Atiśa (982–1054) was a Bengali Buddhist religious leader and master from the Indian subcontinent. He was one of the major figures in the spread of 11th-century Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism in Asia and inspired Buddhist thought from Tibet to Sumatra. In 1013, he travelled to the kingdom of Srivijaya and stayed there for 12 years before returning to India. He is recognised as one of the greatest figures of classical Buddhism. Atiśa's chief disciple, Dromtön, was the founder of the Kadam school, one of the New Translation schools of Tibetan Buddhism, later supplanted by the Gelug tradition in the 14th century, adopting its teachings and absorbing its monasteries. In 2004, Atiśa was ranked 18th in the BBC's poll of the greatest Bengalis of all time.
This picture is a Tibetan painting of Atiśa, produced in the early to mid-12th century with distemper and gold on cloth. In this depiction, he holds a long, thin palm-leaf manuscript with his left hand, probably symbolizing one of the many important texts he wrote, while making the gesture of teaching with his right hand. The painting originated from a Kadam monastery in Tibet and was gifted to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1993.