The tiger holds a strong place in Tibetan iconography – particularly in its role as mascot of the Great Kagyu lineage – one of the four primary traditions of Tibetan Buddhism.
On the tiger’s back are three golden hum characters, seed syllables of the wrathful protector Dorje Trolo who rides a tigress. Dorje Trolo is one of the eight manifestations of Padmasambhava – Guru Rinpoche, which as a yidam practice embodies the forces of insight and compassion.
The first character of Kagyu བཀའ་བརྒྱུད་ is ka ཀ and the first letter of the Tibetan alphabet which translates as ‘spoken’. The second, ‘gyu’ བརྒྱུད་ meaning transmission of lineage, in other words the ‘oral tradition’ where the teachings are passed from a master to disciple verbily.