What is a thangka
Images supporting Buddhist teachings and meditation are called
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
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
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
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
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
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
For the practices one needs empowerment by a qualified lama who
can connect us with the stream of consciousness of the given Buddha.