Field of Accumulation (Tsongkhapa)

This painting of a field of accumulation, or refuge field, represents one of the fundamental rites and meditative visualizations of the Gelug tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.
For more information, click on the highlightable details.

"Refuge Field of the Offering to the Teacher," late 19th to early 20th century; Tibetan; ink and color on cotton, silk, and wood; 68 x 45 3/4 inches; Saint Louis Art Museum, Gift of Margaret M. Hibbard in memory of George E. Hibbard 260:1992

Some identifications are based on on Pabongka Rinpoche's "Liberation in our Hands" (Mahayana Sutra and Tantra Press, 1990).

Field of Accumulation (Tsongkhapa)
Sun & Moon Guhyasamaja Lineage Vajrabhairava Lineage Ganden Lineage Kadampa Lineage Cakrasamvara Lineage Celestial Offerings Celestial Offerings Maitreya in Tusita Amitabha in Sukhavati Lineage of Widespread Activities Lineage of the Profound View Kadampa Followers Gelug Gurus Maitreya (Lineage) Manjusri (Lineage) Two Tsongkhapas (Lineage Figures) Tsongkhapa Root Gurus Tutelary Deities Annuttarayoga Tantra Deities Yoga Tantra Deities Carya Tantra Deities Kriya Tantra Deities Buddhas of the Sutras Bodhisattvas Solitary Buddhas Arhats Dakas and Dakinis Protectors Four Great Kings Tree Worldly Treasures Treasures of the Cakravartin Naga and Jewels Cosmos Mandala Sense Offerings Khedrup's Mandala Offering Royal Jewels

Sun & Moon

The sun and moon are regularly paired in Buddhist painting, having both cosmological and esoteric symbolism. They also appear in depictions of the Cakravala universe and in portrayals of the Wheel of Existence.

Guhyasamaja Lineage

Guhyasamaja is visible at the top of the lineage, which flows downward toward the present through history.

Vajrabhairava Lineage

Vajrabhairava is visible at the top of the lineage, which flows downward toward the present through history.

Ganden Lineage

Vajradhara is visible at the top of the lineage, which flows downward toward the present through history.

Kadampa Lineage

Atisha is visible at the top of the lineage, which flows downward toward the present through history.

Cakrasamvara Lineage

Cakrasamvara is visible at the top of the lineage, which flows downward toward the present through history.

Celestial Offerings

Celestial figures drop offerings from the sky, a sign that even the highest beings in the cosmos pay homage to the central figures of this composition.

Celestial Offerings

Celestial figures make offerings from the sky, a sign that even the highest beings in the cosmos pay homage to the central figures of this composition.

Maitreya in Tusita

Tsongkhapa, the central figure of this painting, is deeply associated with Maitreya, the bodhisattva who will become the next Buddha of our world. Maitreya currently resides in Tusita heaven, awaiting the right moment for his birth as the human who will succeed Shakyamuni.

Amitabha in Sukhavati

Unlike Tusita heaven, the realm of Maitreya depicted on the opposite side of this painting, the Sukhavati landscape of the Buddha Amitabha exists outside our world. Often depicted in far more detail, in this painting, it is only represented by the central figure of Amitabha, red-skinned and holding a begging bowl, along with his two bodhisattva attendants.

Lineage of Widespread Activities

The two lineages on the left and right of this painting may be understood as representing two complementary aspects of enlightenment, compassionate activity and insightful wisdom.

Lineage of the Profound View

The two lineages on the left and right of this painting may be understood as representing two complementary aspects of enlightenment, compassionate activity and insightful wisdom.

Kadampa Followers

The Kadam school of Tibetan Buddhism preceded the Gelug school, whose founder is understood to be Tsongkhapa, the central figure of this painting.

Gelug Gurus

Gelug teachers in each lineage surround the figure of Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug school.

Maitreya (Lineage)

Although Maitreya is also depicted in Tusita heaven at the top left of this painting, he is also depicted here as part of a lineage of teachers. He is recognizable by the wheel and water vessel on lotuses to his left and right.

Manjusri (Lineage)

Manjusri, the bodhisattva of wisdom, is depicted here as part of a lineage associated with insight. He is recognizable by the sword and book on lotuses to his left and right.

Two Tsongkhapas (Lineage Figures)

Because single figures participate in multiple lineages, they can appear multiple times in the image. Here, Tsongkhapa sits as the central figure of the groups of Gelug teachers, in addition to his role as the primary figure of the painting as a whole.

Tsongkhapa

The central figure of this complex composition is Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism and ultimate root guru. In his heart rests the inner form Shakyamuni, in whose heart rests the secret form Vajradhara.

Root Gurus

In addition to paying respect to Tsongkhapa, the central figure of this composition, the practitioner would also call to mind their own direct teaching lineage when performing the rituals associated with this painting.

Tutelary Deities

Important tutelary deities are depicted to the left and right of the central figure: Vajrabhairava, Guhyasamaja, Cakrasamvara, and Hevajra.

Annuttarayoga Tantra Deities

The deities of the highest class of tantras, Anuttarayoga Tantras, include Kalacakra.

Yoga Tantra Deities

The deities of the second highest class of tantras, Yoga Tantras, include Vajradhatu Vairocana, depicted in the detail on the right (in white).

Carya Tantra Deities

Deities of the Carya Tantras are not always as widely recognized as those of the other classes of tantras, but they represent important aspects of Buddhist practice and historical development.

Kriya Tantra Deities

The Kriya Tantra class of deities includes Amitayus, in red at the left of the detail, and 11-headed Avalokitesvara, in white at the right of the detail.

Buddhas of the Sutras

A detail of the Buddhas of the Sutrayana shows Vairocana (in white) and Aksobhya (in blue).

Bodhisattvas

A row of bodhisattvas includes images of Manjusri and Maitreya, who are also depicted as the primary figures of two of the lineages above.

Solitary Buddhas

Although most figures who attain enlightenment do so as part of a Buddhist transmission, it is possible for some individuals to achieve this goal entirely independently and without passing on any teachings.

Arhats

Arhats attained mastery under the direct teaching of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni. Depicted in the detail is the Buddha's own son, Rahula, who is shown holding a crown (on the left).

Dakas and Dakinis

Dakas and Dakinis are special classes of male and female tantric figures who are particularly associated with transmitting secret knowledge.

Protectors

A row of deities at the bottom of the assembly protect the teachings as they are transmitted through history. The detail here shows Six-armed Mahakala (left) and White Mahakala (right).

Four Great Kings

The four Great Kings guard this assembly at its lower periphery. As cosmological figures, they also appear in depictions of the Buddhist universe.

Tree

Unlike other types of mandalas and assemblies, the field of accumulation is often depicted atop the branches of an enormous tree.

Worldly Treasures

A secondary grouping of royal treasures, these objects are associated with wealth and the offering ritual performed in honor of the figures represented at the center of this painting.

Treasures of the Cakravartin

The treasures of the cakravartin are depicted here in relation to the mandala offering. For more information on their role, see my diagrams of this ritual.

Naga and Jewels

Nagas, serpents who are associated with primordial waters and underground wealth, are important devotees of the Buddha.

Cosmos Mandala

The cosmos appears in the lower portion of this painting as an offering to the central figure. Compare this to a fully detailed mural of the cosmos here. See also my diagrams of the mandala offering ritual in which this cosmos appears.

Sense Offerings

The objects in this bowl represent offerings pleasing to the five senses: cymbals for hearing, a mirror for sight, food (a fruit) for taste, perfume (in a conch shell) for smell, and a red silk cloth for touch.

Khedrup's Mandala Offering

Khedrup, Tsongkhapa's chief disciple, offers the mandala to his teacher. See photographs of real mandala offerings in this gallery.

Royal Jewels

A subsidiary set of treasures that also symbolizes the wealth given in offering, this grouping includes coral and earrings.