A little bit about traditional Himalayan Tibetan thangka painting.
Thangka often overflow with symbolism and allusion. As the art is explicitly religious, all symbols and allusions must be in accordance with strict guidelines laid out in Buddhist scripture. The artist must be properly trained and have sufficient religious understanding, knowledge, and background to create an accurate and appropriate thangka. Tibetan art exemplifies the 'nirmanakaya', the physical body of Buddha, and also the qualities of the Buddha, perhaps in the form of a deity. Art objects, therefore, must follow rules specified in the Buddhist scriptures regarding proportions, shape, color, stance, hand positions, and attributes in order to personify correctly the Buddha or Deities.
The composition of a thangka, as with the majority of Buddhist art, is highly geometric. Arms, legs, eyes, nostrils, ears, and various ritual implements are all laid out on a systematic grid of angles and intersecting lines. A skilled thangka artist will generally select from a variety of items to include in the composition, ranging from alms bowls and animals, to the shape, size, and angle of a figure's eyes, nose, and lips. The process seems very methodical, but often requires deep understanding of the symbolism involved to capture the spirit of it.
At Samten Monastery, the caretaker monk Shri Pasang Lakpa Lama will guide the thangka artists toward a design that will include:
- the Lotus flower representing purity of the body, speech and mind as, while rooted in the mud, a lotus blossoms on long stalks as if floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire;
- Alligators representing prosperity and self sufficiency; and,
- Dragons as protectors of the temple.
This traditional art form is a living example of the Buddhist philosophy at work. By donating to our campaign not only will you forever be a part of the monastery's history, you will also contribute to ensuring this ancient art form continues into the future.