Prior to his departure to Nirvana, Gautama Buddha chose sixteen of his best pupils who became known as the Sthaviras or Arhats. The Arhat cult was brought to Tibet in the 8th century by the Indian scholar Shantrakshita. Tibetan art knows a group of eighteen figures (16 Arhats, the layman Dharmatala and a Monk) along with four guardians of the four cardinal directions. The present thangka portrays the fifteenth Arhat Gopaka. He is said to have come from an affluent Brahman family in Varanasi, but owing to the evil deeds he committed in his previous life, his body was afflicted with boils that broke and festered. For that reason, he was always covered with a piece of cloth. His attribute is the book, which he is holding in his hands. The book signifies devotion to the Buddha’s teachings – if a person touches it, it will help him in overcoming all of life’s obstacles.