Portrait of an unidentified great teacher
  See it in the Museum
Chapel
Orientation 1
Plinth 3

ABS 185

 Code: ABS 185

  Country: Tibet

  Style:

  Date: 1450 - 1550

  Dimensions in cm WxHxD: 86 x 95 x 65

  Materials: Assembled from several embossed sheets copper

Portrait of an unidentified great teacher - the size of the statue reflecting the high esteem 

Assembled from several cast parts and sheets of embossed gilt copper.
The face retains remains of painted cold gold.
The begging bowl with the elaborate decorated container was originally not part of this statue.

This large statue represents an unidentified elderly teacher with distinct individual features, which indicate that this work is a real portrait of a master who had reached at least an age of seventy years or more. Could it be that this statue is a nga dra ma, “it looks like me”, made during the subject’s lifetime or shortly after his death?

In all religious traditions including Buddhism, teachers are of essential importance in preserving a particular tradition and handing it down from one generation to the next. This is also the case in Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism, where the teacher is regarded as the fourth and highest refuge. thus he incorporates the three other refuges, the Buddha (the initial Teacher), the Dharma (his teaching) and the Sangha (his community). Although it is recorded that teachers were held in high esteem throughout the Buddhist world, it was in Tibet where in addition portrait sculptures were manufactured. Naturally it is somehow a paradox in creating portrait statues of great masters who upheld a tradition directed to the dissolution of the ego and believed in the impermanence of all manifestations. Neverthless, for individual students, the portrait images of teachers are a great help in the visualisation process during guru yoga practicess during guru yoga practices, involving sometimes entire lineages of teachers and divine beings. For a practitioner it is not unusual to experience visions of his teachers and divine beings. For a practitioner it is not unusual to experience visions of his teachers being transformed into particular deities. When viewing this large and unique sculpture in leisure for longer than just a short glance, then the humbleness and great compassion of the portrayed teacher reveals a Buddha like nature. It is not just the size which makes this statue great but also the artistic achievement which is impressive.

von Schroeder, Ulrich, 2010. Buddhist Sculptures of the Alain Bordier Foundation. Hong Kong: Visual Dharma Publications, Ltd.. Pp. 38–39; plate 16A

von Schroeder, Ulrich and von Schroeder, Heidi, 2009. Tibetan Art of the Alain Bordier Foundation. Hong Kong: Visual Dharma Publications.