This rare painting of Shantarakshita portrays the great spiritual master surrounded by biographical episodes, highlighting those from his historic visit to Tibet, where he was integral in establishing Buddhism. Using the traditional compositional arrangement, the painter uses landscape and architectural elements to separate the vignettes, which move chronologically clockwise from top right. Shantarakshita’s spiritual development is illustrated in the first three scenes: his ordination as a monk, his travels on the gradual path to Enlightenment, and his own spiritual training, leading to the realization of true knowledge. These episodes are the prologue to the story of Buddhism’s arrival in Tibet, which begins in the bottom-right corner, where the abbot is shown traveling to Tibet laden with bags full of books and supplies. Upon his arrival, Shantarakshita was greeted by King Trisong Detsen and his royal entourage bearing offerings of gold and precious objects, depicted at bottom center. The climax of the narrative is portrayed in the lower-left corner, where Shantarakshita, depicted in a gesture of teaching and seated between Padmasambhava and Trisong Detsen, performed the consecration ceremony at Samye Monastery and ordained the first native monks in Tibet, known as the “Seven Examined Ones.” The final vignette shows Shantarakshita surrounded by students, performing his greatest accomplishment: establishing Tibetan Buddhist doctrine.


  • Title: Shantirakshita
  • Date Created: 19th century
  • Physical Dimensions: H 71 3/8 x W 41 3/8 x D 1 7/8 in.
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Rubin Museum of Art, C2007.22.1
  • Medium: Pigments on cloth
  • Place of Creation: Tibet
  • Exhibition History: Rubin Museum of Art, "Once Upon Many Times: Legends and Myths in Himalayan Art" (09/16/11 - 01/30/12), Rubin Museum of Art, "A Collector''s Passion: South Asian Selections from the Nalin Collection" (06/12/09 - 11/09/09), Rubin Museum of Art, "What is It? Himalayan Art" (11/12/07 - 02/09/09)

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