Thangka Painting Remains Important Art Form for Central Asian Buddhists

December 18, 2005

Source: The Buddhist Channel/The Star,2080,0,0,1,0

On December 18, 2005 The Star reported, "It isn’t easy to be a thangka painter. Traditionally, you can’t create thangkas for sale. And you can’t deviate from form and colour set down centuries ago Born of a deeply embedded spirituality in the lives of Tibetans, thangkas are supposed to embody the painter’s spirituality, giving every piece a personal touch that can reach out beyond the canvas with a sense of the mystical. These painted representations of Buddhist deities were first developed as a way for nomadic travellers in Tibet to carry and keep images of the divine with them. Thangkas are now an integral part of Buddhist practice in Central Asia, claiming as prominent a place as statues of the Buddha... In fact, because so much of the thangka tradition comes from a spiritual background, the actual painting of it forms a spiritual practice in itself. Tibetan Lama Tsem Tulku Rinpoche, of the renowned Gaden Monastery in India, has long studied and collected thangkas. Currently residing in Malaysia, Tulku was happy to explain what thangkas from the Tibetan perspective: 'These visual depictions are representations of the enlightened mind. It’s like a visual scripture with paint and colour giving the full "instructions" and "roadmap" to enlightenment.'"