Friday, February 4, 2011

White Tara- Finished

I finished my painting of White Tara last month. It's been a long year working on this project for ACTA but it's given me a new level of self-discipline. I've begun to feel myself on the path of the masters. My eyes have changed drastically over the period of this time. I remember years ago looking at Pema Namdol Thaye's book with utter amazement, thinking i will never attain that level of mastery but I can see myself being able to reproduce that level of quality in the upcoming years. Now when I look at a master's artwork, I focus in on tiny details that i want to learn how to create rather than just the dazzle of the overall composition.

I've recently begun my next project which is doing the Longchen Nyingthik lineage tree, completing individual paintings for each figure within the tree. Giving them all a voice for the next generation who may not understand their buddhist ancestors. It's going to be a long and difficult process. Tsherin wanted it to go concurrently with my 10 year Dharma Gar retreat with Dzongsar Jamyang Kyentse Norbu. There will be much to learn and master over this period but it is a fascinating challenge.

I'll be starting out with Vajrasattva since I've been doing that practice for a few months now, sculpting Vajrasattva and consort Vajratopa in my mind's eye every day as i chant the 100-syllable mantra. This will be the first thangka I create in which I've had a deeper practice connection so I'm curious what kind of inner teachings will arise from the act of painting.

With my daily meditation practice commitment, my mind is no longer the same either. It's evolving somehow... The slowing down that comes with 2-3 hrs of practice a day has really helped my thangka practice, especially in those moments of feeling stuck. When I'm doing Vajrasattva practice for an hour long period, I can't just stop when my mind doesn't want to focus and move on to something else. I have to go through it and come out the other end somehow. The same with painting... It used to be easy to just stop and pick up the next day but I've been trying to have a daily 2 hr commitment to this practice as well. And with that i have to forge ahead even if it means making mistakes. When I manifest Vajrasattva in my mind, some days he is clear and vibrant while other days I can barely see the lotus he is sitting on. But it is a recreation, an image not of Vajrasattva but a roadmap to his aspects. I've begun thinking of the thangkas in the same way. Even though I want this individual painting to be beautiful and accurate, it is just one manifestation. To perfect that image, a thangka painter has to have the devotion to recreate the same deity over and over again throughout their lifetime. The White Tara I created back in 2001 is miles away from what I made this past year but there is still a quality of devotion there.

A thought arose the other day after meditating and starring at my completed White Tara, even if i master Tsherin's style of New Mendri/Mendri thangka painting, I will still not have mastered the art form. How does one create modern road maps to the divine? My teacher Dzongsar Kyentse reminds us that when looking at a thangka to not get caught up in the static, frozen quality of the pose but to realize that there is a fluidity we are not seeing. When manifesting Vajrasattva in one's mind we look at the deity from all angles, spin around from various viewpoints in one's head. You can't get that from a painting, maybe a sculpture of a deity is more closer but it is still not accurate because in the mind you are vibrating seed syllables within the deity who is effervescent like the reflection of the moon in water. How can one help practitioners see this? I'm not sure of the answer but i know i have a long road ahead.


  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences about this process, i find it thoughtful and very inspiring. As a fellow-thangka painted, i really appreciate the discussions you are posting on this art form from the point of view of those of us attempting to bring this into our buddhist practice. :) Charlotte

  2. Thank you so much for posting. I have been looking for something like this.Home solar panels