The Buddhist order to which the Dalai Lamas belong was founded by Tsong Khapa (1357–1419), whose image is seen here as the large central figure holding his hands in the teaching mudra. He wears the pointed golden hat that is the insignia for monks of the Geluk order. At the level of his ears are the sword and book, emblems of Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom. These emblems allude to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition that accorded Tsong Khapa the status of being an emanation of Manjushri. This extraordinary, sumptuously rendered painting, made only decades after his death, retains elements of portraiture in the facial features that become formalized in later works, especially from the mid-1600s onward, when the Geluk monks dominated the Tibetan theocracy. He is surrounded by lineage masters, many in lively gestures of debate, whose analyses of doctrines and practices led to Tsong Khapa's final formulation of the Lam Rim text on the stages of the path to enlightenment, which is foundational to the Geluk order.
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