This could seem to you as a paid ad – but it is not. It is my first post on something I was introduced to in September 2010 and has enchanted me since then: Thangka Art. This I encountered through my dear friend and guide to Nepal, Jagat Lama. Jagat brought me to meet Lama Tsonamgel, his brother-in-law and one of the founders of Tushita Heaven Handicrafts.
And yes, the handicrafts are heavenly indeed. Right by the main gate of the Bouddhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, this cooperative of Thangka artists takes art students through several years of rigorous training so that they can produce work that is loyal to the technique, knowledge and philosophy of this exquisite and ancient Buddhist art tradition. Many of these students are Tamang youth, who might not have had the opportunity to receive such high quality training elsewhere.
Here is Lama Tsonamgel, explaining the concepts of samsara, nirvana and bodhisattva, through a magnificent wheel of life. Having been in some form of education-related job all my life, I was impressed by his statement that “Every human being is a potential Buddha”. Learning from Lama Tsonamgel about Thangka Art is a treat and a privilege. A former Buddhist monk-in-training, he first learned to paint from his father, at 8 years of age. As the tradition requires, he is not only able to create the intricate beauty of Thangka, but also has a deep understanding of the myths, symbols and concepts expressed through this art. His Master’s degree thesis was A Study on Hevajra Iconography of Vajrayana Buddhism, exploring the symbols in the Hevajra tantra, which depicts the union of Wisdom and Compassion. Without further ado:
If this fascinates you as much as it does me, here’s where to go for more: