AN INSCRIBED GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF LHATSUN KUNGA CHÖKYI GYATSO TIBET, 15TH – 16TH CENTURY
Himalayan Art Resources item no. 68477
The Sculptural Heritage of Tibet: Buddhist Art in the Nyingjei Lam Collection, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, October-December 1999.
Arte Buddhista Tibetana: Dei e Demoni dell' Himalaya, Palazzo Bricherasio, Turin, June-September 2004.
Rubin Museum of Art, New York, 2005-2017, on loan.
Casting the Divine: Sculptures of the Nyingjei Lam Collection, Rubin Museum of Art, New York, 2012-2013.
The figure is identified by the Tibetan inscription on the sculpture verso reading: Homage to Lhatsun Kunga Chögyam. Chögyam is a common Tibetan abbreviation of the proper name Chökyi Gyatso, and the current work certainly depicts the Drukpa Kagyu lama, Lhatsun Kunga Chökyi Gyatso (1432-1505).
The latter is best known as one of the main teachers of beloved Buddhist saint, Drukpa Kunley, credited with introducing Buddhism into Bhutan. Drukpa Kunley, also referred to as the "Madman of Bhutan", is an historical figure infamous for his wildly unorthodox behaviour and practices regarding sexual decorum. He is often depicted barechested with the right shoulder wrapped in a meditation belt, as is the current figure of his guru, Lhatsun Kunga Chögyam. According to the spiritual biography of Drukpa Kunley, after imparting Tantric teachings to his disciple, Lhatsun Kunga Chögyam left him with the following admonition: "All dharma teachings must be meditated on. If you only recite the texts without meditating, your mind will become rigid."