Manjushri, Namasangiti (Tibetan: jam pal tsan chu): a line drawing with an iconometric measuring grid underlay. On the reverse of this artwork is another drawing of a standing Vajrapani figure also showing an iconometric grid.
In the appearance of a peaceful bodhisattva with one face and four hands, the first right holds upraised a flaming sword and the lower hand an arrow. The first left placed at the heart holds the stem of an utpala flower blossoming at the left ear supporting the Prajnaparamita Sutra. The second left holds to the side a bow. The hair is tied on the top of the head in a topknot with some falling loose across the shoulders. Adorned with a jeweled crown, earrings, necklaces, armlets and bracelets, he wears a long and short scarf on the upper body and a skirt below. With the feet adorned with anklets, the two legs are folded in vajra posture, right over left, seated atop a flat moon disc and multi-petaled lotus seat.
On the ground of an off-white canvas the iconometric measuring lines have been drawn with red and blue ink indicating the correct physical proportions for the drawing of this form of Manjushri. With the right arm raised the upper torso and head shifts with a pronounced lean to the left. This corresponds to the off center line extending from the tope, topknot of hair, downward under the nose and necklace centerpiece. The Tibetan Buddhist painting traditions follow set guidelines for body proportions varying according to buddha figures, peaceful, wrathful and human - and numerous variations between. The root textual sources for the study of proportions are the Manjushri Mulakalpa, Samvarodaya, Krishna Yamari and Kalachakra Tantras.
The Manjushri Namasangiti Tantra was first translated into Tibetan in the 8th century and re-translated during the Sarma period in the 11th century and classified as both a Yoga and Anuttarayoga Tantra. It depicts numerous forms of Manjushri both peaceful, wrathful and full mandalas with many deities such as the Dharmadhatu Vagishvara. Monks and lamas from all traditions memorize the Tantra in early childhood.
Jeff Watt 9-99
all text & images © Rubin Museum of Art