Dharmapala Thangka CentreSchool of Thangka Painting

Ngor Mandalas

History of the original Ngor Mandalas

The Ngor Mandalas include a total of 139 mandalas whose religious practice has been passed down for centuries at Ngor Monastery, the center of the Ngor School, a sub-grouping of the Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism. The mandala collection was first brought to Japan in the early 1960s by the abbot of Ngor Monastery, Venerable bSod nams rgya mtsho [Hiroshi Sonami]

Ngor Monastery was founded in 1430 by Ngorchen Künga Sangpo [Tib. Ngor chen Kun dga' bzang po [1382-1456]. Located in eastern Tibet, the branch monastery of the Ngor school Derge Lhündrub Teng Monastery [Tib. sDe dge lHun grub steng], the household monastery of the kings of Derge is known for housing a large painting workshop and as the occasional home of the great author Zhuchen Tsultrim Rinchen [Tib. Zhu chen Tshul khrims rin chen [1697-1774]. The mandalas created there, which were reproduced in a splendor edition in Japan in the Eighties, represent the transition from Indo-Nepali to Tibetan styles of painting.

Mandalas are among the most significant displays of Tantrism. The teachings underlying them developed over time in different schools in different ways in terms of theory and practice. In the mid-19th century, Jampa Künga Tenpe Gyeltshen [Tib. Byams pa Kun dga' bstan pa'i rgyal mtshan [1829-1870], then abbot of Ngor Monastery located near Shigatse, began to rework these mandala practices. He classified the mandala rituals according to the four classes of tantra into Kriya Tantra, Carya Tantra, Yoga Tantra and Anuttarayoga Tantra.

The text underlying the Ngor mandalas is known as dBang brgya nor bu'i phreng mdzes, "One Hundred Consecrations, [called] 'Beautiful Necklace of Gems.'" It was composed by Jampa Künga Tenpe Gyeltshen [Tib. Byams pa Kun dga' stan pa'I rgyal mtsha] and his disciple Jamyang Loter Wangpo [Tib. jam dbyangs Blo gter dbang po [1847-1914], working with his teachers, the renowned editors Khyentse Wangpo [Tib. mKhyen brtse dban po [1820-1892] and Kongtrül Yönten Gyatsho [Tib. Kong sprul Yon tan rgya mtsho [1813-1899], undertook the actual compilation work. The resulting work is known as the Gyüde Küntü [Tib. rGyud sde kun btus], the "Compendium of Tantras," which contains the painting inastructions for the 139 mandalas of the Ngor tradition.

The prototypes for the 139 mandalas come largely from the extensive collection of the Ngor monastery. While the style of the actual Ngor mandalas, which are among the most impressive mandalas in Tibetan Buddhism, generally follows the Nepalese style, the 139 mandalas created under Jamyang Loter Wangpo show the influence of the Kham style, the Eastern Tibetan style. Its stylistic origins are rooted in the Karma Gardri style [Tib. Kar ma sgar bris], which in turn was influenced by the painting style of 16th century Chinese Buddhist art.