In the blink of an eye: the wind, rain, snow, and thunder in Himalayan imagery

In the blink of an eye: the wind, rain, snow, and thunder in Himalayan imagery




When the desired rain falls,

The wind of flowers brings snow as well.

The third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje,


* "The desire for rain" here symbolizes the imminent arrival of the protectors,

while "the wind of flowers" refers to the heavenly flowers descending.


"The Sacred Twenty-Four Places of Extreme Secrecy", 18th century, Mead Art Museum


This set of seven images depicts the Twenty-four Holy Places, as described in the Seventh Dalai Lama's secret transmission.

Three of the images each depict eight holy places, symbolizing the Body Mandala.


The above image


Local: mountain top


The top of the secret practice mountain is filled with practitioners,

Dragons gather and thunder rumbles,

Between the dark clouds and snow-capped mountains lies the "Fruit of the Wind"

(རླུང་གི་འབྲས་བུ་; also known as rain)

These eight sacred places are known as the "Eight Cool Places" (བསིལ་ས་བརྒྱད་)


"The Twenty-four Sacred Sites of Extreme Secrecy," 18th century, Mead Art Museum


The main deity is Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva.




There are two ways to depict the wind:

By portraying dragons (symbol of wind and rain)

Or by making banners and dresses flutter in the wind

The wind around the gods is also known as "invincible"

(མི་ཕམ་;Guardian Wind)


Table: Modifying Relationships and Scene Meaning


Wind, rain, thunder, and snow are not only the natural landscapes that remain unchanged throughout the four seasons but also the witnesses of deities and events in Buddhist iconography. With the sky and clouds as the main subjects, a complete literary decoration system and image association are formed between the wind, rain, thunder, and snow in the Tibetan textual world. The wind moves, carrying all elements (འབྱུང་བའི་ཁྱིམ་; home of elements); the rain gives, wealth and flowers fall from the heavens to the earth; the snow waits, the falling and accumulating snow is a witness to the meditation of deities (རྣལ་འབྱོར་བའི་དགའ་རྒྱན་; decoration loved by yogis); thunder reminds sentient beings that what awaits us is miracles and practitioners.


"The God of Wind", ancient text from Degé Monastery


The Wind God (Vayu) is revered and faces northwest

His body radiates a greenish-blue hue

Mounted on a deer, he carries a pennant and a sack of winds in his hands

Both destructive and protective


"Red Vajravarahi," 15th century, ruins of the Guge Kingdom


The fierce deity's topknot sways in the wind

Usually it is the "red wind" (རླུང་དམར་)

However, in descriptions of the red wrathful Vajrapani

The green ribbons indicate that the deity is surrounded by

the green wind (རླུང་ལྗང་)

This is a symbol of Manjushri's manifestation

And in the hands of some protectors (such as the wrathful Shurangama)

There are also green wind symbols

to represent the element of wind and wind energy.


Symbol of an element


From top to bottom are

the waves representing the element of water

the flames representing the element of fire

the whirlwinds representing the element of wind.


"The Excellent Protector of Wrath", 19th century, The Jucker Collection


Sublime Vajrabhairava(ཆེ་མཆོག་ཧེ་རུ་ཀ་)


"Fengma Flag", 20th century, private collection


"The Spirit of Mount Nyenchen Tanglha", 19th century, Rubin Museum of Art, New York


The mountain deity often appears as the "holder of wind" (རླུང་འཛིན་).

The fierce mountain deity brings the "arrow wind" (འབིགས་བྱེད་རླུང་), a sign of impending warfare.


Local: Mountain peak


As a worshipped mountain peak

and as a deity of teachings, the mountain deity.


Local: Flag fluttering in the wind


Maitreya and Manjushri Bodhisattva, first half of the 20th century, Rubin Museum of Art, New York.


The gentle breeze lifts the fragrant mist into the air,

Accompanied by the scent of offerings.

The wind (དྲི་བཞོན་;fragrant ride) symbolizes

One of the joys of heaven (scriptures).


Local: fragrant mist


Local: votive offering


In the Buddhist narrative tradition, two common types of rain are gemstone rain (ནོར་ཆར་) and flower rain (མེ་ཏོག་ཆར་པ་). The Fifth Dalai Lama explained in his ritual text on the Yellow Jambhala (Yellow Wealth Deity) that gemstone rain symbolizes worldly wealth and the secret empowerment of tantra, while flower rain symbolizes the perfection of the practitioner's spiritual practice. From a cultural analysis perspective, the form of gemstone rain is found in several Eastern religions (such as the light and wealth rain in the Zoroastrian tradition), while flower rain is a ritual tradition in the South Asian subcontinent.


"The Story of Buddha's Previous Lives", 19th century, Rubin Museum of Art, New York City


Local: Jewelry rain


The jewel rain in the original story is a reward for the virtuous king.


Local: Pile of jewels

"The Red-Nosed Elephant",19th century, Rubin Museum of Art, New York City


Red Nose Elephant (ཚོགས་བདག་དམར་པོ་) is a protector deity in the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

Its consort is a monkey.


Local: Jewelry Rain


Another way to describe a jewelry rain:

Pouring down from a jewel-filled pitcher.


Local: Radish


The elephant enjoys sour and sweet foods.

It is often offered radishes and candy as offerings.


"Ancestor's Lineage" , 19th century, Rubin Museum of Art in New York


Local: Flower showers


One of the miracles of nature, a child picks up the flowers falling in the flower rain

And makes them into their own flower crown


Local: Flower showers


Local: Distant temple


For the snowy plateau, snow is a common symbol used by philosophers and singers. In Tibetan, there are two words for snow: "kha wa" and "gangs", the former being a general term and the latter often referring to heavy snow or accumulated snow. The pure white snow is the source of snow water and nectar, and is something that can be offered in worship (མཆོད་བྱ་). Snow-capped mountains are the abode of spiritual practitioners (such as Mount Kailash); snow lions are mythical creatures that live in snowy mountains and regions, symbolizing power and dignity.


"The Snow Lion", 15th century, Bachmann and Eckenstein


"Portrait of a Buddhist Monk," 18th century, Rubin Museum of Art, New York


As the first Arhat among the sixteen Arhats

Ajita Resides(ཡན་ལག་འབྱུང་) at Mount Gandhamadana


Local: Gongga Mountain


"The First Living Buddha Gyaltsen" 18th century, New York Tambaran Gallery


Banchub Dorje, the first Jebtsundamba Khutughtu



Local:Eye mask


The eye mask (མིག་ར་) in the Tibetan region is primarily used to prevent snow blindness and glare.

However, in Buddhist practice, the eye mask can also be used as a fixed meditation tool to envision snow mountains and deities in meditation caves.


"Gang Rinpoche Pilgrimage Guide Map," 18th century, private collection


Locale: the headwaters of four rivers beneath Mount Shen


All are rivers of nectar formed by the melting snow.


Local: A practitioner riding a snow lion


Local: Victorious Joyful Vajra


The God Mountain is the residence of Vajrapani

Snow is often described as the state of the dual deities in Vajrayana Buddhism,

namely འཁྱུད་པ་ཅན་ (Hugger)


Even in the hidden realm, there are storms.


This article is translated from Sorang Wangqing's blog.

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