The Art of Thangka Painting

Jun 15, 2015 | Views: 808
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As Tibetan Buddhism gains prominence in the world, so too is Tibetan art being appreciated more and more. Today, many sacred Tibetan thangkas can be found in art exhibitions and museums.

Just like any Buddha image, deity thangkas are considered to be holy objects and bestow great blessings to their surroundings and the sentient beings within. Deity thangkas are very important to practitioners, especially to many Buddhist nomads for whom statues would be just too bulky to travel with. For example, during the escape from Tibet to India in 1959, H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama travelled with a sacred Dorje Shugden thangka on his back, as the need for secrecy and stealth required everyone to travel light.

Some time ago, I came across this wonderful write-up about thangka painting, which is very well researched and written. It shares briefly about the history of thangka painting, the different types of thangkas, the process of creating a traditional thangka, and most importantly, how thangka painting was traditionally a form of Dharma practice.

In the olden Tibetan tradition, a thangka painter was typically a sincere practitioner of Buddhism who, through practice and study would be familiar with the various deities, their implements, symbolism and benefits. Having generated the correct motivation, the artist would imbue each thangka painting with the energy of that specific deity through the power of meditation and visualization, during the process of painting it. Some of the most famous thangka painters of recent times, such as Gen. Jamyang of Dharamsala, were known to be attained practitioners who could produce intricate thangkas of the most complicated deities (such as the sixty-two deity mandala of Heruka Chakrasamvara) from memory alone, through their intimate knowledge of the scriptures. Thangkas painted by such artists are said to be ‘alive’ and highly blessed through the power of the artist’s practice and attainments.

Another characteristic of artists for whom thangka painting is a form of practice, not business, is that requests for thangkas to be painted are never accompanied by discussions of money and payment. The artist creates the thangka as an expression of his spirituality and with the motivation to benefit the patron, while the patron makes a monetary offering to the artist in gratitude and thanksgiving, similar to how “kuyong” or monetary offerings are given to monks during pujas and prayers in the monastery.

Unfortunately, thangka painting today has become a popular way of doing business – every commission and sale involves haggling of the thangka price, and many thangka schools have been established where students paint thangkas en masse (which are later sold to unsuspecting tourists) while learning the fundamentals of thangka painting.

So I thought it would be very good for those interested in Tibetan arts and culture to learn more about the interesting history behind thangka making. When we have more knowledge, we can appreciate the effort that goes into creating a high quality Buddhist thangka and the deeper significance of having one in our presence.

Tsem Rinpoche

 


 

THANKA PAINTING

Mathew Kapsner & Tania Wynniatte-Husey

 

Legendary Origins

The painted image of the Buddha is said to have originated in central India, in the area now known as Bihar. It is said that during Buddha’s lifetime, two Kings, Utayana and Bimbisara, who lived in the region used to exchange gifts and that one day King Bimbisara, upon receiving a priceless gem from King Utayana decided, after much thought, to have an image of the Buddha painted on cloth to give in return. After receiving the consent of the Buddha, Bimbisara sent some of his court artists to paint the Buddha’s portrait. When the artists looked upon the Buddha, however, they were so filled with wonder that they were unable to draw and so the Buddha led one of the artists to a clear pool and told him to paint his likeness from the reflection in the water. This the artist did, surrounding the portrait with images of the twelve links of dependent arising and with some words of religious advice, as recommended by the Buddha. When Utayana saw the gift he was greatly moved and later that day, after prayers and meditation on the symbols of the twelve links, he attained the path of seeing. As a result, this style of painting came to be known as ‘The image of the Sage taken from the water’ (Chu-len-ma).

Another account relates the first paintings of the Buddha to an occasion when he was teaching in Kapilavastu. At that time there was a king called Mahanama, whose wife had a maidservant, named Rohita. Whilst the Buddha was teaching nearby the Queen sent Rohita to deliver a necklace of jewels to him. On the way she was attacked by a girl herding cows and was killed. Due to her faith in the Buddha she was reborn as the daughter of the King of Sri Lanka. When the princess was a young girl she heard of the teachings of the Buddha and experienced a re-awakening of faith from her former life. She sent a letter to the Buddha with a gift of pearls and in reply, the Buddha sent her a letter and an image of himself on which an artist had outlined the rays of light surrounding his body. This style became known as ‘The image of the Sage taken from the rays’.

 

Origins in Tibet

Tibetan thanka painting is based upon the Indian religious art of pata and mandala, complex paintings whose designs were used in certain religious rites. As the Tibetans closely adhered to the religious teachings of the Indian Pandits, so too did they follow the strict guidelines laid down by Indian and later, Nepalese and Chinese artists. Eventually it was the Nepalese and Chinese painters who had the most far-reaching influence on the development of the Tibetan thanka.

The principal artistic schools from which Tibetan painting is derived were in Western India and date back to the 7th and 8th centuries. The influence of these schools was felt throughout Central and Eastern India, eventually reaching Nepal from where it filtered into Tibet.

It was in the 7th century, during the reign of Songsten Gampo, that Buddhism and its associated art forms made considerable advances throughout Tibet. Songsten Gampo’s marriage to both a Nepalese and a Chinese princess brought Nepalese and Chinese artists into the region where they worked to further the spread of Buddhism through art.

Later, during the 11th century, thanka painting in Western Tibet began to draw from the Kashmiri school when the great monk translator Rinchen Zangpo, brought a number of artists from Kashmir to Tibet, in the first half of the century. The paintings of these artists hung in temples as pictorial representations of the Dharma, furthering the spread of Buddhism amongst the Tibetans of that region. Influenced by Kashmiri art as well as Central Indian art, Western Tibetan painting developed a style of its own, a style, however, which grew stale and which eventually disappeared, during the 17th century.

Over the centuries, the Nepalese influence upon Tibetan painting was pervasive and dominant, remaining uninterrupted for years, whilst the influence of the Indian artists faded with the Moslem invasions of India. Chinese influence, on the other hand, fluctuated according to the changing political relations between Tibet and China and it was not really until the 18th century that Chinese influence began to be felt, revitalizing Tibetan painting which had begun to flounder in its strict adherence to the archaic styles of Nepal and India. As Guiseppe Tucci states in Tibetan Painted Scrolls, ‘the development of Tibetan painting consists in a mutual approach and blending of the Chinese and Nepalese manners’.

As time went on, these external influences, which provided the initial direction and rules of Tibetan painting, began to give way to a more distinctly Tibetan style of painting. For later, even when absorbing Chinese influence, the Tibetans learnt to interpret it in their own ways, no longer simply imitating the style as they had formerly done.

 

Development of Tibetan Styles

The three major styles of Tibetan paintings practiced today are the ‘Menri’, the ‘Mensar’ and the ‘Karma Gadri’ styles. These are the styles of individual artists whose work played an influential role in the development of Tibetan painting.

The ‘Menri’ style, the oldest of the three forms, dates back to 1440 C.E. and was developed by Menla Dhondrup who studied under the artist, Dhopa Tashi Gyatso, an expert in Nepalese style painting. Through acquiring a thorough knowledge of the new style, Menla Dhondrup went on to revise the proportions and composition of religious figures as well as developing new pigments. In addition he defined the religious requirements of both the artist and patron, demonstrated the need for accurate painting, showing the consequences of inaccurate work and gave instruction in various methods of painting. It was these revisions that came to be known as the ‘Menri’ style.

In the year 1645 C.E., the incarnate master Chöying Gyatso developed a style of his own, known as the ‘Mensar’ or the ‘new Menri’ style. Based on the Menri school, he developed his own approach, making innovations and revisions in the tone, pigment and texture.

Namka Tashi, an incarnate Karmapa artist, born in 1500 C.E. developed the ‘Karma Gadri’ school, or the ‘camp style of the Karma (Kagyu school)’. He first studied painting under Könchok Penday, from whom he learnt the strict proportions developed by the Sharli, a metal casting school of India. He also studied under the 5th Sharmapa, Könchok Yenlak as well as the 4th Gyaltsap Rinpochey, Drakpa Dondrup, who taught him how to paint in a distinctive style which was based upon such examples as: the Chinese thanka given to the 5th Karmapa by the Ming emperor of China; the ‘dashelma’ masks, made by artists who had witnessed the revelation of Rangjung Dorjey’s face in the full moon and a Chinese thanka, the ‘Yerwa Rawama’, that depicts the sixteen Arhats of early Buddhist tradition. Thus, Namka Tashi’s style incorporated components from three foreign sources: Indian forms, Chinese colour and texture and traditional Tibetan composition. Of the three styles practiced today, the Karma Gadri is not as prevalent as the Menri or Mensar.

As thanka painting is strictly governed by iconographic rules the separate styles are hard to discern. They can be most easily characterized by their treatment of the background to the paintings. 

The Menri style is distinguished by its individual representation of nature. In a painting typical of the Menri school, the clouds flow and curl like rushing water, the mountains are low and rounded and are less packed with detail than the other major styles of painting. The Mensar school on the other hand, employs more detail and is characterized by round and thick or long and thin clouds. The mountains tend to be sharp with steep peaks, which give them an exaggerated appearance. In a Karma Gadri painting, more natural forms are given greater emphasis. They are depicted in a more realistic fashion and are not so exaggerated or dream-like. There is also more open space and the colour green tends to predominate.

Many other artists played an important role in the development of Tibetan thanka painting. With these, however, the styles tended to be absorbed by one of the schools rather than achieving a distinction of their own. One skilled artist of the Gadri style was Karma Sidral or Gamnyon, thought to be an emanation of the 8th Karmapa. He developed a style of his own based upon that of the Gadri school which became known as the ‘Second Gadri’. Another artist of inestimable value was the great master Dakpo Rabjum Tenpay Gyeltsen, who was highly skilled in drawing the proportion of the three religious symbols, which led to his proportional style also being adopted by the Gadri school.

A number of unique styles emerged that were also basically proponents of the Karma Gadri school. One of these belonged to the 10th Karmapa, Chöying Dorjey, who was born in the year 1604. During his early career as an artist he studied the elements of the Menri style under the master Lhodrak Tulku Tsering. Subsequently he developed his own style, incorporating techniques from the Chinese and Gadri styles. Another example is the style of Tsuklak Chökyi Nangwa, which was very similar to the original styles of the ‘Three Tashis’ of the Karma Gadri school. This tradition became widespread in eastern Tibet, in such regions as Nangchen and Dergey, as well as Karmay Gönchen and Chamdo, where many skilled painters existed who were called ‘Karsho’.

At the time that Menla Dhondrup’s innovations were first being felt Khyentse Chenmo was born in Gangkar Gangto. He developed an individual style, known as ‘Khyenri’, which in fact became a tradition distinct from Menri or any other school.

The artist Patshu Byiu of Yarto was an incarnate being and learned person who studied painting extensively. He studied all the techniques of the various schools selecting the best of each and combining them along with his own innovations to form also a style of his own. This became known as ‘Byiuris’, after his nickname Byiu, meaning bird and is distinguished by the manner of shading and the choice of colours.

 

The Purpose of a Thanka Painting

A thanka painting is not simply a decoration or a creation of beauty, but a religious object and a medium for expressing Buddhist ideals. These works of art function as models on which the practitioner can reflect and meditate.

There are many reasons for commissioning a thanka, the most common being to create an object of worship which will lead to the accumulation of merit. For even looking at a thanka is in itself a good deed. By meditating on such objects, one can train the mind and gain an understanding of certain types of awareness that that specific image portrays. Other reasons for commissioning a thanka painting may be to bring about good health, prosperity or long life. Sometimes they are commissioned to aid the recovery of a sick person, or to protect a person through vulnerable periods in his or her life, or to help in the rebirth of someone who has recently died. In all these cases, a lama is usually consulted to advice on which deity should be painted to give the greatest assistance to that person. So if somebody dies, the family of the deceased will consult a lama or an astrologer who will advise them which deity would be the most propitious in assisting a good rebirth.

Thus, there are many different forms a thanka may take depending on what the patron wishes to use the painting for. It may portray peaceful or wrathful deities, meditational deities, Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Dharma Protectors or saints and their lives. Green Tara, for example, is a female deity who is seen as the embodiment of all the Buddhas’ enlightened activities and may be commissioned to ensure success either in a particular project or in a person’s long life generally. Thankas may also depict Buddhist doctrine such as the arrangement of the physical universe as taught in the Abhidharma, the layout of the animate universe in the form of the Wheel of Existence, illustrations of monastic garb, implements and practices, as taught in the Vinaya, as well as medical and astrological charts and diagrams. There is a wealth of subjects to be drawn from and many reasons for commissioning a thanka, so much so that a person may have quite a number painted over a period of time.

 

The Painter and His Preparations

Whatever form the thanka takes and for whatever reason it is commissioned, it is of the utmost importance that the works are prepared properly and with the greatest care. For if not, they will be of no benefit to the artist nor to the patron, whose devout intentions will be lost on an improper work of art.

Traditionally it is said that an artist should possess certain characteristics: modesty, devotion to religion, soundness of all senses, diligence and a kindly disposition. In addition, depending on the subject of the work, it is said that the artist may have to follow certain personal restrictions: abstinence from meat, alcohol, onion and garlic and strict personal cleanliness.

How strictly an artist adheres to such ‘rules’ of conduct varies from artist to artist and on the work that is being carried out. Cleanliness, both in mind and body is of the utmost importance when working on a piece and although it is unlikely that the artist will abstain from eating meat, onion or garlic, unless real purity is particularly desired, he will not over indulge and often not consume alcohol during that period.

Correct preparation, then, is very important in order to ensure a high standard of cleanliness. Normally, the artist will get up, clean his room and wash himself before laying out the canvas, paints and brushes. The brushes are contained in a special box with three holes, one for each of the deities: Avalokiteshvara (compassion), Vajrapani (power) and Manjushri (wisdom) who help the artist to achieve perfection in his work. Having prepared his tools and work area, the artist then makes a water offering, the purest of all offerings and if he is about to start a new thanka will do a short meditation on emptiness to purify his mind.

The meditation may take many forms. One way is for the painter to meditate on a particular deity, which is not necessarily the one that will be featured in the painting. The image of the deity, Manjushri, the deity of wisdom, for example, may be used and is placed in front of the artist, who imagines the image melting into his body before he generates himself as Manjushri.

The next step is to invoke the image of the deity about to be painted. If it is one of the Taras, for example, the artist will visualize the goddess who then dissolves into the canvas, brushes and paints, thus making them the essence of that deity.

The final step is the motivation for creating the thanka, when the artist thinks of all the suffering beings in all the different realms and remembers that he is painting the thanka for the benefit of them all.

 As well as playing a role in the purification process, religion also underlies the necessity of cleanliness in thanka painting. For if the artist’s mind and body are not clean, he will be unable to invoke the deities. It has been said that in order to paint certain images, the artist must be an initiate of the specific cycle of teachings they belong to. Thus, if the artist wants to paint an image of the Kalachakra, he must have received the initiation first. This need not always be the case. Unless it is a particular thanka, the artist will not have necessarily received the initiations in advance. One monk artist related how, for example, he had once been commissioned to paint a thanka of Vajrakila for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He received a blessing from a lama who showed him how to generate the deity, but otherwise it was not his normal practice.

 

The Preparation of the Canvas

‘The painters of Tibet pursue their art in an orderly and systemic way. When creating thanka paintings they proceed through six clearly defined steps. The first is the preparation of the painting surface. Second comes the establishment of a design on that surface by means of a sketch or transfer. The third step involves the initial coats of paint, and that is followed by steps four and five: shading and outlining. The sixth and last step consists of several finishing touches.’

As a thanka painting is made to be rolled up in a scroll fashion, it is painted on cloth whose surface has two layers: the support and ground. The most common cloth, or support, used today is light-weight Indian cotton of fine but slightly open weave. An open weave allows the ‘gesso’ a kind of white paint to settle more evenly. This underlying material holds the subsequent layer of ground and paint. Once the artist has acquired the cloth, it is washed, dried and cut to fit the wooden frame upon which it is stretched. This must be done carefully to avoid any bulging which, if it occurs, will be permanent.

Once the fabric is secured onto the frame three steps are taken to prepare the cloth for painting. First is the sizing of the cloth, which involves the preparation of a warm solution of hide glue which is applied to both sides of the cloth with a large brush or a wadded rag. Once the cloth is saturated, any excess is removed and the cord that connects the cloth to the stretcher is tightened. Then the canvas is set aside to dry.

Secondly, the cotton support is coated with gesso. The gesso used is a solution of either chalk or white clay, whichever is the most available and is combined with size solution until it reaches the consistency of buttermilk. The mixture is then strained through a cloth to remove any lumps and is applied to both sides of the cloth in thin even coats with a wadding rag or gesso knife. When the first coat has dried the artist determines if another is necessary by holding the canvas up to the light. If light comes through, another application of gesso is applied.

Finally the surface is polished until it is perfectly smooth and ready for use.

 

The Painting of the Thanka

The drawing of a thanka is done in several stages – first are the lines of orientation. The most important line is the central vertical axis, which forms the exact centre of the painting around which the composition will be laid out. The vertical axis usually marks the centre of the main figure – in relation to which all the other figures of the composition are to be positioned. The figures portrayed have to be in perfect relationship to the central axis, any mistakes affect the religious value of the painting.

There are eight major lines of orientation to be drawn. The first of these are the two diagonals. These are drawn from one corner of the canvas to its diagonal opposite and enable the drawing of these two axes. Such lines are drawn with the use of a chalk line or a compass. The second lines to be drawn are the vertical axis and the horizontal line and finally the four outer lines that define the edges of the painting are added.

Once the eight major lines are established the artist can begin his sketching. The first step is to establish the area of the main figure on the vertical axis and its position in relation to the horizontal axis. In order to sketch the figure properly the artist must know the iconographic measurements of each deity as established by Buddhist tradition. The main iconographic classes, in order, are: buddhas, peaceful bodhisattvas, goddesses, tall wrathful figures, short wrathful figures, and humans. Other iconographical systems exist with more classes that are basically subdivisions of the above classes with the addition of some rare types.

Once the main figure is drawn, if other figures are to be included their position is established, according to their status. Next, the artist works on the surrounding area, sketching in the landscape, offerings and so forth. For the drawing of the preliminary sketch, the artist uses a graphite pencil or a charcoal crayon, which allows for corrections to be made. Once the sketching is complete the artist finalizes it by going over the pencil sketch with a brush and black ink. Inking in is done with great care, making every effort to correct and improve upon the pencil sketch, for, with the exception of minor details, it determines the final design of the painting.

The next step is to apply paint to the canvas. This is a two step process which includes filling in the areas of different base colours and shading and outlining these areas. Mineral pigments, mixed with a binder of either size or glue, are used for the initial coats of colour, while dye and lakes are used for the shading and outlining.

The progressive application of paint follows four principles. To begin with, the paint is applied to the more distant planes of the picture – sky and landscape – then progress to the primary figure. One colour is used at a time, being applied to all the appropriate places whilst the paint is still fresh. Due to the shading and tinting techniques used, the lighter colours are applied first and the darker colours for shading and tinting are applied later. Finally, the small features of the painting, those that are important and to be done in light colours, are done last so that they are not smudged during the remainder of the painting process.

A simple example of the paint application process would be a small one-deity thanka with a simple landscape. The main planes are (according to distance) – the sky, the landscape, the deity’s nimbus, and the figure of the deity. To paint the sky, the artist prepares by hand a suitable blue paint. He then applies this blue first to the sky and then to wherever it is needed around the figure, beginning with the nimbus and then the body. After blue the next colour used is green, which is applied in a similar manner working from the background forward to the figure. After blues and greens the artist applies the white and bluish and greenish-off whites to distant objects such as the clouds and snowy peaks. For the most part, the remaining colours are used in the forward plane, in this order: reds, oranges, yellow, ochre, brown, pink, white and gold.

The application of the initial coats of paint, depending on the size and complexity of the work, can take from a few hours or days, to a few weeks to complete. Once complete, the artist scrapes the painting surface smooth, in preparation for the finishing steps. After scraping and dusting the artist rubs the surface with a small ball of dry dough. The application of gold cannot be done until after the scraping and cleaning as gold needs a smooth undercoat on which to adhere properly. Nearly every thanka has at least a little gold on it as a religious offering.

After applying the initial coats of colour the next step is the shading. Shading, shadowing and gradation of tones are done to give a three dimensional quality to objects such as clouds. There are two main methods of shading: wet and dry. Wet shading is the blending of two wet colours, which is done during the application of the initial coats of colour. Dry shading is usually a secondary step and is the application of successive thin washes of colour over the dry preliminary coat. The main shading colours are organic dyes and lakes; mainly indigo (blue) and lac dye (red). Other dyes used are mainly yellow and orange. Typically, indigo is used to shade the initial blues and greens, lac dye is used for the areas of red, maroon, orange, yellow or flesh colour, while yellow is used to intensify and highlight the greens. Shading is done much as the initial coats of colours are applied – working from the farthest planes to the closest and working with as much of one colour at once as possible. Shading is an important feature of thanka painting, taking up a large portion of the artist’s time, and is done very carefully and precisely.

Outlining is one of the final steps in the process of thanka painting. It is done to intensify distinct objects, setting them off from their surroundings. It is used to indicate any small or fine details. The colours mainly used in outlining are indigo and lac dye, each used to outline shaded areas of the same colour. Other colours used are: white, for water and bone ornaments; gold, for nimbuses, seats, flowers, leaves, robes, multi-coloured lotuses and rocky crags. These are applied in stronger concentrations than in shading to contrast the base colour and the background more sharply.

The last major step in painting the thanka is drawing the faces of the main figures. This demands great attention. Of the facial features the eyes receive the greatest care, for the eyes bring the painting to life. Of course the shapes and dimensions of the facial features are determined by iconographic traditions. The application of the gold with a burnishing tool is the final step in thanka painting. There are two main types of burnishing, flat burnishing, in which large areas of gold are uniformly polished, and selective burnishing, polishing certain areas or drawing designs onto the gold with the point of the burnisher.

 

Mounting the Thanka

Most thanka paintings are mounted in a brocade frame. Although there is nothing to stipulate that it has to be brocade or even cloth, it is a tradition that has continued from the past.

Silk brocade is the most popular form of mounting since it is seen as having greater religious merit than other less expensive types of cloth. The quality of brocade used, varies from patron to patron, but again it is generally thought that the higher the quality, the greater the religious value the painting will assume. Likewise, the greater the number of brocades used, the greater the enhancement of the painting. Often, for example, a brocade square is sewn on to the mount below the picture to draw attention to the subject, whilst other paintings are framed with one or two thin strips of brocade, often red and yellow, before being placed on the main brocade, again for emphasis.

The proportions of the mounts tend to be the same, although sizes may vary according to the intended wall space on which the painting is to be hung. Normally, the amount of brocade used at the bottom equals half the size of the thanka, whilst the amount at the top is a quarter of the size of the thanka. Similarly, the mounting at the edge is equal to one eighth of the size of the thanka.

One final addition may be a curtain, which tends to be a piece of orange or yellow cotton material attached to the top of the brocade mount and which, when let down, covers the painting. Two thin red strips of material often hang down in front of this. The purpose of the curtain is mainly twofold, although not all thankas have them. First, it is used as a form of protection, preventing the accumulation of dust and is raised only on special occasions and secondly it is an extra adornment to enhance the value of the work further.

Since a thanka painting is a religious work, it is usual to place a white scarf at the brocade which is not only an offering but also acts as a protection. 

 

Consecration

Finally, if the painting is to function as a sacred object it is consecrated through a ritual of consecration, which is performed by a lama. During this ceremony, which is a combination of meditation, incantation and the recitation of prescribed mantras, the back of the painting is inscribed with the three syllables, which indicate the body, speech and mind of the main figure, along with names of certain deities and prayers of request or praise. Sometimes the hand-prints, or fingerprints, of respected teachers are placed on the back of the painting as well.

 

Characteristics of a Quality Thanka Painting

Most of all the painting must be appealing, beautiful and pleasing to the eye. The image must appear to be well proportioned. There are certain characteristics to look for in determining if the image has been done properly. In a well executed thanka painting the feet and hands are youthful with long tapering fingers and toes, marked with the sign of the wheel (dharmachakra) and the endless knot. The limbs are graceful, unblemished and the anklebones hidden. In the case of a thanka painting depicting a Buddha, his stomach is wide; the navel twisted clockwise, the waist well-defined and the upper body broad with rounded shoulders. The throat is tapered, the lips red and the nose long and pointed. The eye, the most important detail, should resemble lotus petals with the whites and pupils clearly defined. The eyebrows must be distinct and should feature a fine white hair (urna) between them, whilst the head should be large and rounded with a broad forehead, distinct hairline and the ears long and lobed. Gema Lama states in his book The Principals of Tibetan Art that, ‘Generally the form is meant to be large and erect, with dignified bearing and pleasing mien’. He goes on to point out that the masculine and feminine features ‘should be clearly defined and the clothing graceful’.

Unfortunately, today, thanka painting and with it, other aspects of Tibetan art are threatened by the influx of fake or badly finished paintings. In many tourist areas such as Delhi, Srinagaror, Kathmandu, these pieces are offered to the unsuspecting buyer as authentic thankas. Many have been prematurely ‘aged’ by holding them over butter lamps for long periods or by twisting them tightly thereby cracking the paint to give the effect of an old, much-used item. The symbols used in some of these paintings have been incorporated with little or no regard to the traditional guidelines laid down over the centuries. Often the grids have been badly or incorrectly drawn and the figures and features from many different mandalas combined into one picture. Furthermore, the silks and paints used are often of inferior quality, which often leads to cracking.

Though authentic thanka paintings belonging to Tibetans may have been sold in the years immediately following their flight from Tibet because of the initial hardship suffered by many families, it is very doubtful that authentic thanka paintings are for sale everywhere now. The sale of religious artifacts is contrary to Buddhist principles and only through the commissioning of an artist as outlined earlier can one acquire a thanka painting. The inferior paintings available at present are of little or no artistic value as most are of crude workmanship and resemble a mosaic of Buddhist symbols, deities, entourage and environments rather than a properly constructed painting. These paintings certainly have no religious value because of the lack of religious intent by the artist and as His Holiness the Dalai Lama has frequently pointed out it benefits neither Tibetans nor Tibetan art and culture for this trade to continue. Thanka paintings are religious works of art intended to aid the devotion and prayers of Buddhist practitioners and herein lies their true value.

 

Mural Painting

Many of the techniques used in mural painting are similar to those used in thanka painting and often in the past qualified thanka painters were commissioned to decorate the walls and even furniture of public buildings, monasteries and private houses in Tibet.

Whereas the function of a thanka painting is primarily religious and serves as a means of protection, the purpose of a mural painting is more decorative. Its subjects, therefore, tend to be diverse ranging from mythological figures and auspicious symbols to animals, birds, trees and flowers. They are often subjects that may feature in a thanka painting but never as the focal point. Thus in private houses, it would be quite common to have a series of ‘medallions’, about a metre in diameter, drawn on the walls of a room depicting scenes from various mythological tales, known stories such as ‘The Four Harmonious Brothers’ which in this case would feature the grouse, the hare, the monkey and the elephant. Ordinary people and events were also often drawn, particularly in important buildings, such as the Potala, where a mural would always be painted depicting the building’s construction, as well as the ground plans.

Mural paintings are always enhanced with a border painted immediately below the ceiling. Ornately decorated with a pattern of flowers, the border is made to look like a curtain, where even the folds of the material as well as the tassles are carefully drawn in. This is usually balanced by three stripes, again florally decorated, which line the walls at the base of the windows running parallel to the border at the top.

In addition to those of non-religious subjects, many religious murals also exist. The decorations in temples are always religious and feature many deities, all of whom have a certain position within the building according to their status and function. Pictures of the more exalted figures, such as the Lord Buddha are always painted behind the main altar and face the protective deities who line the back wall of the temple. In front of the main door are placed the Four Guardian Kings, whose bodies are painted white, blue, red and yellow as they protect the East, South, West and North respectively and who stand next to a painting of the wheel of cyclic existence.

When a religious mural is painted, the artist follows the same traditional guidelines carried out in thanka painting. Thus the same careful preparation and rituals are done before the work is begun and he uses the same system of grids and proportions as those used in a thanka painting. Likewise, the painting is consecrated upon completion.

The same bright colours that are used in thanka painting are used in mural work, although the type of paint is different as well as the method of application because of the contrasting surfaces. Unlike thanka painting, where the colours are added one on top of each other to achieve a fine degree of shading, when painting a mural, the colours are applied at the same time and mixed on the wall itself to achieve the desired shade, thus using the wall as a kind of palette. So, when painting a pink flower, both the white and red paint are applied together and mixed until the correct pink is obtained.

Mural painting has always featured heavily in Tibetan architecture, much of which was unfortunately destroyed by the Chinese during the Cultural Revolution. Brightly painted furniture, for example, which was found in most Tibetan households, had to be painted over, or in the case of poorer people who could not afford the paint, darkened with mud or charcoal and it was a long time before it could be removed. It is only recently that mural painting has begun to be revived properly both in Tibet and in exile, where, as the need to ensure that Tibetan culture does not die, every effort is being made to revive and continue the traditions carried out in the past.

 

Painting Guilds

Most thanka painters in Tibet belonged to a painting guild. For not only was it considered prestigious, since entry was difficult, but it automatically guaranteed a steady income of work at a high level.

As with other building guilds, the artistic guilds carried out a variety of work, both public and private, which ranged from the creation of thanka paintings, private mural work and the painting of furniture to the restoration and decoration of larger edifices, such as monasteries, temples and public buildings.

Hierarchy played a considerable role, not only amongst the artistic guilds but amongst the other building guilds as well. Since much of the painters’ work was of a religious nature, the artistic guilds assumed a superior status to those of the carpenters’ or masons’ guilds. It was for this reason that they were also exempt from having an organized administration, which gave them greater individual freedom in the type of work they undertook. Levels of superiority also featured amongst the artistic guilds themselves. The ones with the greatest prestige were the five or six who had official recognition and who consequently carried out all government work. This, however, did not prevent the other guilds from carrying out any type of work. Then, within the guilds themselves, five or six ranks of seniority existed.

The guilds mostly collapsed or became inactive following the Chinese occupation, especially during the Cultural Revolution when art and culture was repressed.

In the late 1970s, when restoration work began and artists were allowed to paint openly again, instead of reestablishing the guilds, government-run cooperatives were set up, to which all artists had to belong if they wanted to work. Even today, when much greater freedom reigns, the guilds are yet to reappear.

 

Bibliography

  • Dagyab, Loden Sherap, Tibetan Religious Art, Wiesbaden, Otto Harrassowitz, 1977.
  • Jackson, David P. & Janice A., Tibetan Thangka Painting, London, Serindia Publications, 1984.
  • Lama, Gega, Principles of Tibetan Art, Belgium, Karma Sonam Gyantso Ling.
  • Pal, Pratapaditya, Tibetan Paintings, Switzerland, Basilius Press, 1984.
  • Tucci, Guiseppe, Tibetan Painted Scrolls, Kyoto, Rinsen Book Co., 1980 (originally published by Liberia Dello Sato, 1949.)
  • With special thanks to Venerable Sangyay Yeshe and Temba Chöphel.

 

A Dorje Shugden thangka that belonged to H.H. Trijang Dorje Chang. H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama and his entourage traveled with this thangka as they escaped Tibet for India

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5 Responses to The Art of Thangka Painting

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  1. Fong on Aug 11, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    It is interesting to note that thangkas were done as part of practice with meditation and visualization. The whole process and motivation is very complex and pure. Along the way, the painter/practitioner imbues the thangka with the positive energies of the deities.

    The whole style had matured over the years after the initial influence of India and china, and thus the Tibetan style is born and is unique despite the 2 different schools of Menri and Mendar.

    Reading about the whole process, I am awed by the intricacies of the thangka and its history. This has helped me appreciate thangkas a whole lot more. But, as suggested in the article it is very difficult to have a good quality thangka with the correct iconography and detailing. So, we shall contend ourselves by appreciating the thangkas in monasteries.

    Thank you for sharing this article. It has taught me be grateful to the practitioners who paint thangkas as part of their meditation and visualization with sincere motivation to benefit the future owner. It has taught me to be more aware of the details in thangkas and the skills and concentration required to paint a thangka. It has also taught me that the thangka is not a piece of commodity to be traded but an object of reverence and respect as it is the holy image of the Buddhas, just like a statue with positive energies imbued.

  2. Sunapati Thangka School on Dec 17, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    Dear Rimpoche, thank you for this article.
    Its not well known the amount of work and effort that is required to create a thangka painting.
    The commitment of our small school is to keep this tradition alive and support the artists and students that, as many here in Nepal, are facing many difficulties at this time.
    Thank you for sharing and caring.

    Blessing
    traditionalartofnepal.com

    • Tsem Rinpoche on Dec 17, 2015 at 7:04 pm

      Dear Sunapati Thangka School,

      I wish you all the best and success. I hope you all will overcome your difficulties. It is noble to struggle to keep up the powerful tradition. You have my good wishes. I hope blogging here about this special tradition will bring more awareness. Tsem Rinpoche

  3. Alice Tay on Aug 26, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    It is not easy to produce a good quality of a thangka painting. A responsible artist would have compassion coupled with good motivation
    while creating the thangka. The artist would think of all the suffering of other beings in the different realms and therefore he is painting the thangka for the benefit of all sentient beings.

    Other than the good motivation, the artists may have strong devotion to religion, modesty and other good qualities and also follow certain personal restrictions eg abstain from eating meat, onion or garlic, alcohol, strict personal cleanliness in both body and mind and etc etc.

    Having considered thangka painting is also a holy objects which could bless to all the sentient beings, the hardwork by the artists who are follow strictly to the rules of thangka painting and devotion to religion is very much appreciated.

    Thank you Rinpoche for this wonderful sharing about thangka painting.

  4. Loh Ann Leong (Penang) on Jun 29, 2015 at 9:14 am

    Thank you Rinpoche for sharing the information of intricacies of A to Z preparations till finishing touch, values and history of thangka as representation of Buddhist object aside of art beauty or as decoration. It does create awareness for me after reading this blog, of much and vast merits of the thangka painter with having pure motivations when preparing the thangka.

    OM BENZA WIKI BITANA SOHA _/|\_

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  • Lin Mun
    Monday, Feb 20. 2017 09:17 PM
    Appreciate Robert for his generousity and kindness in giving the USD 5K to Rinpoche so he can settled all his loan and buy ticket to India to pursue his promise to be a monk. And he gave Rinpoche money without any condition but with sincere hope that Rinpoche can achieve his promise to be a monk.

    Rinpoche also showed to us that if we have good intention and determination in dharma we can achieve our goal. For example, Rinpoche do 100 prostration daily to Zong Rinpoche’s photo in order to create a cause for him to learn from Zong Rinpoche.

    Thank you Rinpoche for sharing the inspiring story so we do not give up and continue learning and practising dharma .

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/me/robert-stone.html
  • Samfoonheei
    Monday, Feb 20. 2017 03:35 PM
    Geshe Thupten Lama is one of the great scholars and masters who has upheld the lineage of Lord Buddha’s liberating teachings ., Geshe Thupten Lama would not abandon the practice of Dorje Shugden was brand an evil Chinese spy,and enemy, His life was threatened ,was forced to seek political asylum in America.He was one brave masters to write 3 letters asking Dalai Lama to lift the ban on Dorje Shugden.He has worked tirelessly for the Tibetan government in exile.Many practitioners has suffered due to the ban .It has caused disharmony within the Tibetan communities throughout the world.May H.H Dalai Lama please lift the ban on Dorje shugden to restore peace and harmony.
    Thank you Rinpoche for sharing
    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/buddhas-dharma/the-supreme-path-to-the-trikaya.html
  • Pastor Shin Tan
    Monday, Feb 20. 2017 02:34 PM
    How to Rely upon Dorje Shugden

    Relying on a Dharma Protector or Dharmapala is an essential and beneficial practice within Vajrayana Buddhism. As a result of living in the Kaliyuga (degenerate) age, where negative karma is immense and distractions from the spiritual path are abundant, treading the path to Enlightenment can be an arduous and obstacle-ridden road.

    Read more here: http://www.dorjeshugden.org/blog/how-to-rely-upon-dorje-shugden
  • Pastor Shin Tan
    Monday, Feb 20. 2017 02:31 PM
    There’s a topic most people find a little awkward to talk about, and that’s sponsorship in the Dharma. People find it awkward because they think money is not a very spiritual thing to discuss. Yet it is an unavoidable subject because it’s a simple fact of life in samsara – monasteries and Dharma institutions would never be able to survive without the kindness of sponsors, and if they did not have the funds.

    Read this powerful piece by Pastor Elena Khong Jean Ai (Ani Lobsang Pema): http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/dorje-shugden/how-tibetan-leadership-treats-a-sponsor-jindak.html
  • Joy Kam
    Monday, Feb 20. 2017 02:00 PM
    The Meaning Behind Dorje Shugden’s Form
    Like the Buddha, Dorje Shugden’s body manifested from his great attainments. Hence, every part of his form has deep spiritual significance. Dorje Shugden’s entire body represents the complete path of the Lamrim or the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, and meditating upon it with correct understanding will generate great merits and spiritual attainments. This is a brief explanation of Dorje Shugden’s form: http://www.dorjeshugden.org/overview/the-meaning-behind-dorje-shugdens-form
  • Joy Kam
    Monday, Feb 20. 2017 02:00 PM
    Shimmering Vajrayogini from Ms. Wahyu
    See this beautiful painting gifted to H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche especially made with lots of love… http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/students-friends/shimmering-vajrayogini-from-ms-wahyu.html
  • Tsem Rinpoche
    Monday, Feb 20. 2017 10:29 AM
    Do you know what they did to this old erudite master Geshe Thupten Lama after serving them for years? Read here and be prepared to be shocked: http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?p=119404
  • Tsem Rinpoche
    Monday, Feb 20. 2017 10:28 AM
    This educated, kind hearted and very determined young lady often went out to protest for a free Tibet in London as well as raise funds for the Tibetan communities in India. She really wanted to help the Tibetans. Guess what happened to her? See here: http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?p=119699
  • Jason
    Monday, Feb 20. 2017 02:46 AM
    Before this, I really doubt on reincarnation but after I watched the video above, it make me believe on reincarnation stuff which is happen to many high Lama. Reincarnation can’t totally explain by scientists but it reallly exists in this world.
    Thanks Rinpoche for sharing this and it open up my view on reincarnation topic.

    Jason

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/film-tv-music/reincarnation-true-or-false.html
  • Stella Cheang
    Sunday, Feb 19. 2017 09:10 PM
    At this day and age, it is indeed surprising for leaders of faith to apply a heavy-handed technique to oppress nonbeliever or the deviant. It is hard to accept because we have been educated by the history of painful examples where discrimination and persecution were usually man-made because of intolerance, lack of acceptance and ignorance. I wish the Baha’i faith grow and shine, and may harmony and love pervades the community.

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/art-architecture/sanctuary-for-a-persecuted-faith.html
  • Stella Cheang
    Sunday, Feb 19. 2017 08:46 PM
    Thank you, Rinpoche for sharing with us here online the very rare and holy image of Pabongka Rinpoche in Tantric dress. He is the lineage master of Tibetan Buddhism that His Holiness Dalai Lama is teaching today. I am very fortunate to be able to meet with Tsem Rinpoche whose teaching traced back to Pabongka Rinpoche unbroken. May more people realize the weight of unbroken lineage in Buddhism and hence see the importance of Guru Devotion, which is the cornerstone of pure lineage in many ways.

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/great-lamas-masters/kyabje-pabongka-rinpoche-in-tantric-dress.html
  • Stella Cheang
    Sunday, Feb 19. 2017 08:34 PM
    Thank you, Rinpoche for the interesting article. We get to learn more about preventing snakes the natural way. It ‘s nice to know that we can rely on plants to repel snakes, and some of these plants are suitable to be planted in Malaysia. Garlic paste sounds not trying to make and a natural way to repel snakes. I wonder if it works to keep lizards away too?

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/current-affairs/how-to-prevent-snakes-in-your-backyard.html
  • Stella Cheang
    Sunday, Feb 19. 2017 08:22 PM
    This is a very nice sharing by Cindy Dinh. Rejoice to your keen interest in Buddhism in spite of being at an age where spirituality is not a common topic of interest. Please continue to explore the many teachings and topics here on the blog. And thank you, Cindy for writing to show your appreciation. It is a great testimony to the good work by Rinpoche and the team and will be a motivation for the rest of us too.

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/etc/thanks-cindy.html
  • Stella Cheang
    Sunday, Feb 19. 2017 08:07 PM
    Thank you, Rinpoche for this advice, which gives depth to what it means by living with parents versus living on our own. The key takeaway is taking responsibility for our own life hence making our own destiny. Camping in our comfort zone for too long will not fuel us to do better or be stronger and more independent. At the end of the day, our attitude determines our actions, and our actions determine our success. Go for it, everyone! You never try, you never know. ��

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/students-friends/living-at-home-the-real-reasons.html
  • Lin Mun
    Sunday, Feb 19. 2017 08:03 PM
    This is a very beatiful Buddha Manjushri painting. Rejoice for Wylfred and team for taking effort to making this painting and offered it to Rinpoche.

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/students-friends/look-what-the-postman-brought.html

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The Unknown

The Known and unknown are both feared,
Known is being comfortable and stagnant,
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Who says the unknown would be worse than the known?
But then again, the unknown is sometimes worse than the known. In the end nothing is known unless we endeavour,
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Photos On The Go

Click on the images to view the bigger version. And scroll down and click on "View All Photos" to view more images.
February 9,2017-My Mumu boy and Oser girl are just relaxing together..super cute
2 weeks ago
February 9,2017-My Mumu boy and Oser girl are just relaxing together..super cute
Click on the picture to enlarge and see what Suzy from Hawaii commented on the Dorje Shugden issue after much research. She is very candid and honest. Refreshing. Original is posted here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vl-4lIwxph4
2 weeks ago
Click on the picture to enlarge and see what Suzy from Hawaii commented on the Dorje Shugden issue after much research. She is very candid and honest. Refreshing. Original is posted here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vl-4lIwxph4
This is a good one to read
3 weeks ago
This is a good one to read
Mumu is silly and cute and funny
3 weeks ago
Mumu is silly and cute and funny
Mumu\'s hair is messy and he looks funny
3 weeks ago
Mumu's hair is messy and he looks funny
I am in the process of creating beautiful Dorje Shugden and Kechara Forest Retreat watches at this time. So we can take precious protector and Kechara Forest Retreat wherever we go and be blessed everytime we see what time it is. 
I am perfecting the designs with a great team and will update when done but these are just some samples that arrived. 
Feast your eyes! 

Tsem Rinpoche
1 month ago
I am in the process of creating beautiful Dorje Shugden and Kechara Forest Retreat watches at this time. So we can take precious protector and Kechara Forest Retreat wherever we go and be blessed everytime we see what time it is. I am perfecting the designs with a great team and will update when done but these are just some samples that arrived. Feast your eyes! Tsem Rinpoche
                        Pick the practice, devotion and precepts of Vajra Yogini\'s path over everything and anything in samsara. Samsara has nothing of value and nothing lasting to offer. You are born in suffering, live in suffering, die in suffering and enter bardo and future lives expecting more sufferings. This is not a negative way of looking at things but the truth. If the truth is negative, so it is the truth. Devote oneself to the guru, dharma work, dharma practice and bringing dharma to others compassionately. Choose to practice Vajra Yogini now with the preliminaries. You can start right now: http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/inspiration-worthy-words/starting-on-vajra-yogini-now.html  Much care, Tsem Rinpoche
2 months ago
Pick the practice, devotion and precepts of Vajra Yogini's path over everything and anything in samsara. Samsara has nothing of value and nothing lasting to offer. You are born in suffering, live in suffering, die in suffering and enter bardo and future lives expecting more sufferings. This is not a negative way of looking at things but the truth. If the truth is negative, so it is the truth. Devote oneself to the guru, dharma work, dharma practice and bringing dharma to others compassionately. Choose to practice Vajra Yogini now with the preliminaries. You can start right now: http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/inspiration-worthy-words/starting-on-vajra-yogini-now.html Much care, Tsem Rinpoche
Message to Tibetans in English
2 months ago
Message to Tibetans in English
Message to the Tibetans
2 months ago
Message to the Tibetans
Left to right: Kensur Jampa Yeshe Rinpoche, Sharpa Choeje Jetsun Lobsang Nyima, Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche, Kyabje Lati Rinpoche, 101st Gaden Tripa Jetsun Lungrik Namgyal. Great lamas of Gaden Shartse Monastery
2 months ago
Left to right: Kensur Jampa Yeshe Rinpoche, Sharpa Choeje Jetsun Lobsang Nyima, Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche, Kyabje Lati Rinpoche, 101st Gaden Tripa Jetsun Lungrik Namgyal. Great lamas of Gaden Shartse Monastery
A beautiful Indian rendition of Gyenze Dorje Shugden manifesting in wealth form
2 months ago
A beautiful Indian rendition of Gyenze Dorje Shugden manifesting in wealth form
This is my thoughts and determination to share with you. Please open and read. Thank you for your time. Tsem Rinpoche
2 months ago
This is my thoughts and determination to share with you. Please open and read. Thank you for your time. Tsem Rinpoche
Nepalese King Birendra receives His Holiness Panchen Rinpoche in Nepal
2 months ago
Nepalese King Birendra receives His Holiness Panchen Rinpoche in Nepal
Guess what Zava Damdin Rinpoche did in Mongolia recently with 7,800 people??? Very interesting and it is a must read:  http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?p=116206
2 months ago
Guess what Zava Damdin Rinpoche did in Mongolia recently with 7,800 people??? Very interesting and it is a must read:  http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?p=116206
This huge Buddha in Korea is magnificent
3 months ago
This huge Buddha in Korea is magnificent
The very first oracle of Dorje Shugden in trance statue. I have commissioned this.
3 months ago
The very first oracle of Dorje Shugden in trance statue. I have commissioned this.
Such a old and ancient thangka painting of Dorje Shugden. He has been around in Tibet practiced for hundreds of years.
3 months ago
Such a old and ancient thangka painting of Dorje Shugden. He has been around in Tibet practiced for hundreds of years.
One of the "Four Exalted Brothers" Avalokiteshvara statues, Phagpa Wati of Kyirong, which is now with H.H. the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala.
3 months ago
One of the "Four Exalted Brothers" Avalokiteshvara statues, Phagpa Wati of Kyirong, which is now with H.H. the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala.
Kyabje Zemey, Kyabje Zong Rinpoche and Kyabje Pabongka Choktrul Rinpoche
3 months ago
Kyabje Zemey, Kyabje Zong Rinpoche and Kyabje Pabongka Choktrul Rinpoche
My Oser girl and Mumu boy are so adorable
3 months ago
My Oser girl and Mumu boy are so adorable
Wow this meditator in his cave in front of a painting of Yamantaka draped with a white khata of respect. He sits among bones to remind him of impermanence and our future. The bones inspire him strongly to let go of all attachments in this life and focus on dharma, meditation and liberation and he is doing so. Very beautiful and inspirational. Tsem Rinpoche
3 months ago
Wow this meditator in his cave in front of a painting of Yamantaka draped with a white khata of respect. He sits among bones to remind him of impermanence and our future. The bones inspire him strongly to let go of all attachments in this life and focus on dharma, meditation and liberation and he is doing so. Very beautiful and inspirational. Tsem Rinpoche
Tenzing Norgay found this in Nepal. Guess what it is?
4 months ago
Tenzing Norgay found this in Nepal. Guess what it is?
Sir Edmund Hillary
4 months ago
Sir Edmund Hillary
Halloween is my favorite holiday. Wild natural plants and flowers are my favorite offering. Buddha\'s teachings on meditation and Yidam practice bring the ultimate results and happiness. ~Tsem Rinpoche
4 months ago
Halloween is my favorite holiday. Wild natural plants and flowers are my favorite offering. Buddha's teachings on meditation and Yidam practice bring the ultimate results and happiness. ~Tsem Rinpoche
Previous lives do resemble current lives especially if they are a recognized incarnation. If notice how similar the previous and current Trijang Rinpoche looks. The eyes, bone structure, expression, long neck, thin and overall look. Beautiful. I\'ve seen this phenomena over and over in many Rinpoche incarnations. Especially when you compare them with pictures of previous and current lives at around the same ages. Something powerfully karmic about this. Tsem Rinpoche
4 months ago
Previous lives do resemble current lives especially if they are a recognized incarnation. If notice how similar the previous and current Trijang Rinpoche looks. The eyes, bone structure, expression, long neck, thin and overall look. Beautiful. I've seen this phenomena over and over in many Rinpoche incarnations. Especially when you compare them with pictures of previous and current lives at around the same ages. Something powerfully karmic about this. Tsem Rinpoche
It\'s nice to have monks visitors and resident monks in Kechara
4 months ago
It's nice to have monks visitors and resident monks in Kechara
                         Taken in Lake Champlain in Canada. A huge water monster...neat...
5 months ago
Taken in Lake Champlain in Canada. A huge water monster...neat...
Beautiful! His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang has always been good friends with His Holiness Karmapa. No wonder H.H. Karmapa never spoke against Dorje Shugden. Two reasons perhaps: One is he knows the qualities of Trijang Rinpoche who is a attained being. And Karmapa himself has clairvoyance to perceive the true nature of Dorje Shugden directly. I love to see great beings like this manifesting closeness. When I see, I just want to prostrate to them and thank them for sharing such good examples to someone like me. Praise to the ego-less mind! Tsem Rinpoche
5 months ago
Beautiful! His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang has always been good friends with His Holiness Karmapa. No wonder H.H. Karmapa never spoke against Dorje Shugden. Two reasons perhaps: One is he knows the qualities of Trijang Rinpoche who is a attained being. And Karmapa himself has clairvoyance to perceive the true nature of Dorje Shugden directly. I love to see great beings like this manifesting closeness. When I see, I just want to prostrate to them and thank them for sharing such good examples to someone like me. Praise to the ego-less mind! Tsem Rinpoche
Serkong Dorje Chang on the left and his son Serkong Tsenshab Rinpoche on the right.
5 months ago
Serkong Dorje Chang on the left and his son Serkong Tsenshab Rinpoche on the right.
High lamas in France September 2016
5 months ago
High lamas in France September 2016
༧གོང་ས་ཆེན་པོ་སྐུ་འཕྲེང་བཅུ་བཞི་པ་མཆོག་དང་རྡོ་རྗེ་ཤུགས་ལྡན། - Interesting relationship between 14th Dalai Lama and Dorje Shugden:   http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?p=109757
5 months ago
༧གོང་ས་ཆེན་པོ་སྐུ་འཕྲེང་བཅུ་བཞི་པ་མཆོག་དང་རྡོ་རྗེ་ཤུགས་ལྡན། - Interesting relationship between 14th Dalai Lama and Dorje Shugden: http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?p=109757
Dalai Lama Says We Can Practise Dorje Shugden Finally! Read more on this development--- http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?p=109777
5 months ago
Dalai Lama Says We Can Practise Dorje Shugden Finally! Read more on this development--- http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?p=109777
More time spent in dharma work is more karma collected to be happy and more time spent in non-dharma works is more karma collected to be unhappy.~Tsem Rinpoche
5 months ago
More time spent in dharma work is more karma collected to be happy and more time spent in non-dharma works is more karma collected to be unhappy.~Tsem Rinpoche
All Dorje Shugden prophesizes will come to pass,
 Those who generate refuge and merits will trust, 
 By trusting one will see the good results of his pronouncements,
 By seeing the good results, one\'s path becomes more clear, 
 The path of practice, purification and siddhic results, 
 This would eliminate the samsara within our minds.
 ~Tsem Rinpoche
5 months ago
All Dorje Shugden prophesizes will come to pass, Those who generate refuge and merits will trust, By trusting one will see the good results of his pronouncements, By seeing the good results, one's path becomes more clear, The path of practice, purification and siddhic results, This would eliminate the samsara within our minds. ~Tsem Rinpoche
Large Dorje Shugden statue built by the 5th Dalai Lama and housed in Trode Khangsar. Sock Wand and Mdm Chuah took this picture in Lhasa, Tibet 2016
5 months ago
Large Dorje Shugden statue built by the 5th Dalai Lama and housed in Trode Khangsar. Sock Wand and Mdm Chuah took this picture in Lhasa, Tibet 2016
Our own Kecharian Mdm. Chua with the oracle of Dorje Shugden Gen Tenzin Tsultrim in Lhasa, Tibet 2016
5 months ago
Our own Kecharian Mdm. Chua with the oracle of Dorje Shugden Gen Tenzin Tsultrim in Lhasa, Tibet 2016
Our very own Kecharian Mdm Chua standing in front of holy Trode Khangsar-the Chapel to Dorje Shugden built 400 years ago by the Great 5th Dalai Lama-Tibet 2016
5 months ago
Our very own Kecharian Mdm Chua standing in front of holy Trode Khangsar-the Chapel to Dorje Shugden built 400 years ago by the Great 5th Dalai Lama-Tibet 2016
Our very own Kecharian Mdm Chua standing in front of holy Gaden Monastery, Tibet 2016
5 months ago
Our very own Kecharian Mdm Chua standing in front of holy Gaden Monastery, Tibet 2016
                         This is the oracle of Dorje Shugden in Lhasa, Tibet. His name is Gen Tenzin Tsultrim of Sera Monastery in Tibet.
5 months ago
This is the oracle of Dorje Shugden in Lhasa, Tibet. His name is Gen Tenzin Tsultrim of Sera Monastery in Tibet.
Ms. Sock Wan, Oracle of Dorje Shugden in Tibet Gen Tenzin Tsultrim, Mdm Chuah and Mr. Tashi in Tibet 2016
5 months ago
Ms. Sock Wan, Oracle of Dorje Shugden in Tibet Gen Tenzin Tsultrim, Mdm Chuah and Mr. Tashi in Tibet 2016
Mahasiddha Kyabje Gangchen Rinpoche, H.H. Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and Ven. Rabten Choktrul Rinpoche 2016
5 months ago
Mahasiddha Kyabje Gangchen Rinpoche, H.H. Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and Ven. Rabten Choktrul Rinpoche 2016
His Eminence Mahasiddha Gangchen Rinpoche and the official oracle of Dorje Shugden Panglung Kuten Choji lah in Italy together September 2016
5 months ago
His Eminence Mahasiddha Gangchen Rinpoche and the official oracle of Dorje Shugden Panglung Kuten Choji lah in Italy together September 2016
My thoughts on Malaysia. Thank you. Tsem Rinpoche
5 months ago
My thoughts on Malaysia. Thank you. Tsem Rinpoche
Beautiful thangka of Vajra Yogini. Look at the details where she appears in visions and also takes people to Kechara.
5 months ago
Beautiful thangka of Vajra Yogini. Look at the details where she appears in visions and also takes people to Kechara.
Left to right:

His Holiness the Gaden Throne holder Jetsun Lungrik Namgyal, His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche (very young) and His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche in Gaden Shartse Prayer Hall during prayers.
5 months ago
Left to right: His Holiness the Gaden Throne holder Jetsun Lungrik Namgyal, His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche (very young) and His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche in Gaden Shartse Prayer Hall during prayers.
 It\'s nice when families support the spiritual journeys of their children. This is one beautiful family of Pastor Niral of Kechara
5 months ago
It's nice when families support the spiritual journeys of their children. This is one beautiful family of Pastor Niral of Kechara
Jog Falls a power place of Vajra Yogini and Heruka: http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?p=108652
5 months ago
Jog Falls a power place of Vajra Yogini and Heruka: http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?p=108652
Don\'t wait for the perfect group. Don\'t wait for the perfect person. Don\'t wait for the perfect situation. Don\'t expect yourself to be perfect. Don\'t even look for perfection at least in our realm as it does not exist or time will run out. Just get going and keep doing good. It\'s between you and yourself. Tsem Rinpoche
5 months ago
Don't wait for the perfect group. Don't wait for the perfect person. Don't wait for the perfect situation. Don't expect yourself to be perfect. Don't even look for perfection at least in our realm as it does not exist or time will run out. Just get going and keep doing good. It's between you and yourself. Tsem Rinpoche
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Videos On The Go

Please click on the images to watch video
  • [11/02/2017] Mumu darling is a very good boy.
    1 week ago
    [11/02/2017] Mumu darling is a very good boy.
  • [11/02/2017] Mumu wants to go bye bye!
    1 week ago
    [11/02/2017] Mumu wants to go bye bye!
  • [11/02/2017] I love you mumu boy
    1 week ago
    [11/02/2017] I love you mumu boy
  • [11/02/2017] Mumu and Oser eating together.
    1 week ago
    [11/02/2017] Mumu and Oser eating together.
  • Great spiritual rock carving in Tibet
    1 month ago
    Great spiritual rock carving in Tibet
  • You will Never be Ready
    2 months ago
    You will Never be Ready
    Dear friends, watch this video and ready, if we keep waiting till we are ready, that day will never come. Tsem Rinpoche
  • Stop asking for Easy
    2 months ago
    Stop asking for Easy
    This video is powerful because it's the truth. It applies to anything. It applies to our dharma practice. Watch the video and share it. Tsem Rinpoche
  • Must Watch this Video!
    3 months ago
    Must Watch this Video!
  • Sacred Tibetan Incense - Nyimo County, Lhasa, Tibet
    4 months ago
    Sacred Tibetan Incense - Nyimo County, Lhasa, Tibet
  • Kyabje Denma Gonsa Rinpoche on Samaya
    4 months ago
    Kyabje Denma Gonsa Rinpoche on Samaya
    ཁྱེད་ཀྱི་བཀའ་སློབ་དོན་སྙིང་དེ།།གང་གི་རྣ་བར་བདུད་རྩི་མོད།།འོན་ཀྱང་འགའ་ཡི་རྣ་ལམ་དུ།། བྲག་ཆ་བཞིན་དུ་འགྱུར་སྲིད་མོད།། ཚང་མས་ཚར་རེ་གཟིགས་རོགས།། Kyabje Denma Gonsa Rinpoche telling people that it is important to have guru samaya. It use to be that way in the great monasteries. We should not create problems and schisms. If we want to practice a protector, then do so, if not it's okay, but don't make trouble. One should just practice the Buddha Dharma well. To do good practice. If you have faith in Dorje Shugden and trust all the way, he will definitely help you. But most important is to practice the dharma. This is his advice in short here. It's good to let more Tibetans hear this holy speech and appeal by this very senior Rinpoche. TR
  • His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Propitiating Protectors & Oracles
    4 months ago
    His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Propitiating Protectors & Oracles
    This was on FB and I came across it. His Holiness said in Tibetan institutions there is a lot of propitiating protector/oracles and this is not what Buddhism is about. So they are putting Nechung/Tema oracles within the video to say what is he talking about when he does it himself. This is confusing is the message to his people. TR
  • -
    4 months ago
    Look how this crab eats a cherry.. Incredible and cute... Never seen this before. They have feelings too. Tsem Rinpoche
  • This is Sarah. Do you have 30 seconds for her? Her life in just 30 seconds!
    5 months ago
    This is Sarah. Do you have 30 seconds for her? Her life in just 30 seconds!
  • See what is your fortune today!
    5 months ago
    See what is your fortune today!
  • Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche recites offering stanza to Dorje Shugden Septemeber 2016
    5 months ago
    Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche recites offering stanza to Dorje Shugden Septemeber 2016

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CHAT PICTURES

Pastor Chia solemnized a couple's marriage registration at Kechara House. Lucy Yap
yesterday
Pastor Chia solemnized a couple's marriage registration at Kechara House. Lucy Yap
On Sunday morning, we had an animal liberation event , in which we will save the lives of birds. Pastor Han Nee led a beautiful prayer before the birds were released. bit.ly/2ahl6Yv Lucy Yap
yesterday
On Sunday morning, we had an animal liberation event , in which we will save the lives of birds. Pastor Han Nee led a beautiful prayer before the birds were released. bit.ly/2ahl6Yv Lucy Yap
Kenny Loh from Ipoh has offered lights and incense on behalf of KISG before the start of our short Mother Tara retreat. So Kin Hoe (KISG)
2 days ago
Kenny Loh from Ipoh has offered lights and incense on behalf of KISG before the start of our short Mother Tara retreat. So Kin Hoe (KISG)
Through the blessings from Rinpoche, KISG has completed our short Mother Tara retreat today in Ipoh. So Kin Hoe (KISG)
2 days ago
Through the blessings from Rinpoche, KISG has completed our short Mother Tara retreat today in Ipoh. So Kin Hoe (KISG)
Join Self Defense Classes in Kechara Forest Retreat on Saturdays
2 days ago
Join Self Defense Classes in Kechara Forest Retreat on Saturdays
Lantern Festival Bazaar was one of the event organised by KSDS. Alice Tay, KSDS
3 days ago
Lantern Festival Bazaar was one of the event organised by KSDS. Alice Tay, KSDS
Light offering to Lama Tsongkhapa by the WOAH Campers. Alice Tay, KSDS
3 days ago
Light offering to Lama Tsongkhapa by the WOAH Campers. Alice Tay, KSDS
Teachers and children are enjoyed for being stayed together for 2D1N of WOAH Camp 2016. Alice Tay, KSDS.
3 days ago
Teachers and children are enjoyed for being stayed together for 2D1N of WOAH Camp 2016. Alice Tay, KSDS.
KSDS students were taken refuge before the lesson start. Alice Tay, KSDS
3 days ago
KSDS students were taken refuge before the lesson start. Alice Tay, KSDS
Fun time in self-defense section during Woah Camp 2016. Alice Tay, KSDS
3 days ago
Fun time in self-defense section during Woah Camp 2016. Alice Tay, KSDS
Dharma sharing with Pastor David Lai about the Secret of Relationships i Wisdom Hall
3 days ago
Dharma sharing with Pastor David Lai about the Secret of Relationships i Wisdom Hall
Group picture of KSDS team upon completion of Graduation 2016. Lin Mun KSDS
3 days ago
Group picture of KSDS team upon completion of Graduation 2016. Lin Mun KSDS
Students from SRJK (C) Bukit Tinggi making khata offering to Rinpoche in KFR. Lin Mun KSDS
3 days ago
Students from SRJK (C) Bukit Tinggi making khata offering to Rinpoche in KFR. Lin Mun KSDS
Winners of the Riddles contest part 1 during the recent Grand Dorje Shugden Puja. Lin Mun KSDS
3 days ago
Winners of the Riddles contest part 1 during the recent Grand Dorje Shugden Puja. Lin Mun KSDS
Teacher Kien and teacher Jenni leading the Mitsegma recitation before the start of Sunday Dharma class. Lin Mun KSDS
3 days ago
Teacher Kien and teacher Jenni leading the Mitsegma recitation before the start of Sunday Dharma class. Lin Mun KSDS
Teacher Grace briefing the students on the activity during WOAH camp 2016. Lin Mun KSDS
3 days ago
Teacher Grace briefing the students on the activity during WOAH camp 2016. Lin Mun KSDS
Dharma Talk tomorrow Saturday in Kechara Forest Retreat with Pastor David Lai - join us!
4 days ago
Dharma Talk tomorrow Saturday in Kechara Forest Retreat with Pastor David Lai - join us!
May the students of Kechara Sunday Dharma School be equipped with Buddha Dharma that can guide them through the manmade world and be protected by the Three Jewels always. Stella, KSDS
1 week ago
May the students of Kechara Sunday Dharma School be equipped with Buddha Dharma that can guide them through the manmade world and be protected by the Three Jewels always. Stella, KSDS
Teacher Jayce leading the mantra chanting for KSDS senior student class. Stella, KSDS
1 week ago
Teacher Jayce leading the mantra chanting for KSDS senior student class. Stella, KSDS
Kechara Sunday Dharma School focuses on giving bite size dharma to children and young adults. Stella, KSDS
1 week ago
Kechara Sunday Dharma School focuses on giving bite size dharma to children and young adults. Stella, KSDS
KSDS senior students listening patiently to Dharma sharing by Teacher Lin Mun. Stella, KSDS
1 week ago
KSDS senior students listening patiently to Dharma sharing by Teacher Lin Mun. Stella, KSDS
Kechara Sunday Dharma School youngest class led by Teacher Zhen Yue. Stella, KSDS
1 week ago
Kechara Sunday Dharma School youngest class led by Teacher Zhen Yue. Stella, KSDS
Yr 2 Lamrim class in session in Kechara House, sharing on the greatness of the Dharma that is the Lamrim.PHanNee
1 week ago
Yr 2 Lamrim class in session in Kechara House, sharing on the greatness of the Dharma that is the Lamrim.PHanNee
Brochures of Dorje Shugden were distributed to Ms. Kiang's family for blessing and protection. So Kin Hoe (KISG)
1 week ago
Brochures of Dorje Shugden were distributed to Ms. Kiang's family for blessing and protection. So Kin Hoe (KISG)
Ms. Kiang's brothers and her son were here at Gunung Lang, Ipoh for the animals liberation activity today. So Kin Hoe (KISG)
1 week ago
Ms. Kiang's brothers and her son were here at Gunung Lang, Ipoh for the animals liberation activity today. So Kin Hoe (KISG)
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Dorje Shugden
Click to watch my talk about Dorje Shugden....