Dharmapala Thangka CentreSchool of Thangka Painting

15.6 Sherab Chamma [1]

The Loving Mother of Wisdom

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Sherab Chamma, also called in Tibetan language "Thugje Chamma" or "shes rab byams ma", [the loving mother of compassion] is considered in the Bon tradition to be the Gyalyum (rgyal yum), the mother of all buddhas. She embodies the perfection of wisdom. In the Buddhist tradition of India Chamma is called Prajnaparamita or Tara, the "saviouress."

In Bon sources there are five kinds of Prajnaparamita, that is to say, the 363 volumes of the Prajnaparamita, or Perfection of Wisdom literature, are organized into five sections. These were recovered by the terton Shenchen Luga (996 – 1035) at Dritsam Thakar in Tsang Province. The tantra of Chamma, (Byams ma'i rgyud), was rediscovered by Trotsan Druglha (956 – 1077).

In the Bon pantheon, Chamma is considered one of the "four principal sugatas," also known as the four peaceful deities, who stimulate and superintend the spiritual evolution of the human race. They are:

In the Zhangzhung language, Sherab Chamma is known as Satrig Ersang, sa trig meaning "wisdom." In the Tazig language of ancient Central Asia she is Ardvishura Anahita. In the Srid pa mdzod phug, the Bonpo Abhidharma text dealing with cosmogony, theogony, and cosmology, with an appended commentary by Dranpa Namkha of Zhanzhung.

In der Sprache von Zhangzhung ist die große Göttin als Satrig Ersang bekannt, wobei Sa trig das Zhangzhung-Wort für "Weisheit" (shes rab) ist. In der alten zentralasiatischen Tazig-Sprache ist sie Ardvi Sura Anahita. Im Srid pa mdzod phug, einem Bonpo-Abhidharma-Text mit einem Kommentar von Dranpa Namkha von Zhangzhung auch als "Königin des Wassers" bezeichnet.

She is called "queen of the waters" because of her origin: As the winds of karma blew across the vast primeval ocean, moving its waters, a bubble the size of a pavilion rose up to the surface, and at its center an egg of blue light became visible. When this egg burst open, a turquoise-blue woman appeared from it. The creator god Sangpo Bumtri was overwhelmed by her beauty and radiance. He called her "queen of the waters" and coupled with her.

The cult of the goddess extended all the way from the borders of China to the ancient Near East and the Mediterranean coast, where in Greco-Roman times she was variously identified with Ishtat, Isis, Aphrodite, and Urania.

The cult of the mother tantras is believed by the Bonpos to have been transmitted to humans by Zangsa Ringtsun, a manifestation of Satrig Ersang. Bon literature on Chamma is extensive. Volume three of the bKa' 'gyur rgyud sde'i skor is dedicated to ritual sadhana materials on her, where her basic mandala is described. She can assume a fivefold form and also, like the Buddhist Tara, an eightfold form, each form banishing fear of a particular danger.

This scroll painting depicts the Great Chamma, the mother who creates enlightened ones of the three times and who is from the mandala of the highest conqueror - Shenrab, Bon's founder. She dances on a moon disc atop a sun mandala, which itself lies atop a blue lotus and a throne supported by lions. Her body glows reddish yellow and is decorated by clusters of jewels.

On her head she wears a crown made of skulls and precious stones. Her hair is tied up in a knot and held in place by a golden net. Her garments consist of multicolored skirts and green scarves. In her left hand she holds a magic mirror supported by a lotus. In her right hand she holds a golden vase.

In the four corners of the scroll painting we see the four companions of her mandala:

All four goddesses have two heads and eight arms.

Above, we see as the principle deity of the mother tantras "the Supreme Secret of Mother Tantra, the Ultimate," also called "the Supreme Secret King." As a meditation divinity he appears with sixteen arms and seven heads. His body is dark blue. In each of his sixteen hands he holds a skull cup filled with blood and fresh hearts. He also sports two outspread wings. He is embraced by his consort Kyema Marmo, whose body is red.


Dr. Andrea Loseries-Leick, Tibetan Art Calender 2000, June, Wisdom Publication

Black Background Version

Measurements: 17.7 x 24.4" | 45 x 62 cm
Price: on request
Shipment: Parcel Service from Germany or Nepal
Color: Color Version
Material: Natural Stone Colors