Interpreting Indian Adept Avadhutipa – Maitripa
Avadhutipa is also known as Maitripa who is an important figure both in Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. It is through him that Maitreya and Asanga’s crucial work on buddha nature, the Uttara Tantra Shastra, became widely followed in Tibet.
He also transmitted the esoteric aspect of buddha nature, embodied in the Mahamudra teachings, which treat the topic of mind in great detail and provide a wide range of progressive, highly-refined meditations.
Table of Contents
- 1 - The life of the Indian Mahasiddha
- 2 - Iconography of Avadhutipa
- 3 - Depicting Indian Adept (Siddha) – Avadhutipa
- 4 - Lamdre Lineage
The life of the Indian Mahasiddha
In this section, we are going to talk about the life of Avadhutipa. After a short etymological description of the word Avadhutipa itself, we will review his influence among his students and beyond, his conversation by the mahasiddha Damarupa, and finally, we will highlight the transmission of his teaching that became the most famous.
Maitrīpāda (ca 1007-1085, also known as Maitrīgupta, Advayavajra, and, to Tibetans, Maitrīpa), was a prominent Indian Buddhist Mahasiddha associated with the Mahāmudrā transmission. His teachers were Shavaripa and Naropa.
Etymology of Avadhutipa
The term ‘avadhutipa’ or ‘awadhutipa’ refers to a mendicant, someone who has given up all worldly goods and concerns.
It is intended as a title but comes to also be used as a name by a number of different Indian mahasiddhas.
He was influential as the major source of the teachings of Mahamudra for Tibetan Buddhism.
Avadhutipa’s conversion by the mahasiddha Damarupa
The Indian mahasiddha Avadhutipa was a non-Buddhist King that was subdued and converted by the mahasiddha Damarupa.
Animal sacrifice in the kingdom was stopped and the king took up the practice of the Buddhist religion.
He renounced his kingdom and practiced a path free from extremes and became known as Avadhutipa; spending his time playing in the streets with the children of the kingdom.
Avadhutipa’s famous teaching
He is famous for transmitting the Margapala (Path Together with the Result) teachings to the Indian Pandita Gayadhara. Avadhutipa is 6th in the list of lineage teachers.
Iconography of Avadhutipa
Posture of Avadhutipa
Avadhutipa is typically shown in ‘Siddha appearance’, in a seated posture with the legs lose, sometimes with one knee raised. He often has the right arm extended across the knee and the hand in a slight gesture of pointing with the fingers.
Siddha in Sanskrit means accomplished one. Siddha’s appearance is further divided into 3 categories.
- Tantric Siddha
In Siddha’s appearance, the tantric Siddhas wears the bone ornaments, tiger skins, etc which is also called Maha Siddha appearance.
The left hand can hold a skull bowl.
Alternately the posture can be reversed and the skull bowl absent. He can wear either bone ornaments, jewelry or flowers, or any combination of the three depending on the skill and preference of the artist.
In the Hevajra Tradition, and based on descriptions of ‘Heruka’ appearance in the Hevajra Tantra text, flowers are stipulated as an appropriate adornment to indicate an anti-social, anti-caste system behavior.
Heruka’s appearance is a wrathful appearance.
Sculpture and paintings of the Mahasiddha
Avadhutipa is not typically ever depicted alone. All sculpture and paintings of the mahasiddha belong to much larger sets of figures depicting all of the Lineage teachers of the Lamdre Tradition. There are verses of praise directed to Avadhutipa but there are no Guruyoga practices or rituals focused directly on him as the central subject.
Depicting Indian Adept (Siddha) – Avadhutipa
Presently this painting is in the Rubin Museum of Art.
In depicting this thangka we will learn how the Tantric Yogi is represented in this thangka with various gods and layman. At the top left, there is Ushnisha Chakravartin, 2 laymen in the center, and Tara on the right of the monk.
Tantric yogi is an accomplished male Tantric practitioner, specifically to yoga. Avadhutipa is shown as a tantric yogi appearance in this thangka with brown in color with a full black beard and the hair piled on the crown of the head he is adorned with various flowers blossoms.
He wears white bone earplugs in place of rings, a gold necklace, bracelets, anklets, bone ornaments, and a long garland of flowers
He wears a red scarf and a red – blue-trimmed – lower garment.
In the right hand outstretched is a small gold knife. On the left side, there is a green fruit with a stem and leaves.
He is relaxed in a Siddha posture. He sits atop of the tiger skin and mats of fresh green leaves placed above a rocky outcropping. There is a round blue basket of traveling possessions in its behind.
Ushnisha Chakravartin is represented at the top left. He is a wrathful deity who is yellow in color with one face and two hands, wearing wrathful vestments.
The right-hand holds aloft a gold Dharma wheel and the left held to the heart performs a wrathful gesture. He is wrapped in a green scarf and tiger skin garment and he stands with the right leg bent and the left straight atop a sun disc and red lotus blossom.
Prajnataka is on the right side who is white in color. He is holding a stick with a gold vajra tip in the right hand and performing a wrathful gesture.
Yamantaka is at the bottom left who is dark blue in color. He is holding a vajra ax and performing a wrathful gesture.
Padmantaka is in the middle who is red in color. He is holding a pink lotus and with the left hand and he is represented in wrathful gesture.
Vighnantaka is in the right who is dark blue in color. He is holding a vajra and performing a wrathful gesture.
In the Newar Buddhist tradition, Vighnantaka is an important Tantric deity and belongs to the group of ten wrathful deities known as Dasamahakrodha.
Hence Vighnantaka “Destroyer of Obstacles” in his six-armed wrathful form symbolizes this dedication and energy to attain the goal.
Two laymen on the Left
Two laymen stand are on the left of the central figure. They are holding a Dharma book and pointing.
Layman is known as a male householder, a term referring to non-monastic male figures. A layman is a male that does not have or hold the ordination (vows) of a novice or fully ordained monk according to the Buddhist Vinaya system.
The lotus stem Tara
To the right is a monk within a temple structure and outside rising from a lotus stem Tara sits atop an orange lotus blossom.
Lotus stem tara is as Green tara. Green in color she has one face and two hands performing the mudra of generosity with the right and holding the stem of a lotus to the heart with the left, seated in a relaxed manner.
Previously, we describe the Tantric yogi, Ushnisha Chakravartin. all these characters and symbols are important parts of the Lamdre Lineage that we are going to discuss next.