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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Proverbial Thursday – Global Wisdom

Proverbial thursdfly sml 3932

Proverbs and sayings often provide us with wise words from all corners of the world.  Best savoured a little at a time, these sayings are passed down from generation to generation. Each Thursday, I post a saying, or proverb and a quote that I find thought-provoking. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

 

The theme of this week’s wisdom is kindness.

“The best place to find a helping hand is at the end of your own arm”

– Swedish Proverb

You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late

 -Ralph Waldo Emerson

[Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet who led the transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century- Wiki.]

My Yoga teacher used to say that,

“Smiling was an art that comes from the heart and should be practised all the time.”

The kindest people I have met have had the loveliest, most genuine smiles. The heart may be the centre of love, but the smile is the centre of kindness!

Life may buffet and bruise us and although we put on a brave front, life experience and  hard knocks are indelibly etched on our faces, and especially on our smiles.

If someone can’t find a smile, give them one of yours. Light up their day!

 

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.

Kindness costs nothing, yet can make a world of difference.

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible!”  -Dalai Lama

 

The Swedish proverb seems to both reinforce and contradict this advice.

What do you think?

Join in the discussion by leaving a comment below.

 

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Proverbial Thursdays at Something to Ponder About

Proverbial Thursday

Proverbs and sayings often provide us with wise words from all corners of the world.  Best savoured a little at a time, these sayings are passed down from generation to generation. Each Thursday, I post a saying, or proverb and a quote that I find thought-provoking.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Roses

The quotes and proverbs I have chosen this week, relate to friendship.

That eternal concept that occupies much of our daily thoughts.

My daughter is having a crisis of sorts in her friendship group.

It is often complicated navigating adolescence with teenage girls.

 

 

The friends of our friends are our friends –

-Congolese Proverb

 

and this:

Promises may get friends, but ’tis performances that keep them –

Plutarch

(Thanks to the blogger Peggy for the book from which the quote came).

 

Friends come and go frequently in our life. They are often themed around where we live, what we do, hobbies and interests.

Sometimes friends can be unhelpful or hurtful leading one down a dangerous path. 

Fair weather friends are hard to understand.

Moreover, though, friendship is a beneficial experience.

Friends can help a person cope with extraordinary struggle and pain with a simple hug or a welcoming smile.

Friends reflect back society’s attitudes in a softer way, guiding us to where we have gone wrong.

Friends might let one down, but also reassure, entertain and teach.

Friends may live close by or far away..

Friends care.

Friends through Art

 

Why do we feel so heartbroken when a friendship collapses? Commonly, another friend may soon enters one’s life, and when this happens, we then have a wonderful opportunity to meet someone different. Someone with new perspectives and values.

Why, then, is it so hurtful to lose a friend?

What do you make of the proverb and quote for this week?

Join in the discussion by leaving a comment.

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Proverbial Thursday

Something to Ponder About

Proverbial Thursday – Global Wisdoms

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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.

This week, I present several quotes that are interconnected.

 

proverbial thursday

“Only when we fully embrace change, can you find the good in it.”

Dr Travis Bradbury

 

Stradbroke Island

“You do the thing you’re scared shit-less of and then you get your courage. Not before.

That’s the way it works” – [from The Three Kings]

 

Does courage really come secondary to actions? I feel one must have courage and fortitude to initiate a dangerous manoeuvre, to ignore and override those instincts of self-preservation.

What do you think?

 

But then, there is this:

“We cling to the views that are familiar to us” – unknown

 

 

Why do we cling to the familiar?

Because familiar viewpoints make us feel safe and more predictable?

Is our perspective of actions, a kind of spectrum, wherein at one end, we would sit within a bubble, or a cocoon, safe and never stretching ourselves, and the other, indulge in highly dangerous and risk taking behaviour, stepping completely out of our comfort zone? Some risk takers say that is when they feel most alive?

How do we achieve the middle ground? Is that where we would feel most satisfied and most alive, without dancing with death? 

 

The final word comes from Anais Nin: –

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

 

artsy photo

 

 

I would love to hear your thoughts on courage. Join in the discussion by leaving a comment.

 

Proverbial Thursday – Something to Ponder About

 

 

 

Proverbial Thursday – Global Wisdoms

I find 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.

 

If you are filled with pride, you won’t have room for wisdom.

African Proverb

 

 

Vigeland

 

 

I have always felt pride as an emotion, centered in the heart or chest, and wisdom to be centered in the head.

Can pride manifest in thoughts only, or does it always involve emotion?

 

We understand life backwards,

but have to live it forwards

– Kierkegaard

 

IMG_8594 (2)

 

What do you make of the Danish Philosopher, Kierkegaard’s comments?

Is this true for you?

Join in the discussion by leaving a comment below.

 

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Proverbial Thursday – Something wistful to Ponder About