Category Archives: Tibet

The Tibetan Book of Proportions

13086233095_32e18f1e88_bThe Public Domain Review offers a series of images from “an eighteenth-century pattern book consisting of 36 ink drawings showing precise iconometric guidelines for depicting the Buddha and Bodhisattva figures.”

Original text at the Getty.

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Tibetan Buddhist Monks Return to Asia Society to Sand Mandala and Present Music and Dance

Joel Luks

Joel Luks

by SARAH HUA
25 May 2016

Houston, Texas, May 25, 2016—Asia Society Texas Center is pleased to welcome back to Houston the Tibetan Buddhist monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery. From August 18-21, the monks will construct a sand mandala and perform ceremonies in the Center’s Louisa Stude Sarofim Gallery. During this ritual, millions of grains of sand are painstakingly laid into place in order to purify and heal the environment and its inhabitants.

Last year’s mandala creation and ceremonies drew more than 3,300 visitors to Asia Society Texas Center. New to this year’s program is a special sacred music and dance performance on Saturday, August 20. The monks will draw from ancient Tibetan traditions to perform multiphonic chanting, music, and dance.

Admission to the special exhibition and its related activities (with exception to Saturday’s evening performance) is free and open to the public. Asia Society Texas Center is located at 1370 Southmore Boulevard in Houston’s Museum District.

Gallery Hours and Admission

The exhibition and its related events are free and open to the public. The gallery will be open during the following times for the public to watch the monks create the mandala:

Gallery Hours and Admission

The exhibition and its related events are free and open to the public. The gallery will be open during the following times for the public to watch the monks create the mandala:

Thursday, August 18, 12 pm – 6 pm (Opening Ceremony starts at 12 pm)

Friday, August 19, 10 am – 6pm

Saturday, August 20, 10 am – 7pm* (Community mandala activity throughout the day)

Sunday, August 21, 10 am – completion (Closing Ceremony starts at 3 pm)

*The monks will be working on the sand mandala from 10 am to 6 pm on Saturday, August 20. The gallery will remain open until 7 pm for visitors to view the sand mandala.

Special Events

Opening Ceremony | Thursday, August 18, 12 pm | FREE Admission

The mandala sand painting begins with an opening ceremony, during which the lamas consecrate the site and call forth the forces of goodness through chanting, music, and mantra recitation. The lamas then begin the painting by drawing an outline of the mandala on a wooden platform. In the following days, they lay the colored sands using a traditional metal funnel called a chakpur.

Sacred Music Sacred Dance for World Healing | Saturday, August 20, 7 pm | Ticketed

Robed in magnificent costumes and playing traditional Tibetan instruments, the Drepung Loseling monks perform ancient temple music and dance intended to kindle world healing. The Loseling monks are particularly renowned for their multiphonic chanting known as zokkay (complete chord). Each of the main chantmasters simultaneously intones three notes, thus each individually creating a complete chord.

Closing Ceremony | Thursday, August 21, 3 pm | FREE Admission

The monks will dismantle the mandala on Sunday, August 21 at 3 pm, sweeping up the colored sands to symbolize the impermanence of life. Half of the sands will be distributed to the audience at the closing ceremony, while supplies last, and the remainder will be deposited into a natural body of water.

About Mandala Sand Paintings

This artistic tradition of Tantric Buddhism, painting with colored sand, ranks as one of the most unique and exquisite. Millions of grains of sand are painstakingly laid into place on a flat platform over a period of days or weeks to form the image of a mandala. To date, the monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery have created mandala sand paintings in more than 100 museums, art centers, and colleges and universities in the United States and Europe.

Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning sacred cosmogram. These cosmograms can be created in various media, such as watercolor on canvas, wood carvings, and so forth. However, the most spectacular and enduringly popular are those made from colored sand.

In general, all mandalas have outer, inner, and secret meanings. On the outer level they represent the world in its divine form; on the inner level they represent a map by which the ordinary human mind is transformed into enlightened mind; and on the secret level they depict the primordially perfect balance of the subtle energies of the body and the clear-light dimension of the mind. The creation of a sand painting is said to effect purification and healing on these three levels.

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“Lions and Elephants in Tibet, Eighth to Ninth Centuries”

A recently posted article by Amy Heller.

 

Preview: A Shrine for Tibet, Alice Kandell, and the World, Carlos Museum’s “Doorway to an Enlightened World”

A Shrine for Tibet Photo courtesy of The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. From The Alice S. Kandell Collection. A Shrine for Tibet Photo courtesy of The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. From The Alice S. Kandell Collection.

A Shrine for Tibet; Photo courtesy of The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. From The Alice S. Kandell Collection.

 

 

ArtsAtl.com
March 21, 2016
By JON CILIBERTO

The now anachronistic Western fantasy of traveling to the remote, mysterious East and discovering ancient wisdom there has been largely demystified. It’s a fiction undercut by political theory, easy international travel, the Internet and warfare in many of the places long considered by the West repositories of secret truths: Unceasing violence makes it hard to imagine the present lands of ancient Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia and Tibet as Shangri-La.

That the “Orient” is a dream of the West does not, of course, mean that there is not value in the exchange of cultures. Scholar Robert Thurman describes the prime purpose of Tibet for the past twelve or so centuries as the transmission of Buddhist teaching, thus bringing qualities of compassion and wisdom to, first, Tibet’s warlike neighbors, and eventually the entire world. Emory’s Carlos Museum presents just such a transmission in its upcoming exhibition Doorway to an Enlightened World: The Tibetan Shrine from the Alice S. Kandell Collection (March 19 – November 27, 2016).

Alice S. Kandell’s initial visit in the 1960s to the then-Himalayan kingdom Sikkim was so framed by the exotically Oriental that she doubted her Harvard professors would grant her leave to go. Some years prior, her friend Hope Cooke had met and married a Sikkimese Prince, and Kandell traveled to the kingdom for Cooke’s coronation as Queen.

Kandell, a child psychologist, photographer and philanthropist, fell in love with Sikkim, took over 10,000 photographs and published two books about the region. She also began collecting Buddhist art. Her first encounter with Buddhist shrines was overpowering and would form the basis of her future experience of Buddhist art.

Shakyamuni Buddha in a Full Shrine Qing; probably Dolonnor Second half of the 18th to early 19th century Silver repoussé image with turquoise urna; flora mandorla with leaves of gilt copper and flowers of silver with coral and mother-of-pearl; a solid cast garuda bird at the peak; heavily gilded bronze lotus seat and base with inset turquoise, coral, and lapis lazuli; base sealed with a copper plate incised with a double vajra; contents inside.

Shakyamuni Buddha in a Full Shrine Qing; probably Dolonnor Second half of the 18th to early 19th century Silver repoussé image with turquoise urna; flora mandorla with leaves of gilt copper and flowers of silver with coral and mother-of-pearl; a solid cast garuda bird at the peak; heavily gilded bronze lotus seat and base with inset turquoise, coral, and lapis lazuli; base sealed with a copper plate incised with a double vajra; contents inside. Photo courtesy of The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. From The Alice S. Kandell Collection.

Shakyamuni Buddha in a Full Shrine
Qing; probably Dolonnor
Second half of the 18th to early 19th century
Silver repoussé image with turquoise urna; flora mandorla with leaves of gilt copper and flowers of silver with coral and mother-of-pearl; a solid cast garuda bird at the peak; heavily gilded bronze lotus seat and base with inset turquoise, coral, and lapis lazuli; base sealed with a copper plate incised with a double vajra; contents inside.
Photo courtesy of The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. From The Alice S. Kandell Collection.

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Nuns Learn to Preserve and Protect Monastery Treasures

2016.02.24from the website of the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa
2016.02.24

Hotel Anand International, Bodhgaya, Bihar
24-26 February, 2016

“It is of great concern to me that over the last sixty years so much of the priceless heritage of Tibetan Buddhism has vanished, not just through theft and deterioration, but because of lack of knowledge and skill in preservation. Over the last twenty years alone far too many irreplaceable works of art such as thangkas, statues, dance costumes, texts, and other sacred artifacts have been lost to future generations.” – His Holiness 17th Gyalwang Karmapa

At the request of the Gyalwang Karmapa, a group of 17 nuns representing all eight Karma Kagyu nunneries completed an intensive three-day training to learn techniques for documenting and preserving the treasures owned by their nunneries, such as statues, thangkas, and texts. In addition, the nuns learned to interview and video-document elders about the history and significance of various treasures; the elders are in many cases the sole holders of this knowledge. The training took place at a hotel close to Tergar Monastery in Bodhgaya, following the completion of the Kagyu Monlam.

The program was organized and funded by the Kun Kyong Charitable Trust, of which the Karmapa is the primary patron. The trust began offering annual workshops for nuns last year, with the aim of teaching them skills that will help them to uphold the dharma. Last year’s workshop was on communication and leadership. An emphasis in this year’s training was also preparing the nuns to teach and share the information on treasure preservation with others at their nunneries. For example, two or three nuns were required to present their work after every group activity. Even over three days, the nuns’ confidence in standing up in front of a group and giving a presentation improved dramatically.

The director and lead instructor of the training, Ann Shaftel, became an expert in sacred art preservation at the advice of the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, who told her “preservation of Buddhist paintings and statues is your Dharma work for this lifetime.” That advice propelled Shaftel to receive two graduate degrees and to eventually hold advanced international standing in the field of Art Conservation. During this time she has worked with dozens of monasteries and art museums to preserve sacred Buddhist tangible culture. She also developed this Treasure Caretaker Training—normally offered as a 10-day workshop—for training monks and nuns to become leaders in the preservation of their monastery collections.

One of the main skills the nuns learned in the training was how to create digital documentation of all the treasures in their nunnery, including those in shrine rooms and storerooms. This means taking photographs (using their mobile phones) and creating notes regarding condition, dimensions, artist, how it is used in the monastery, and other details, for each piece. This information can be used to create a digital inventory, which most monasteries do not yet have. In the case they have difficulty getting access or using the technology, Shaftel also taught the nuns how to draw images and take notes on paper about each piece. “Better to have some documentation than no documentation,” she told them. However, with mobile phones being fairly ubiquitous now, and the hands-on experience they received through the training, the nuns seemed eager and capable of creating digital documentation at their nunneries.

Notably the favorite part of the workshop for the nuns was learning how to interview elders about their treasures. The nuns took turns interviewing each other about their precious treasures (imagination was involved), while filming each other with their phones. Part of the interview training included making the elder comfortable and offering tea, and making sure to get their permission to film and share their stories. While this part of the workshop involved much laughter and fun, the training is critical for saving many stories passed through an oral tradition regarding the history and meaning of many sacred artifacts. Continue reading

Lecture: An Archaeology of Tibetan Buddhism

MON, 2 MAY AT 16:00, GB, GB
An Archaeology of Tibetan Buddhism
By: Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit, Division of Social Anthropology

FREE REGISTER

For most westerners, Buddhism is timeless, and Tibet remote and romantic. For the
historical Buddha, his last words remind us of the impermanence of all things. For the
archaeologist, however, the material expression of Buddhism on the Tibetan Plateau
offers insights into the transformation and evolution of Buddhist thought as it encounters
indigenous, pre-Buddhist conceptions of landscape and religion, borrowings of
ritual from Central and East Asia, and the changing political fortunes of the emerging
Tibetan empire.

WHEN
Monday, 2 May 2016 from 16:00 to 17:30 (BST)

WHERE
McDonald Institute Seminar Room – Downing Street . Cambridge. CB2 3ER GB

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A Tibetan monk is communicating with the world through his stunning Instagram feed

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 7.51.58 PM
Will Haskell

Jul. 17, 2015, 3:28 PM 39,463 1

The life of a Buddhist monk is filled with study, meditation, and… Instagram?

That’s the case for @gdax, or Gedun Wangchuk. He’s a Buddhist monk living and Instagramming in Tibet, Huffington Post reports.

His account, first spotted by the blog Redbubble, depicts the beauty and peace of his daily life. Instagram itself appears to be the only outlet that’s been able to get in contact with the hard-to-track-down Wangchuk. They interviewed him for their blog.

Wangchuk’s account features shots of the Tibetan countryside, wildlife, his fellow monks, and places of worship. He even posts the occasional video.

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Take me to the cosmic vagina: inside Tibet’s secret tantric temple

 A detail from the murals in the private meditation chapel of the Lukhang Temple, in Lhasa, Tibet. They were painted c.1700 for the fifth Dalai Lama.

A detail from the murals in the private meditation chapel of the Lukhang Temple, in Lhasa, Tibet. They were painted c.1700 for the fifth Dalai Lama.

Lukhang temple is the Buddhist Sistine Chapel, full of stunning murals of body-hopping yogis and the vagina that gave birth to the world. It’s meant for the Dalai Lama’s eyes only – so how did a US photographer manage to share its secrets?

Emine Saner
@eminesaner

The Guardian
Tuesday 10 November 2015 10.12 EST

In the spring of 1986, Thomas Laird stood before the secret tantric paintings in the Lukhang temple of Lhasa, Tibet. The American photographer was one of the first westerners ever to enter, and the first to shoot inside this secret space created by the fifth Dalai Lama in the 17th century – and reserved for the private meditation of his successors.

“I was stunned by the colours: pink and gold and white and lapis,” he says of the murals that cover its walls. There were yogis demonstrating poses, 84 tantric masters, Buddhas, waterfalls, forests, animals and a vast number of symbols he couldn’t quite fathom. He was dazzled: “That afternoon had a huge impact on me.”

Twenty years later, Laird stood in a hotel in California showing his life-sized pictures of the murals to the Dalai Lama himself. The 14th Dalai Lama was exiled in 1959, and he was seeing them for the very first time. Laird had photographed them, then meticulously collated around 100 images into vast recreations that showed every last detail. The Dalai Lama stood before them, then turned to Laird. “OK,” he said, “now I’ll give you the commentary,” proceeding to talk him through their meanings. “At that moment,” says Laird, “it was like he was right there in the Lukhang with me.”

 The Lukhang Temple, Lhasa, c.1936. Photograph: Frederick Spencer Chapman/Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford

The Lukhang Temple, Lhasa, c.1936. Photograph: Frederick Spencer Chapman/Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford

This is the Tibetan Sistine Chapel … the whole Buddhist view of the world, in paintings
This month, Laird will bring his images from inside the temple to London, where they will form the centrepiece of a new show at Wellcome Collection called Tibet’s Secret Temple. This is the Tibetan Sistine Chapel, explains Laird: “The Sistine Chapel was painted by a great artist, commissioned by a pope and it tells us everything from God creating man to the resurrection. The whole world, as Christians viewed it, are there in images – and that’s what’s happening in the Lukhang.” Continue reading

Welcome art show to feature images of tantric Buddhism from secret Tibet temple

One of the objects to be featured at Wellcome's Tibet's Secret Temple show.Wellcome Collection/courtesy Ian Baker

One of the objects to be featured at Wellcome’s Tibet’s Secret Temple show.Wellcome Collection/courtesy Ian Baker

International Business Times
By Jayalakshmi K
November 11, 2015 07:46 GMT

An exhibition of never before seen Buddhist tantric images of 17th century murals, scrolls and ritual artefacts from a secret Tibetan temple will be displayed in London from 19 November to 28 February, 2016. Shot by American photographer Thomas Laird, the images include yogic poses, 84 tantric masters, Buddhas, scenic depictions, symbols and what Laird hints as the ‘cosmic vagina’, a detail representing the start of the universe.

The secret Lukhang temple in Lhasa has been termed the Buddhist equivalent of the Sistine Chapel with its images explaining creation through the Buddhist eye. The objects totalling over 120 will be featured at the Wellcome Collection show titled Tibet’s Secret Temple. Three of the murals from the temple have been recreated by Laird as life-sized digital artworks that form the centrepiece of the exhibition, says Wellcome.

Laird was the first to shoot pictures in 1986 inside the hidden room in the temple created by the fifth Dalai Lama for the private meditation of his successors, reports the Guardian. The present Dalai Lama, 14th in the line, hadn’t seen the images till Laird showed them to him 20 years later.

The meaning of the images was then explained to Laird by the Dalai Lama. These include secret practices in tantric Buddhism like a yogi transferring his spirit into a naked couple having sex, or enlightenment portrayed by a tiny crystal surrounded by a rainbow.

Laird sees the collection as a “map of the universe” which he stumbled upon in the 80s when exploring the temple on a small island on a lake. Laird who had settled down in Nepal later moved back to the US to learn technology to make huge, high-resolution recreations of the murals. By piecing together hundreds of frames from different exposures and printing them on transparencies, he was able to create the detailed images.

The co-curator of the Tibet exhibition, Ruth Garde, hopes the murals will challenge western preconceptions about Buddhism. “You come to it thinking it’s quite serene, tranquil: deep breathing and that kind of thing,” she said. “Tantric Buddhism is very different – the more radical and advanced yoga techniques are quite dangerous.”

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Chinese singer pursues music that heals

After visiting nearly 20 remote regions, Liang has collected over 100 rare musical instruments. (Photo courtesy of Liang Xu)

After visiting nearly 20 remote regions, Liang has collected over 100 rare musical instruments. (Photo courtesy of Liang Xu)

ecns.com

Beijing (ECNS) – Liang Xu, wearing a white linen shirt and striped drop-crotch pants, opened the trunk of his car and took out a round drum-like object.

He brought it into the room, sat cross-legged on a chair and started playing. The sound of the musical instrument created timbres that were soothing and rejuvenating.

“This is called Se Kong,” Liang told his friends who were listening. Along with those stored at home, Liang has collected over 100 ancient Chinese musical instruments that even those born in China can’t name.

After an arduous journey of 15 years to the remotest regions of the country, Liang, who has been dubbed the father of China’s new age music, has developed a genre of music that carries on thousands of years of Chinese folklore, some of which is on the brink of extinction.

Born in 1968 in Shaanxi province, Liang was a rock singer in his twenties. On a visit to a village, he was glued to a melody that calmed him as a rebellious young man. Since then, Liang has been a pioneer in new age music, which had hardly been touched upon in China.

“To me, new age music is inspired by nature and builds on the essence of traditional music of all tribes and ethnic groups, and can purify people’s souls and heal their wounds,” Liang said. “The difference is that my music is wholly oriental.” Continue reading