This early Tibetan painting (thanka
) of Shakyamuni Buddha depicts the "enlightened one" in his customary vajra
posture (seated crosslegged on a lotus throne) with his right hand touching the earth in the bumisparsa
gesture while holding an alms bowl (patra
) in his lap. Flanking him are his companion bodhisattvas, Avalokitesvara and Mahasthamaprapta. Surrounding them are monks, Buddhas, and bodhisattvas seated in rapt attention as if listening to the discourse. Centered beneath the throne is the blue guardian Mahakala and other protective deities.
Early Tibetan thanka paintings such as this were produced primarily within the framework of the Indian aesthetic tradition. Artists learned precise theories of proportion and color from iconographic manuals that were translated from Sanskrit to become part of Tibetan canonical literature.