Historical Narrative intro
Historical Narrative

Shantarakshita

Tibet; 19th century
Pigments on cloth
Rubin Museum of Art
Purchased from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Warren Wilds
C2007.22.1 (HAR 65798)

Historical narratives in Himalayan painting are often
presented by displaying multiple episodes from a
figure’s life around a large central image of that figure.
The central figure of this painting is the Indian guru
Shantarakshita. Stories of his life are depicted around
him like panels of a comic strip, and each episode is
divided by either landscape or architectural elements.

Click the Painting to Learn More About Its Details

Historical Narrative slide1 slide4 slide3 slide5 slide6 slide2
Historical Narrative

Shantarakshita

Tibet; 19th century
Pigments on cloth
Rubin Museum of Art
Purchased from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Warren Wilds
C2007.22.1 (HAR 65798)

Historical narratives in Himalayan painting are often
presented by displaying multiple episodes from a
figure’s life around a large central image of that figure.
The central figure of this painting is the Indian guru
Shantarakshita. Stories of his life are depicted around
him like panels of a comic strip, and each episode is
divided by either landscape or architectural elements.

Select a detail to follow the narrative of Shantarakshita.

 

Historical Narrative slide1 slide4 slide3 slide5 slide6 slide2
Historical Narrative

Shantarakshita

The central image of Shantarakshita depicts him
wearing a scholar’s hat with an Indian-style book in his
right hand and his left hand held in the symbolic
gesture for teaching.
Shantarakshita is a popular subject for Tibetan artists
because in the eighth century, at the request of King
Trisong Detsen, he helped to found Tibet’s first Buddhist
monastery.
Above him to the right is Buddha Shakyamuni. To the
left is an Indian teacher of Shantarakshita.

Historical Narrative slide1 slide4 slide3 slide5 slide6 slide2
Historical Narrative

Shantarakshita

This narrative of Shantarakshita’s life begins with the
guru receiving his monastic vows. The presence of a
golden buddha illustrates the importance of this event.

Historical Narrative
Historical Narrative slide1 slide4 slide3 slide5 slide6 slide2
Historical Narrative

Shantarakshita

Shantarakshita is shown here sitting below the throne
of a famous teacher. This image is meant to remind
viewers of the scholar’s impressive education. Later in
his life, to complete his learning, Shantarakshita will
spend a long time in isolated retreat.

Historical Narrative
Historical Narrative slide1 slide4 slide3 slide5 slide6 slide2
Historical Narrative

Shantarakshita

The narrative continues with a depiction of King Trisong
Detsen inviting Shantrakshita to Tibet. The guru and
two of his disciples are shown making the journey from
India to Tibet where they are greeted by the king. At the
palace Shantarakshita gives teachings to the king.

Historical Narrative
Historical Narrative slide1 slide4 slide3 slide5 slide6 slide2
Historical Narrative

Shantarakshita

Shantarakshita had a major role in the founding of the
first Buddhist monastery in Tibet, Samye. Here he sits
under the monastery’s golden roof, ordaining the !rst
seven Tibetan Buddhist monks.

Historical Narrative
Historical Narrative slide1 slide4 slide3 slide5 slide6 slide2
Historical Narrative

Shantarakshita

In this scene Shantarakshita speaks to a group of
attentive students, illustrating his role as an influential
teacher of Buddhism in Tibet.

Historical Narrative