The sacred art of Tibet is best known through painted scrolls, or tankas. These tankas describe a full Buddhist vision arisen in meditation.
The ninety-four line-drawings that comprise the Nyingma Icons delineate the graphic basis of tankas, incorporating the principal images of the Nyingma pantheon.
The Nyingma school is the oldest of the schools of Tibetan Buddhism, founded by Tibet's Great Guru, Padma Sambhava, in the eighth century.
The Tibetan Buddhist pantheon is immense, the Nyingma school familiar with only a fraction of it, while the Nyingma Icons includes only the pre-eminent images in an ancient and vast tradition.
However, insofar as all the Tibetan schools recognise their own origins in the Nyingmapa, the figures in this book are known to all Tibetan Buddhists, and as archetypal realities residing in human awareness they should resonate in the minds of all human beings.
In the vision of reality arising through Tibetan Tantric meditation there is an integral unity of form, sound and thought.
Tibetan yogins believe that a vibration of awareness is reproduced spontaneously in form and sound, and thus the yogin's transformative power is able to reproduce in the environment what is visualised in the mind.
Conversely, an external form perceived through the organs of sight vibrates in a pure mind to create a numinous reality that gives meaning to the form.
When the external form is a portrait of a divine being representing the archetypal foundations of the enlightened mind, that being is invoked in its full visionary reality.
Likewise when the euphonic corollary of that vision - a mantra or descriptive verse - is recited or sung, again the same visionary reality is invoked.
In this way the Nyingma Icons is a compendium of visual and vocal forms, drawings and songs, that can be used to realise the divine beings that they represent.
However, in the meditative tradition these beings - Buddhas, Lamas, Deities and Protectors - are encountered in the first place as a result of techniques of visualisation free of external supports, and these drawings and songs provide only a method of reawakening the powers and forms of awareness that they represent after the initial practice has created an intimate relationship with them.
see also: Thangka