guruparampara nyingma refuge tree

Nyingma Refuge Tree Chart With Different Deities

Nyingma translates to 'ancient.' It is generally referred to as Ngangyur ('School of the ancient translations' or 'Old school')- as it was founded on the earliest translations of Buddhist scriptures from Sanskrit into Old Tibetan in the 8th century.

The Nyingma lay a strong emphasis on Dzogchen and have a particular belief in buried Terma valuables. They also integrate regional shamanic traditions, regional deities, and other components; some of these are associated with Bon. The Nyingma tradition comprises several different lineages, all of which can be traced back to the Lotus-born master, Padmasambhava. In the modern context, the Nyingma lineage has been centered in Kham in association with the Rime movement.

The Refuge or lineage tree showcases the manifestation of Enlightened consciousness in which one seeks refuge outside before learning the actual nature within. It is often termed Refuge Assembly, Field of Merit, or Field of Accumulation.

Refuge Tree portrays the critical elements of 'Refuge' for each sect lineage. Although each lineage has a unique makeup, all primary schools of Buddhism share the "Three Jewels" (Triratna, in Sanskrit) of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha as their "Refuges." Over a hundred characters may be featured in a Refuge Tree painting, or there may be prominent representatives of each large subgroup. Representing the transmission lineage of the specific sect or tradition is a crucial aspect of a Refuge Tree painting. The compositional structures represent how the numerous figures and groups are related. The characters from "Refuge" are shown in a tree diagram, often supported by three primary forms: stylized tree branches, a palace, or a lotus flower and lion throne. The painting's lineage determines the support and the liturgical scripture it is based on.

Guruparampara: Nyingma Refuge Treerefugee tree thangka

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In this thangka, Guruparampara, or a "Line of Teachers," is the theme. It represents, in a sense, the Nyingma family tree, and its purpose is to illustrate a line of descent. This presentation aims to depict a refuge for Believers. It establishes a framework with several deities and instructors that followers may turn to for protection because they will aid followers in their spiritual growth. They lead their followers down the correct path toward liberation. In Tibetan Buddhism, there are several lineages or Guruparampara; as was already established, this picture shows the Nyingma lineage.

Every personage figure has been gathered around a tree positioned in the cosmic ocean. In Asia, trees have long served as a symbol. Under a Pipal tree, the Historical Buddha attained enlightenment. A common theme in arts and crafts is the tree of life. This tree's roots grow in the life-giving primordial waters, and its crown rises from the soil into the highest echelons of the atmosphere. The terms "tree" and "mountain" are conceptually equivalent. The cosmic ocean surrounds Mount Meru, where the gods reside.

Guru Padmasambhava With Yeshe Tsogyal As Central Figure


The Nyingma is the oldest of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism. It is commonly referred to as "the ancient translation school" and was founded in the 8th century due to the earliest Tibetan to Sanskrit translations of Buddhist teachings. In 760, Guru Rinpoche and Shantarakshita, two Indian Buddhist gurus, were invited to the "Land of Snows" by the Tibetan king Trisong Detsen to preach Buddhism to the Tibetan people. Tibetan practitioners regard the Lotus-Born Guru Rinpoche as the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. According to the Nyingma tradition, Padmasambhava's eight significant forms, each of which manifests in a different region, include Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha. 

Depiction Of The Deity In Guruparampara

Guru Padmasambhava is seated in the middle of the Refuge Tree in Yab Yum, perched on a lotus. His left hand encircles his consort, Yeshe Tsogyal. He carries a skull cup with a nectar vase while his right-hand clutches a vajra and is dressed in substantial, magnificent monastic robes of many colors and a lotus hat with a half-vajra on top. 

Red Tara Kurukulla and Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara are depicted on each side of Padmasambhava's lotus throne. More lotuses sprout from the center lotus. Buddhas from three different ages past, present, and future—stand in front of Padmasambhava on lotuses. Shakyamuni, the Buddha of the modern era, is in the middle, and Kashyapa Buddha and Maitreya Buddha are on either side of him. There is a large stack of Dharma sutra, Tantra, and commentary volumes behind Padmasambhava on the side that is furthest away. They all radiate light and the voice of the Dharma in the form of teachings and chants while being covered in priceless silk garments.

Dipankara was the one who long ago predicted that Shakyamuni would achieve Perfect Enlightenment. He is frequently shown donning a pandit's hat and monastic robes. The Buddha who will re-discover the route to enlightenment after Shakyamuni's teachings are Maitreya Buddha.

8 Bodhisattvas & Arhats top section

A large group of eight Bodhisattvas assembled on the Lotus at Padmasambhava's right. They all seem young and enticing and are clothed in magnificent attire, representing the elegance of their generosity and other perfections. Their physical bodies emit bright light and tidal waves of compassion. Kshitigarbha, Akashagarbha, Maitreya, Sarvanirvarana Vishkambin, Samantabhadra, Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri, and Vajrapani are the eight Bodhisattvas.

There are the majestic Eight Arhats on the Lotus on Padmasambhava's left side. They each carry a pinda-patra and the Khakkhara, the sounding staff, and are of varying ages. They are dressed in saffron-colored monastic robes. Rahula, Aniruddha, Subhuti, Katyayana, Shariputra, Maudgalyayana, Mahakashyapa, and Ananda are the eight great arhats shown in this painting.

Lineage Gurus Jigme Gyalwey Nyugu, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, Dodrupchen Kunsang Shenpen, Khenchen Pema Vajra, Thubten Chokyi Dorje/5th Dzogchen Rinpoche, Drodul Kargyi Dorje/Adzom Drukpa, and Gyalsé Shenpen Tayé are positioned on the lotuses in the sky above the Eight Great Bodhisattvas.

Garab Dorje, dressed as a mahasiddha, is seated in the heavens above Padmasambhava. He found the Dzokchen lineage, a style of meditation that aspires to transcend schools. A large number of Nyingmapa instructors have been among its most significant practitioners. Vimalamitra then takes a seat, and above him sits Vajrasattva, dressed in brilliant white, clutching a vajra to his heart and a vajra bell to his left.

Moreover, Padmasambhava is surrounded by several gurus in the sky. The primordial Buddha Samantabhadra is a symbol of the infinite potential for Buddhahood that is inherent in the cosmos, beyond space and time, and is situated at the zenith, between the rainbow lights. He is bare, and the hue of his body is dark blue. He is seated in the yab yum position alongside Samantabhadri, who has a white complexion. [For Conclusion] Padmasambhava and all the Refuges receive beautiful offerings from gods and goddesses.Dharmapalas-&-Dakinis

Dakinis and dharmapals, such as Yamantaka, Hayagriva, Takyung Barwa, Vajra Heruka, Vishuddha Heruka, Dechen Gyelmo (Queen of Great Bliss), Vajrakilaya, Lion Faced Dakini, and others, are located on the lowest tier.

The great yidams of the four schools of Tantra could be seen on the lower tier of the white Lotus. Most of the characters in the Highest Tantra are engulfed in flames and are seen clasping their consorts in an affectionate embrace that represents the merger of crafty means and knowledge. These represent the enigmatic Dharma Refuge. The dakinis and Dharmapala are at the bottom of the hierarchy. The enthusiastic dakinis dance wildly while being inspired by the Dharma's joyous inspiration.

 To sum it up all, this presentation serves as a collection of deities and saints and a concentration aid for the believer who may approach it as a mandala and enter the heart of devotion through the diverse deities and teachings. This kind of thangka frequently serves the same educational purpose as the bhavachakra or wheel of life by instructing religion to laypeople and ignorant individuals. Additionally, this specific tree representation often depicts a religious tradition that originates with the founder of a monastic order, such as an abbot or guru.

Because believers reject the depictions of their teacher or sect leader as the main character on the tree branches, this representation is known as the Tree of Refuge.

 Here's the chart of the Refugee Thangka with the numbering of the deities. We have the list of deities portrayed in the Thangka.

refuge chart

8 Close Sons of the Mahayana Sangha (Bodhisattvas)

  • Kshitigarbha
  • Akashagarbha
  • Avalokiteshvara
  • Vajrapani
  • Maitreya
  • Sarvanirvarana Vishkambin
  • Samantabhadra
  • Manjushri


8 Supreme Ones of the Hinayana Sangha (Shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas)

  • Shariputra
  • Maudgalyayana
  • Ananda
  • Rahula
  • Aniruddha
  • Kashyapa
  • Subhuti
  • Katyayana

Lineage Gurus

  • Jigme Gyalwey Nyugu
  • Jamyang Khye3. ntse Wangpo
  • Dodrupchen Kunsang Shen7. pen
  • Khenchen Pema Vajra
  • Thubten Chokyi Dorje/5th Dzogchen Rinpoche
  • Drodul Kargyi Dorje/Adzom Drukpa?
  • Gyalsé Shenpen Tayé
  • Khenpo Kunpel
  • Shri Simha
  • Jnanasutra
  • Vairochana/Bairotsana
  • Samantabahdra
  • Vajrasattva Garab Dorje/Prahevajra
  • Padmasambhava/Guru Rinpoche/Padmakara
  • Yeshe Tsogyal
  • Longchenpa
  • Jigme Lingpa
  • Manjushrimitra
  • Vimalamitra
  • King Trisong Detsen
  • Dola Jigme Kalsang
  • Jigme Tenpey Nyima/3rd Dodrupchen Rinpoche
  • Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje
  • Jigme Phuntsok Jungne
  • Yukhok Chatral
  • Apang Terton
  • Patrul Rinpoche
  • Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro

Buddhas of the past, present and future

  • Kashyapa (previous buddha)
  • Shakyamuni Buddha
  • Maitreya (future buddha)


Longchen Nyingtik Yidam Deities

  • Mahakuruna/Avalokiteshvara
  • Yamantaka
  • Hayagriva
  • Takyung Barwa
  • Vajra Heruka
  • Vishuddha Heruka
  • Dechen Gyelmo (Queen of Great Bliss)
  • Vajrakilaya
  • Lion Faced Dakini
  • Dzogchen Dharma Protectors
  • Tsering  

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