Museum Hours
Thu: 1 PM–8 PM
Fri–Mon: 10 AM–5 PM
Tue–Wed: Closed
200 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

Meet the Masters

Himalayan gallery

Did you know that we frequently change the works on view in our collection galleries? Now in the Himalayan Gallery, you can meet some of the most important gurus of Lightning Vehicle Buddhism and learn from their transformative teachings.

Lightning Vehicle Buddhism (Vajrayana), practiced in the Himalayas, is so powerful that practitioners need guidance from its lineage of teachers. We invite you to meet some of these gurus – in sculpted or painted form – in the museum’s Himalayan Gallery.

Teachers from four lineages, or orders, appear in the galleries. Padmasambhava, or Guru Rinpoche, manifests as a magnificent bronze sculpture, gilt and inlaid with jewels. In the eighth century, he founded the first teaching lineage, known retrospectively as the Nyingma or Ancient Ones. Tilopa, whose teachings lie at the core of the Kagyu or Oral Tradition, appears as a colorful papier-mâché and incense figurine. Virupa, whose name translates as Mr. Ugly, inaugurated what became Tibet’s Sakya order; later Sakya lamas converted the Mongol emperor Kublai Khan to Vajrayana Buddhism. In the galleries, he takes the form of a finely crafted bronze sculpture made by Chinese artists, smiling with all the joy of enlightenment.

Finally, a kaleidoscopic Tibetan thangka reveals the life story of Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelug order and its lineages of Dalai and Panchen Lamas. From meditation to culture and even politics, their powerful influence extends down the centuries to our present day.


Included with general admission. Reserve your timed tickets today.


Image: The lama Khedrup-jey and the great adept Dombi Heruka (detail), 1700–1800. Tibet. Ink and colors on cotton. Asian Art Museum, The Avery Brundage Collection, B62D37. Photograph © Asian Art Museum.