period of political turmoil, suggesting an early eighteenth-century dating for the painting.