About thangkas

What is a thangka
Images supporting Buddhist teachings and meditation are called thangkas.

Their formation
Scroll paintings have been known since the 3rd and 4th centuries. They appeared in Tibet in the 10th and 11th centuries after the teachings became known.

What do they represent?
- The historical Buddha Shakyamuni
- The bodhisattvas and their lives
- Yidams, dakas, dakinis, protectors, mandalas
- Accomplished masters
- From the 18th centuries on they also represent the cultural and social life of Tibet

Their birth
First the paintings attempted to depict images that appeared in the minds of masters with great experience and knowledge. Sometimes the master himself painted his own visions, experiences, sometimes a painter did it following the instructions of the master. This practice led to the strict iconography that characterizes today's thangkas.

Iconography
Since the Tibetan Buddha forms can be represented in hundreds of ways, the symbols, the colours, the gestures of the body and the hands were strictly coded so that the Buddha form depicted could be recognizable and identifiable.
For example, the same female Buddha form, when green, can represent efficient activity, while, in white, it represents all-embracing loving-compassion.

Their materials
Originally they were painted on canvas, later on silk as well. From the 15th and 16th centuries on embroidered thangkas appeared too. Today most thangkas are painted on paper. In the beginning the paints were made of materials acquired from plants and animals, according to secret recipies. Today ordinary paints are used.

How re they made?
The artist has to learn for decades, and has to study both the Dharma and the technicalities of painting before creating the first thangka. Before that one can paint only details or parts.
The actual painting activity is preceded by long, deep meditation. Then the canvas is stretched out, treated with chalk, gypsum, glue of animal origin, then burnished with shells. First the white colour are put on, then the lighter ones, gradually moving towards the darker ones. The last move is bringing the main figure of the painting to life. This is done by painting the pupils of the eyes.

The blessing
The thangka thus painted is taken to a monastery that belongs to the lineage of the master or to the lineage of the subject of the painting. Here a leading lama writes the mantra of the main image of the thangka to the back of the painting, at the place of the heart center of that figure. Then he blesses it in a ritual. This makes the thangka ALIVE.

The function of the thangka
On one hand, the thangka’s function is to help the one meditating recall the exact form of the object of the meditation, to help imagine it and remember it at any time of the day. On the other hand, the thangka can create a strong healing filed of energy at any place, so its owner can live one’s whole life within this atmosphere. Finally, it can also be seen as a valuable piece of art.

The scroll paintings shown at our web page represent the forms used within the Karma Kagyu Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, and they have all the qualities described above. Though they were made using 21st Century technologies, the motivation behind them and their meanings have not changed. Today there are only about a dozen authentic thangka painters, but their work is needed more than ever. This is why we have developed this technology of duplication, so that as many people may benefit the values carried by these paintings as possible.

In our times when life is faster and constantly changing, the need of permanent, unchanging values is getting stronger and stronger.

The methods of Tibetan Buddhism, and more specifically, those of the Diamond Way offer the possibility to develop the inner richness of our mind.

The methods of the Diamond Way can be divided into three groups. From the paths of devotion, consciousness and energy, it is the last that works with meditation on different Buddha forms. It is here that thangkas may be of help.

The nature of our mind has many characteristics beyond the personal level, which are represented by the various Buddha forms.

Since the forms visible in the paintings are not different from the ones appearing in reality, through the identification that takes place in meditation one can realize the qualities represented by them.

For the practices one needs empowerment by a qualified lama who can connect us with the stream of consciousness of the given Buddha.