Traditional Art – Buddhist Thangka

 

Very likely one of the oldest Buddist symbols, the Wheel of Life is a popular theme in traditional Tibetan Buddhist art and it is known as the Thangka. Historically this highly skilled art form is commissioned for both spiritual and mundane matters, such as aiding the sick,  or to gain merit during commemoration of religious events.

At one time, Buddhist monks used to draw beautiful and complex mandalas on the ground, using colored sand. Once the Mandala was completed, it was removed as conclusion of the ritual, a strong symbol of the impermanence of reality.

 

patan Temple Katmandu

 

 

 

 

One of our treasured artistic possessions from a trip to Bhaktapur, in Nepal, is a Tibetan Buddhist Thankgka painted on silk, pictured below.

 

Buudhist art Apologies for the reflection on the image.

 

Thangkas are painted by the monks themselves, and the art form demands great mastery over drawing, as well as a high understanding of the geometric and iconographic principles within this style of traditional art.

Lamas and pilgrims would carry them in ceremonial processions and Thangkas were hung in monasteries as a way to display Buddhist teachings, in pictorial form.

Certain pictorial elements are outlined in 24 carat gold and are still considered an important method for studying and preserving the religion, history, culture and traditions of the Himalyan countries of Tibet, India and Nepal.

Here you can see the painstaking and long hours needed to produce this work of art:
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YyptY72-rk]

What do the Symbols Mean?

This art form is highly formalized typically seen as four or five concentric rings, or their symbolic equivalents, depicting the realms of existence associated with the journey towards enlightenment.

 

  • In the central ring, you will often find the intertwined images of a pig, a rooster, and a snake which symbolically depict the three “kleshas,” (mental states affecting actions), being ignorance, greed and aggression, called Samsara. These three states characterize the world of suffering and dissatisfaction.The snake and bird can be seen coming out of the mouth of the pig, indicating that anger and attachment arise from ignorance. At the same time the snake and the bird grasp the tail of the pig, indicating that they both promote even greater ignorance.

 

  • Half of the second ring depicts light, showing contented people moving upwards to higher states, possibly to the higher realms whilst the remaining half-circle, (usually dark), shows people in a miserable state being led downwards to lower states, or realms. These images represent karma, the law of cause and effect. The light half-circle indicates people experiencing the results of positive actions, the dark indicating negative action.

Propelled by their karma, beings take rebirth in the six realms of Samsara, as shown in the next ring.

 

  • The outer rim of the wheel is often divided into twelve section.  Whilst the three inner layers display the three poisons that lead to karma, and the suffering of the six realms, the twelve links in the outer rim show how this can happen. This is reference to cause and effect, or karma, over several lifetimes, demonstrating our current life and how our past lives and our present action influence us and our future.
  • The outer area contains decorative floral motifs and mythical animals, which were elements introduced into Buddhist painting in the mid – twentieth century by Newar artists of the Kathmandu valley.

 

 

  • Surrounding the wheel is either Mara, the fearsome demon who tempted Buddha, or Lord ‘Yama’, the Lord of Death, with his tiger skin hanging beneath the wheel, (indicating fearsome- ness), and it is he, who holds the wheel of life in his hands. Regardless of which figure is depicted, it represents impermanence and the transient nature of existence; everything within this wheel is constantly changing. The four limbs, (that clutch the wheel) symbolize the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness, and death.

By contemplating on the twelve sections of the outer ring, one gains greater insight into karma and this insight enables us to begin to unravel our habitual way of thinking and reacting.

  • The twelve outer sections, paired with their corresponding symbols, are:

lack of knowledgea blind person, often walking, or a person peering out

constructive volitional activitya potter shaping a vessel or vessels

consciousnessa man or a monkey grasping a fruit

name and form (constituent elements of mental and physical existence) – two men afloat in a boat

six senses (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind) – a dwelling with six windows

contactlovers consorting, kissing, or entwined

painan arrow to the eye

thirsta drinker receiving drink

graspinga man or a monkey picking fruit

coming to bea couple engaged in intercourse, a standing, leaping, or reflective person***

being bornwoman giving birth

old age and deathcorpse being carried

*** The images of the couple lying together in a sexual union, we were told, was never intended to be pornographic, but rather to excite and increase the potency of fertility, especially for males! Devotees consider all creation begins with the sacred union of male and female energies. To experience the pure creative passion between man and woman they believe; to know unconditional love, is to manifest the body, mind, and spirit of a Buddha.

Something traditional to Ponder About

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Monday Mystery Photo – Last time Nepal

Each Monday, I post a mystery photo, or occasionally a mystery object. I invite you to leave a comment if you think you know the location of this week’s photograph, (posted above). If you guess correctly, I will link back to your blog when the answer is revealed the following week.

Here is this week’s mystery object:

mmp close up May1 2017
Can you guess what this is?

*N.B. If your comment/guess isn’t showing immediately, it is because comments are released on the following Thursday or Friday of the week the Monday Mystery photo, is posted. That way, everyone gets a chance to guess, without peeking at any of the previous guesses.

Last Week’s Photo:

mmpmadhavpooja last
Last week’s photo – NEPAL

Last week’s photo from Nepal, was submitted by Pooja of the worthwhile visiting blog:  Stories from Europe . Pooja’s photo was, in fact, located at the street view adjacent to Boudhanath Stupa, or Shrine, in Kathmandu.

“Believed to have been built in the 14th century, Boudhanath was shaken by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake in April 2015 that killed almost 9,000 people and displaced millions. Its sprawling white stupa, topped with four pairs of hypnotic eyes that stare out across the capital was largely spared, but the gold spire that sits atop the dome was severely damaged.” [Source: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/nov/22/nepals-earthquake-hit-boudhanath-stupa-reopens-after-restoration-private-donations]

I received a raft of very good guesses for Pooja’s photo, and those who were correct included:

Mel & Suan from Travelling Matters

Tara from After the Rain

Master of Something Yet

The Snow Melts Somewhere

New Guest contributors to Monday Mystery Photos, are ALWAYS very welcome. Please flick me an email if you’d like to submit a photo to the Monday Mystery Feature. You will find my email by hovering over my Gravatar and clicking on ‘Complete Profile.’

Monday Mystery

Monday Mystery Photo – Always Something to Ponder About

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Proverbial Thursday – Global Words of Wisdom

Aoraki

I find there to be profound wisdom in proverbs, sayings and quotes and I marvel at the way they are so succinct in communicating messages to the reader. Mostly anonymous, they come to us from past generations and from across cultures. They speak of the experiences of lives lived and lessons learned. Quotes, like proverbs, make us think more deeply about something.

Each Thursday, I post a Proverb or Saying and a Quote that I find thought-provoking. 

I hope you think so too.

proverbial-thurs

You can’t wake a person who is pretending to be asleep –

Navajo Proverb

“And this is what really counts, not just achieving things, but the advantage you have taken of your opportunities and the opportunities you created. Each of us has to discover his own path, of that I am sure. Some paths will be spectacular and other peaceful and quiet and who is to say which is the most important? For me the most rewarding moments have not always been the great moments, for what can surpass a tear on your departure, joy on your return, or a trusting hand in yours? Most of all, I am thankful for the tasks still left to do – for the adventure still lying ahead”  –

Sir Edmund Hilary

Lunch with Edmund Hilary at 760 metres at MT Cook /Aoraki

I may be with the statue of the great mountaineer, here, but as a young child, I was fortunate enough to have him visit our school,  shortly after his  successful assault on Mt Everest. Hilary was someone who contributed to many and various social projects in Nepal, and maintained close relationships with the country and the people, all throughout his life.  This is Nepal. It touches one’s soul, and one can never completely eradicate the desire to one day, return again.

I think Hilary’s words are profound and inspiring to a younger generation for whom the conquest of the world’s highest mountain is merely not if it will be done, but how many will succeed.

What do you make of his words?

Is the Navajo quote referring to something deeper or merely pretense?

Lunch with Edmund Hilary at 760 metres at MT Cook /AorakiThat is Something to Ponder About

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Monday Mystery Photo – Last Week Nepal

Each Monday I post a mystery photo, or occasionally a mystery object on my blog. I encourage you to leave a comment, if you think you might know where this week’s mystery photo, was taken. If you guess correctly, I will credit you the following week and post a link to your site/blog. Guest contributions are always welcome.

This week’s fabulous photo, comes from guest contributor:  A Momma’s View  and is shown below.

Where in the World is the photograph taken? Can you guess?

from a momma's view mar 15
Source: https://amommasview.wordpress.com/

Last week Tara guessed we were in Sri Lanka, whilst Gerard thought it was Burma, but Drake at Ledrakenoir, was ‘on the money’, as we were in Nepal, at the 17th century DakshinKali Temple, located some 22 kilometers south of Kathmandu.

In Nepali, Dakshin means South and Kali the name of the Hindu goddess, so this temple is dedicated to the goddess Kali, of the South. This area, itself, is prone to flooding and many structures are washed away in the regions’ annual monsoon season. Each time the temple is re-built a little bigger and better. Rhododendron blossoms are seen in this area in March and April. During my visit, I was offered a beautiful flower by a young boy, who passed it to me through the car window, as I was leaving one day. It was a simple and kind gesture, and no doubt he was hoping to exchange it for a monetary tip. But our guide encouraged us not to give out money to the children telling us it promoted begging. The flower itself, was unfortunately filled with quite a few little crawling bugs which scuttled out on to the floor of our car!!! Our poor driver might have got a nasty surprise!

There is a strong belief in the ability of Kali, this Hindu goddess, who according to legend, killed a demon and drank the fresh blood of animals, in order to make wishes come true. People from all walks of life come here, to make their wishes and sacrifice animals, particularly roosters and un-castrated male goats to Kali. On Tuesdays and Saturdays and during the festival of “Dashain,” the court yard, of the temple, is covered with blood and the image of the Goddess Kali bathed also with the blood. Our Nepali guide urged us to visit early, as the later we arrived, the more chance we might miss the sacrifices! We arrived in time to see a family sacrificing a goat by cutting its throat in the traditional way.

 mmphotofeb23i[Photo source:http://www.tigertreknepal.com%5D

It is said that DAKSINKALI came to an existence after goddess KALI herself appeared in the dream of a Malla king, the ruler of 14th century. Goddess Kali then commanded the king to build a temple in her honour, in a unknown place. As the command was about to be followed, a person announced her already had  a stone image of the goddess Kali, in the same place where the goddess had commanded the King to build the temple. The image was then left open to the elements, as she had commanded. Over her head a gilded canopy was kept erect with four golden serpents.
For more information on visiting Dhakshinkali and Nepal :

http://www.annapurnatreksexpedition.com/nepal/nepal-sightseeing-places.html

http://www.tigertreknepal.com

Monday Mystery

Monday Mystery Photos are Something to Ponder About

 

 

Monday Mystery Photo – Where in the World are We Today?

Each Monday I post a photo from a location around the world.

If you think you know the location of this photograph, please leave a comment and if you are correct, I will link back to your blog the following week.

Last week we were in Kathmandu, Nepal, or more precisely, Patan, a city that lies 5 kilometres outside Kathmandu proper. This is thankfully, is a World heritage site that gives Nepal some sorely needed foreign currency in the form of tourist dollars. As for the name of the temple, I am not sure. I visited this place in 1985 so whether it is Mul Chowk or Taleju Bhawani Temple – perhaps some one can tell me? I do know that the many armed wrathful blue figures are extraordinary carving in wood. And it was the seat of the Royal Nepalese court and the Malla kings: who reigned over the so called Golden age of Nepal for many centuries. Some parts of the temple complexes on Durbar square are Hindu sites and as such, photography is not allowed. This temple, being Buddhist allowed photographs.

temples temples patan1

This country should really be on everyone’s to do list. It really is a very different and unique travel destination, and I have maintained very special links with this country ever since. Nepal touches your soul….

As for the Monday Mystery: Christopher over at Something for Pok came close when he thought the photographs were from India, but most Nepalese would incarnate as a many-armed wrathful figure, if one was to suggest that to them!! That is something for the Nepalese to ponder about.