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Satchakravarti Samvara Mandala
Made in Tibet, China, Probably made in Ngor monastery, Tsang region
Sakya monastic order, c. 15th century
Artist/maker unknown, Tibet, Tsang region, probably Ngor monastery
Colors on cloth; cloth mountings
Image: 32 1/4 x 28 1/2 inches (81.9 x 72.4 cm) Mount: 52 x 32 inches (132.1 x 81.3 cm) Frame: 60 1/4 x 35 1/2 inches (153 x 90.2 cm)
Purchased with the John T. Morris Fund, 1963

Although Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha, is recognized as the fundamental teacher and propagator of Buddhism, Vajrayana Buddhists believe that there are many buddhas in addition to Shakyamuni. This complex diagram brings together the most important buddhas in the Vajrayana Buddhist system. The elaborate geometric design of intersecting circles and squares is known as a mandala; it represents both a diagram of the palaces of these buddhas and the sacred cosmos.

Adorning each side of the largest square structure are four elaborately designed and jewel-encrusted gateways, which lead to the increasingly more powerful inner chambers. At the center of this composition are smaller mandalas, each with its own gates, attendants, and ritual offerings. The five outer mandalas represent the homes of the five transcendent buddhas; the central buddha figure in each of these structures is rendered in a distinct color and joined in sexual union with his consort. These five mandalas are purposefully situated around one central mandala, that of Vajradhara, the embodiment of all five transcendent buddhas.

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all text & images © The Philadelphia Museum of Art

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