The twenty-one paintings that make up the set depict the life stories of Shakyamuni Buddha as well as some of his previous lives, known as the Avadana stories. The groups of people spread throughout each painting help tell the stories of these episodes, with the figures in gold representing the important personage. The lamas above represent important historical figures in the lineage of teachers, and they depict one of the five forms of Tsongkhapa, an incarnation of the Dalai Lama, or an incarnation of the Panchen Lama.
The twenty-one works are meant to be viewed in a particular order, with one work at center and the rest arranged in a row to either side. For convenience, the side paintings are designated a left or right number (i.e., L6 or R3) in reference to the order in which they should be hung. This order is in terms of proper left and right, so all of the paintings designated to the right side are on the left half of the page, and vice versa.