5. Lineage Thangka of Gelug Order
Ink and Pigments on Paper
43 ½ in. x 34 in. (framed)
Identified as Gelug by the Lama’s pointed yellow cap, this piece was originally designed as a meditational aid, this form of painting is known as a “refuge tree”. Refuge trees have been used by the Gelug order of Tibetan Buddhism to provide a method for organizing the Buddhist pantheon in a logical, hierarchical manner.
This kind of thangka is called a guruparampara, a “Line of Teachers.” It shows a family tree and its function being to indicate a line of descent. The idea is that the presentation should be seen as a refuge for believers. It creates a tangible structure in the chaotic number of deities and teachers in whom believers take refuge. All the portrayed personages have been brought together in and around a tree that sprouts forth from a body of water. Originally, this manner of portrayal stems from the Nyingma Order, and finds a parallel there in the way in which Padmasambhava was born, namely on a lotus that was growing in a lake.