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Nyingma Icons

- Presentation Edition -

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Presentation Edition 212 pages, October 2015
Dzogchen Now! Books
ISBN-10 1512255912
ISBN-13 978-1512255911
Available on Amazon

The Nyingma Icons

Line Drawings by Gomchen Au Leshe

Special Presentation Edition
Introduction and Translation by Keith Dowman

The sacred art of Tibet is best known through its painted scrolls, or tankas. Each tanka describes a contemplative vision arisen in meditation containing images of lamas, buddha-deities, dakinis and protectors. The ninety-four line-drawings that comprise The Nyingma Icons delineate the graphic basis of these tankas, incorporating the principal images of the Nyingma pantheon.

This collection of buddhas in The Nyingma Icons was chosen by His Holiness the late Dudjom Rinpoche to illustrate his encyclopedic work The History of the Nyingma Dharma (Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism: Its Fundamentals and History, two volumes, translated by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein, Boston, MA, Wisdom, 1991). Dudjom Rinpoche (see illustration no. 64) was a great yogin and master of Dzogchen and a scholar steeped in the theoretical learning of his school. As he writes in his brief introduction to The Nyingma Icons, the buddhas and deities belong primarily to the lineage of his Khandro Tuktik.

The structure of the book follows the metaphysical pattern employed in his History. After the first eight drawings, which represent the principals of Indian Mahayana Buddhism, the buddhas are divided into three classes, called the three roots, lamas, buddha-deities and dakinis, and ending with a fourth class – dharma protectors and guardians. Brief descriptions of these various classes can be found below.


The three roots are the lineal roots of the Dzogchen teaching that bestow blessings, the spiritual roots of yogins that bestow power, and the female roots of the mind that remove obstacles.

The Nyingma Icons was first published in the interdisciplinary magazine Kailash in Kathmandu in February 1975. It has been available in various editions ever since, its line-drawings reproduced and published all over the world. During this period Dudjom Rinpoche’s principle cycle of practice, the Dudjom Tersar, has become widely practiced by Nyingma yogins and yoginis.

For this presentation edition, Au Leshe’s line-drawings have been digitally re-processed providing higher resolution, and the greater space on the page sets off this ancient art form. The prose has been cosmetically edited. For these reasons this edition qualifies as a unique Presentation Edition. Any noncommercial reproduction of individual icons is welcome.

Dudjom Rinpoche (1904-1987) was the supreme head of both the institutional and practice lineages of the Tibetan Buddhist Nyingma School in exile. His scholarship was impeccable and his exemplary life immaculate.

Au Leshe was the most renowned Sherpa yogin and master artist of his generation who lived in seclusion in Jumbesi, in Solukhumbu, Nepal.

Lama Sangye Tenzin was a tulku and scholar, the principal of Serlo, a Sherpa monastary in Junbesi.

Keith Dowman (born 1945) is a translator and teacher of Dzogchen. A student of the preeminent Dzogchen lamas Dudjom Rinpoche and Kanjur Rinpoche, he has lived in India and Nepal for 50 years. His translations include Longchenpa’s Natural Perfection, Spaciousness and Maya-Yoga.

Sarva Mangalam!
May all beings be happy!