Singing Bowl and Tingsha

About Singing Bowl

If we accept that sound is vibration and we know that vibration touches every part of our physical being, then we understand that sound is heard not only through our ears but through every cell in our bodies. One reason sound heals on a physical level is because it so deeply touches and transforms us on the emotional and spiritual planes. Sound can redress imbalances on every level of physiologic functioning and can play a positive role in the treatment of virtually any medical disorder.
June 23, 2018
Tara

Tara

Tara (Sanskrit, "star") is a Buddhist goddess and boddhisattva. She is characterized by her compassion and is especially popular in Tibet, Nepal and Mongolia.

In Tibet, where Tara is the most important deity, her name is Sgrol-ma, meaning "she who saves." The mantra of Tara (om tare tuttare ture svaha) is the second most common mantra heard in Tibet, after the mantra of Chenrezi (om mani padme hum).

The goddess of universal compassion, Tara represents virtuous and enlightened action. It is said that her compassion for living beings is stronger than a mother's love for her children. She also brings about longevity, protects earthly travel, and guards her followers on their spiritual journey to enlightenment.

Before she was adopted by Buddhism, Tara was worshipped in Hinduism as a manifestation of the goddess Parvati. The feminine principle was not venerated in Buddhism until the fourth century CE, and Tara probably entered Buddhism around the sixth century CE.

Origins of Tara

According to Buddhist tradition, Tara was born out of the tears of compassion of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. It is said that he wept as he looked upon the world of suffering beings, and his tears formed a lake in which a lotus sprung up. When the lotus opened, the goddess Tara was revealed.

A similar tradition has White Tara born from the tears of Avalokiteshvara's left eye and the Green Tara born from those of his right. In a third legend, Tara was born from a beam of blue light emanating from one of the eyes of Avalokiteshvara. Tara is also the consort of Avalokiteshvara.

Green Tara, with her half-open lotus, represents the night, and White Tara, with her lotus in full bloom, symbolizes the day. Green Tara embodies virtuous activity while White Tara displays serenity and grace. Together, the Green and White Taras symbolize the unending compassion of the goddess who labors day and night to relieve suffering.

In seventh-century Tibet, Tara was believed to be incarnated in every pious woman. She especially came to be associated with two historical wives of the first Buddhist king of Tibet, Srong-brtsan-sgam-po (d. 649). His wife from imperial China was said to be an incarnation of White Tara, while the king's Nepalese wife was an incarnation of Green Tara. It may be that the desire to regard both these pious women as incarnations of Tara led to the concept of the goddess's green and white forms.

Green Tara

Tara

Green Tara (Sanskrit: Syamatara; Tibetan: Sgrol-ljang), filled with youthful vigor, is a goddess of activity. She is the fiercer form of Tara, but is still a savior-goddess of compassion. She is the consort of Avalokiteshvara and considered by some to be the original Tara. Like Avalokiteshvara, the Green Tara is believed to be an emanation of the "self-born" Buddha Amitabha, and an image of Amitabha is sometimes depicted in Tara's headdress.

Green Tara is believed to have been incarnated as the Nepali wife of the Tibetan king Srong-brtsan-sgam-po. In Buddhism, the color green signifies activity and accomplishment. Thus Amoghasiddhi, the Lord of Action, is also associted with the color green.

Green Tara is iconographically depicted in a posture of ease and readiness for action. While her left leg is folded in the contemplative position, her right leg is outstretched, ready to spring into action. Green Tara's left hand is in the refuge-granting mudra (gesture); her right hand makes the boon-granting gesture. In her hands she also holds closed blue lotuses (utpalas), which symbolize purity and power. She is adorned with the rich jewels of a bodhisattva.

In Buddhist religious practice, Green Tara's primary role is savioress. She is believed to help her followers overcome dangers, fears and anxieties, and she is especially worshipped for her ability to overcome the most difficult of situations. Green Tara is intensely compassionate and acts quickly to help those who call upon her.

The iconography and role of Green Tara is illustrated in this medieval devotional hymn:

On a lotus seat, standing for realization of voidness, (You are) the emerald-colored, one-faced, two-armed Lady In youth's full bloom, right leg out, left drawn in, Showing the union of wisdom and art - homage to you! Like the outstretched branch of the heavenly turquoise tree, Your supple right hand makes the boon- granting gesture, Inviting the wise to a feast of supreme accomplishments, As if to an entertainment-homage to you! Your left hand gives us refuge, showing the Three Jewels; It says, "You people who see a hundred dangers, Don't be frightened-I shall swiftly save you!" Homage to you! Both hands signal with blue utpala flowers, "Samsaric beings! Cling not to worldly pleasures. Enter the great city of liberation!" Flower-goads prodding us to effort-homage to you! ---First Dalai Lama (1391-1474)

White Tara

Tara

White Tara (Sanskrit: Sitatara; Tibetan: Sgrol-dkar) is sometimes called the Mother of all Buddhas and she represents the motherly aspect of compassion. Her white color signifies purity, wisdom and truth.

In iconography, White Tara often has seven eyes – in addition to the usual two, she has a third eye on her forehead and one on each of her hands and feet. This symbolizes her vigilance and ability to see all the suffering in the world. The "Tara of Seven Eyes" is the form of the goddess especially popular in Mongolia.

White Tara wears silk robes and scarves that leave her slender torso and rounded breasts uncovered in the manner of ancient India. Like Green Tara, she is richly adorned with jewels.

White Tara is seated in the diamond lotus position, with the soles of her feet pointed upward. Her posture is one of grace and calm. Her right hand makes the boon-granting gesture and her left hand is in the protective mudra. In her left hand, White Tara holds an elaborate lotus flower that contains three blooms. The first is in seed and represents the past Buddha Kashyapa; the second is in full bloom and symbolizes the present Buddha Shakyamuni; the third is ready to bloom and signifies the future Buddha Maitreya. These three blooms symbolize that Tara is the essence of the three Buddhas.

In religious practice, White Tara is believed to help her followers overcome obstacles, espeically those that inhibit the practice of religion. She is also associated with longevity.

Other Taras

Tara is sometimes depicted in colors and forms other than green and white. Tibetan temple banners frequently show 21 different Taras, colored white, red, and yellow, and grouped around a central Green Tara. In her ferocious, blue form, invoked to destroy enemies, she is known as Ugra-Tara, or Ekajata; as a red goddess of love, Kurukulla; and as a protectress against snake bite, Janguli. The yellow Bhrkuti is an angry Tara.

In Japan, Tara is a bodhisattva called Tarani Bosatsu. The Japanese Tara embodies both the white and green forms of the Tibetan Tara, and is usually only found on mandalas and temple banners. She is pale green and holds a pomegranate (a symbol of prosperity) and a lotus. Tara is not often to be found in China.

April 06, 2018
Thangka explaining Life of Buddha Story

The Life Of Buddha

Tibetan thangkas are religious paintings on scroll. They serve as meditation aid or as a tool to teach aspects of Buddhism to a wide audience. Thangkas follow certain basic image patterns. One of these iconographic patterns is the story of the life of the historic Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama who lived circa 563 BC to 483 BC.

This article is about the major events of the life of the historical Buddha as it can be found on a thangka of this design type, simply called 'Buddhas Life'.

The Conception of Gautama Siddhartha

 Maya devi Dream

Unreal like the conception of Jesus Christ, circa 560 years later, also the story of Buddha's conception is beyond any known biological facts. According to the documents written down more than two hundred years after Buddha's death, his mother, Maya Devi, an Indian queen, one day dreamed that she would become pregnant from a white elephant touching her right side with its trunk.

In Indian mythology elephants are seen as strong and fertile beings. And white is seen as a sign of purity and immaculacy.

The scene of Maya Devi's odd conception is found on top left of the thangka.

The Birth of Buddha

 Birth Of Buddha

According to the legend, Queen Maya was pregnant for 10 months. When she was aware that her time was near, she followed an old custom and went on a journey to her parents' home in Nepal.

However before reaching her parents' home, she gave birth to her son in a garden in Lumbini, in today's Nepal. Queen Maya grabbed the branch of a tree and Buddha was born by coming out of her right side, the way he was conceived. Queen Maya Devi died seven days later. There have been discussions among scholars if the historical birth of Buddha may have been by cesarean section.

Life at Court

 

Gautama Siddhartha grew up behind high court walls, well protected from the ugliness of the real world of average people. He could have enjoyed the luxurious life of a rich prince. But he was not happy.

To distract him his father wanted the prince to marry. A tournament was organized as a test who was the strongest and best marriage candidate for Princess Gopi. In one contest, Buddha's rivals killed a white elephant. However Buddha, repelled by the senseless killing, tossed the elephant over the palace wall and brought it back to life.

This scene is depicted on lower left of the thangka.

Prince Siddharta Encounters Suffering

One day the prince left the palace and realized what real life was. He saw poverty, illness, the fate of aging and he saw a burial of a deceased person. Buddha recognized that there was suffering outside the luxury of the palace.

Prince Siddhartha Leaves the Palace Forever

Prince Siddhartha, in the meantime 29 years old, married and father of one son, decided to leave the palace to find an answer why there is suffering in the world and how to free the world from it. Secretly at night he left the palace on horseback and accompanied by a servant. Once he was far away from the palace, he sent the servant with the horse back. Buddha took seat in front of a stupa and cut his long hair off and dressed like a monk to begin the life of a simple student under different guru teachers.

This scene is shown on the upper middle right of the thangka.

Cuts hair

Ascetism and Meditation

For six years the Buddha practiced ascetism under different guru masters. But after six years he and his friends who accompanied him, were close to death due to extreme ascetism. But Buddha recognized that this did not take him anywhere closer to understand the mechanisms of this world.

See the scene at right center of the thangka.

After 6 years of fruitless ascetism, the Buddha decided to eat again. This is what Buddhists call the "middle way", avoiding extremes to both sides. Buddha began to meditate under a large tree.

Buddha's Enlightenment

After several weeks of meditation Buddha finally found enlightenment by understanding the causes of suffering and how to end suffering.

Mara's Attack

Mara Attack

This was the right moment for Demon Mara to enter the stage. Mara is a kind of incarnation of the evil, the devil so to say. Mara does not want Buddha to find enlightenment and does his best to prevent it. He sends evil monsters who shoot with arrows at the Buddha. But the arrows turn into flowers. Finally he sends his beautiful daughters to seduce the Buddha. But the beautiful young ladies turn into old, ugly women.

The scene of Mara's attack is shown on right lower middle part of the thangka. It is interesting that also this legendary scene from Buddha's life has parallels in the other major world religions - Jewish, Christianity and Islam.

Teachings

After having found enlightenment the Buddha spent the rest of his life traveling in Northern India and teaching his findings and principles.

Nirvana

Nirvana

At the age of roughly 80 years the historical Buddha passed away. As he had reached the state of enlightenment, he passed into nirvana. For Buddhists nirvana is the final bliss, the end of the cycle of rebirths and the end of all suffering.

The scene of Buddha's death is shown on bottom center. He is lying on his right side.

Buddha Life

Shakyamuni Buddha

n the center of all Buddha Life thangkas one finds always the historical Buddha Shakyamuni. He is shown with a beggar's bowl in his left hand and with his right hand calling the earth as witness, a scene from the story of Mara's attack.

The details of a Buddha Life thangka may vary and even the different scenes may not always be found on the same place. But the basic pattern is always the same.

Dieter Wanczura, July 2010.

Want to watch the detail story of Life of Buddha? Click here to watch the life story of Gautama Buddha on Netflix.

March 18, 2018
Tsongkapa thangka

The Brief Biography of Lama Tsongkhapa

The history of Buddhism in Tibet has been turbulent, going through periods of revival and decline. Lama Tsongkhapa (1357-1419) was a Buddhist scholar and saint who lived in Tibet during a time when Buddhist teachings had degenerated. Through deep study, profound practice and high attainments, Lama Tsongkhapa led a renaissance of pure Buddhist teachings by emphasizing study, morality and distilling the best teachings from the existing schools of Buddhism in Tibet and from Indian Buddhist masters. His teachings became the basis for the establishment of the Gelug monastery, a monastic institution which survives to this day although it has since relocated to South India.

Revered as an emanation of the three great Bodhisattvas;Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri and Vajraprani, Lama Tsongkhapa embodied the respective profound qualities of enlightened compassion, wisdom and spiritual power of all three Beings.

Tsongkhapa

Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri & Vajrapani as Tsongkhapa

Among the many renowned teachings he gave and dharma texts he composed, Lama Tsongkhapa’s Lamrim Chenmo, translated as The Graded Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, is considered one of his greatest works and is widely studied today, by both ordained Sangha and laypeople all over the world.

Despite his high attainments and enlightened qualities, Lama Tsongkhapa never exhibited any public display of miraculous powers, such as clairvoyance, and expressly prohibited his disciples from doing so. Instead, Lama Tsongkhapa focused on studying and teaching pure Buddhadharma, and was a role model of pure virtue. The Gelug school of Buddhism, which means “Virtuous” tradition, arose out of his teachings, and has become one of the fastest growing Buddhist schools on the world today.

 

The Prophecies

Countless eons ago, during the time of the Buddha Peak-of-Power, the being who was the same mind-stream as the future Lama Tsongkhapa was the main disciple of the Buddha of wisdom, Manjushri, and became known as the Bodhisattva Strength-of-Mind. The Buddha Peak-of-Power predicted that the Bodhisattva Strength-of-Mind would manifest in the future as an enlightened Buddha known as Tathagata-Lion’s Roaring or Tathagatha Simhananda.

During the time of the Lord Buddha Shakyamuni, the Bodhisattva Strength-of-Mind had incarnated as the son of a Brahmin, the highest of the social classes in Indian society. On meeting Lord Buddha, the young boy was moved and immediately made an aspiration to free all beings from the sufferings of samsara. The young boy went up to Lord Buddha, prostrated and offered a clear crystal mala, or rosary, up to the Buddha.

Lord Buddha

When Lord Buddha received the mala, he placed his holy golden hands on that boy’s head and predicted to his disciple Ananda that 1,500 years in the future, approximately, in the land to the North, of the red-faced barbarians, this young boy who offered this rosary will revitalize the teachings of the Buddha when it has become degenerated. Lord Buddha also prophesied that the boy’s future incarnation would be an emanation of Manjushri and he would be called Sumati Kirti, also known as Losang Drakpa, and he would establish a monastery called “Ge“, which meant “Virtues“, between the areas of Dri and Den,and that he would also offer a crown to a Buddha statue in Lhasa.

He would also bring all the correct lineages and correct teachings together, he would study, contemplate and meditate. He would gain the results, pass the teachings to many and make the teachings very strong and very powerful in the Land of the Snows, Tibet.

Buddha_2008BC

“After I pass away and my pure doctrine is absent,
You will appear as an ordinary being,
Performing the deeds of a Buddha
And establishing the Joyful Land, the great Protector,
In the Land of the Snows.”

-Buddha Shakyamuni in the Root Tantra of Manjushri

After Lord Buddha made that prediction, Lord Buddha summoned one of his disciples, Mahamaudgalyayana, who was a highly attained Arhat. Mahamaudgalyayana had the power of speed, which was the ability to walk very fast over vast distances. Lord Buddha gave a conch shell to his disciple and directed him to bury the conch shell in a certain place. This conch shell was none other than the precious shell which had been presented to Lord Buddha by the Naga King, Anavatapta, and had been used to announce the teaching of the Buddha.

Anavatapta, the king of the nagas, offered a white conch to the Bhagavan. The Bhagavan gave it to (his disciple) Mahamaudgalyayana and said: “Go and hide this in the Kokpa mountains. In the future, the Bhikkshu named Lotus-Scent will discover it”
 As written in the Lankavatara-sutra

A conch shell symbolizes the spreading of the Dharma, and when it is blown, a deep pervading sound reverberates and touches all who hear it. A conch shell also represents the speech of a Buddha, so Lord Buddha was indicating that the young boy would be instrumental in the spread of the Doctrine and that he would do great work to spread Dharma in the future.

Mahamaudgalyayana walked immediately to Tibet, to a place just a little distance from Lhasa and buried the conch shell under an area that is shaped like a conch shell. In 1409, when Lama Tsongkhapa started building Gaden Monastery, this very same conch shell was unearthed which fulfilled Lord Buddha Shakyamuni’s prophecy. It was later moved to Drepung Monastery where it could be seen until 1959.

A thousand years after Buddha Shakyamuni’s prophecy, another prophecy of Tsongkhapa came by way of the Lotus Born Guru Rinpoche, Padmasambhava, who had arrived in Tibet during the 8th century and aided in the establishment of Buddhism as the state religion. Renowned for his mystical divinational abilities and subjugation of evil spirits and demons, Padmasambhava foretold that a fully ordained Buddhist monk named Lobsang Drakpa would appear in the east, near the land of China who would be regarded as an emanation of a Bodhisattva of the greatest renown and would attain the Complete Enjoyment Body of Buddha – Enlightenment.

Lama Tsongkhapa has emanated in many holy forms throughout time. According to the second Dalai Lama, Gedun Gyatso (1476-1542), Lama Tsongkhapa, the Eight Century Nyingma Master Padmasambhava and Atisha (980-1054) are one and the same Being. Lama Tsongkhapa is also said to be an incarnation of Nagarjuna.

“In his youth, while Lama Umapa was an herdsman in the countryside, it sometimes happened that the Mantra of Manjushri (OM AH RA BA TSA NA DHI) was emitted by his heart. Each time, all the hair of his body was bristling and he felt like he could not control his heart. During these frequent encounters, Manjushri told him the past lives of Lama Tsongkhapa”

Khedrup Je  One of the heart son of Lama Tsongkhapa


It would be difficult to list all previous lives of Lama Tsongkhapa, but below are some of prominent incarnations.
 
NagarjunaNagarjuna – Nagarjuna was the Great Pioneer of the Middle Way who appeared in South India, four hundred years after the Nirvana of Buddha Shakyamuni. Lama Tsongkhapa was also Dombi Heruka. This great Siddha was the king of the Indian Kingdom of Magadha in the Ganges plain. Practicing Tantras while still on his throne he achieved great realizations. But because of his unconventional behaviour and more particularly because he had taken an outcaste class woman as his consort, his subjects made him leave his royal position. The king went to the forest with his queen. But later realizing his value, the people requested him to come back. He and his consort rode out of the forest on the back of a pregnant tiger. As a condition for his return, the king requested that he and his consort be put to the purification through fire, from which they both emerged inside a lotus bud.
 
PadmasambhavaPadmasambhava – Later on, thus attesting his particular link with Tibet, Lama Tsongkhapa was Padmasambhava, the great Indian Master that played such a fundamental role in the first spread of the Teaching of the Buddha in the Land of the Snow. Following the advice of the Indian Master Shantaraksita who had already come to Tibet but did not succeed in thoroughly spreading Buddhism, the Dharma king Trisong De-u Tsen (755-797) had invited this pre-eminent tantric master to Tibet. Padmasambhava remained there for several years, taming the demons and tirelessly giving teachings on the Tantras. He notably erected Samye, the first Tibetan monastery that was built as a vast mandala.
 
Atisha Dipamkara SrijnanaAtisha Dipamkara Srijnana – Lama Tsongkhapa was also Atisha Dipamkara Srijnana (982-1054), one of the foremost Buddhist Masters in India during the first half of the eleventh century. Coming from a noble family of Bengal, he studied and practiced at the feet of the most celebrated teachers of this period and resided for long in the prestigious Buddhist university of Nalanda. In 1042, he was invited by the Tibetan king of Western Tibet to assist the renewal of Buddhism in this country. He taught without weariness and composed A Lamp for the Path to Awakening (Bodhipathapradipa) one of the most influential Indian text received by Tibetans.

 

Auspicious Birth

Tsongkhapa was born on the 25th day of the tenth month in the year 1357 CE in the Tsongkha, a region of Amdo, presently integrated in the Chinese province of Qinghai, an area bordering Tibet and China, There were many auspicious signs around his birth.

From the time of his conception in his mother’s womb, his mother had continuous dreams and signs. A mother having dreams and signs before giving birth to someone special is not anything special to the Tibetan tradition. It is a phenomenon that can be seen in all traditions, all around the world, in all religions and for all people. When these mothers are about to bear someone special in their body, someone who will have a highly beneficial impact on many beings, they will receive many great signs before and during pregnancy.


Dara Katche Lubum-gue, – Tsongkhapa’s father, was from the tribe of Mel. He is described as a good man, brave and intrepid. He had great faith in the Three Jewels and his veneration for the Dharma Masters was deep. Dara Katche was also known for his regularly recitation of the prayer of the Praises of the Names of Manjushri (Manjushri nama samgiti).
 
Shin-mo A-chös – Tsongkhapa’s mother, was full of kindness and spoke frankly. She had respect for every one and showed a particularly great benevolence for those who were exhausted or unprotected. Having always in mind the six syllables mantra of Avalokiteshvara “Om Mani Padme Hum,” she was vigilant in solely performing virtuous deeds.
 
Dara Katche Lubum-gue and Shin-mo A-chös had six children. Lama Tsongkhapa was the fourth.

Dream

Art by Ori Carino

The biographies of Lama Tsongkhapa reveal that there were many, many great signs heralding his birth. For example, his mother dreamt that Lord Vajrapani threw vajras from the heavens, which landed softly and gently on her womb. She had frequent dreams of Lord Manjushri appearing and casting his sword towards the direction of her womb and stomach. who was princely and wore six ornaments; he came forth in her dream, washed her body with pure crystal water, dressed and adorned her up and told her, “Someone special is coming to you.” Just before she gave birth, she dreamt that many monks came to make offerings and were looking for the Buddha. They asked where the Buddha’s shrine was. A young boy appeared and pointed to Tsongkhapa’s mother’s womb. The young boy had a key which opened up a box in her womb and within was Chenrezig.

On the evening of the 10th day of the first lunar month of the fire bird year (1357), Shin-mo A-chös, the mother of Lama Tsongkhapa, dreamt of a vast number of monks and laics. Men and women, holding victory banners and beating drums, were moving forward toward Shin-mo A-Chös. They explained they came to welcome Avalokiteshvara.

These were very powerful portents of the Lord of Power, Vajrapani, the Lord of Compassion, Chenrezig (or Avalokiteshvara), and the Lord of Wisdom, Manjushri. They showed many signs that it was not just one holy being or an emanation of a holy being that would be entering Lama Tsongkhapa’s mother’s womb, but the actual three Bodhisattvas themselves.

When Lama Tsongkhapa was born, his mother suffered no pain. Many dakinis and dakas – celestial beings likened to angels – were heard singing outside with incredible voices. Rainbows appeared. After Tsongkhapa’s birth, his placenta was buried in the ground. From that exact spot, a very large and splendid sandalwood tree sprung up with more than hundred thousand leaves featuring images of the Buddha Simhananda and the mantras of Manjushri. Every autumn, when the leaves fell onto the ground, pilgrims would reverently collect and keep them. When those leaves were crushed and made into medicine, people who ate it would become healed. That tree became known as the Tree of Kumbum, with Kumbum meaning “a hundred thousand Buddha images” and is preserved until today. Later, Kumbum Monastery was built on that sacred spot and has been visited by several of the Dalai Lamas throughout history. It remains a highly revered pilgrimage site today.

Kumbum
In the course of time, Kumbum became a great monastery. Especially when in the 1583 the third Dalai Lama spent some time there and officially established the Hall of Maitreya where a huge statue of the future Buddha had been erected several years before. Since then it has been called “Maitreya’s monastery of one hundred thousand representations

 

Extraordinary Child

The day after Lama Tsongkhapa was born, the Kadampa Master Choje Dondrup Rinchen Rinpoche (1309-1385) sent some gifts to Tsongkhapa and his family, with explanations on how to protect the baby. When asked by Tsongkhapa’s father at a later date how he knew of Tsongkhapa’s birth, Dondrup Rinchen said that he had dreamt of Yamantaka a while before the birth of Tsongkhapa and when Dondrup Rinchen requested for blessings from Yamantaka, Yamantaka indicated that he would come to the area of Tsong Kha in a year’s time.

Having noted that he was an extraordinary child, Lama Tsongkhapa’s father sent him to receive layman ordination when he was only three years old from H.H. the Fourth Karmapa, Rolpay Dorje (1340-1383). Tsongkhapa then received the name Kunga Nyingpo. This illustrious Master, Rolpay Dorje, predicted that his boy would be referred to as the Second Buddha.

At the age of seven, Lama Tsongkhapa received his novice ordination vows from Dondrup Rinchen, who was to become Tsongkhapa’s first teacher, and from whom he received the ordination name Losang Drakpa.

Lama Tsongkhapa’s parents recognized their son’s superior qualities and when Dondrup Rinchen requested his father to entrust his son to him, Tsongkhapa’s father agreed. Without being taught, Tsongkhapa could read and write Buddhist texts, just by observing his teacher. Even at this young age he had received many teachings and initiations of Heruka, Yamantaka and Hevajra, and could recite texts like Expression of the Names of Manjushri from memory. Tsongkhapa also had frequent dreams of Atisha, which indicated that he would follow Atisha’s footsteps in restoring the purity of the Dharma and excel in the practices of Sutra and Tantra.

As a child, his recitation of Manjushri’s mantra was said to be so strong and powerful that the letters of his mantra magically appeared on the walls of his room as if the characters had been carved there.

Lama Tsongkhapa stayed with Dhondrup Rinchen until he went to U-tsang for further study at the age of sixteen.

 

In Search of his Guru

in 1373, Lama Tsongkhapa left his teacher Dhondrup Rinchen to start his extraordinary journey in search of Dharma. As a parting offering to his Guru, Tsongkhapa made a mandala offering to Dhondrup Rinchen, which looked like sparkling jewels. Tsongkhapa then recited the Praises of the names of Manjushri to his Guru as he walked away from him. He had a strong feeling then that he would never come back to his hometown again.

Tsongkapa

Art by Ori Carino

Dhondrup Rinchen advised him to focus on Yamantaka, Vajrapani, Manjushri and Amitayus and to propitiate three Dharma Protector; Vaisravana, Mahakala and Dharmaraja to ensure conducive conditions for his practice. At first, the young Tsongkhapa followed his teacher’s instructions diligently and practised regularly but at a certain point in time, he stopped practising. He later explained to his disciples that the physical illness he suffered and difficulties he encountered during certain studies thereafter were the result of his neglect of his Guru’s advice.

In the autumn of 1373, he travelled to central Tibet, to Drikung Kagyu Monastery where he trained with Chennga Chokyi Galpo and studied the five sections of the “Great Seal” (Mahamudra) and Bodhicitta. From there, he travelled on to Nyetang, one of the largest monasteries of the day and was tutored by Tashi Sengi and Densapa Gekong.

These are only a few examples of the extensive study he did with very prominent teachers of the time. Tsongkhapa’s ability to memorize and comprehend great texts was astounding. Through the course of his study, he gained great respect from both his teachers and fellow students for his vast abilities to absorb and expound some of the most profound teachings.

From 1373-1393, Tsongkhapa would travel all over Tibet, studying under 45 of the greatest teachers from different Buddhist lineages. He mastered not just the Buddhist teachings of Sutra and Tantra and engaged in countless deep retreats, but also excelled in medicine, astrology and poetry.

 

Meeting Rendawa and composing Migtsema

TeacherLama Tsongkhapa had studied extensively with the Sakya teacher, Nyapon Kungpa Pel. However, as Tsongkhapa came to request for teachings from him one day, Nyapon Kungpa Pel was struck by an illness and unable to teach. He referred Tsongkhapa instead to his chief disciple, Jetsun Rendawa.

The Sakya Master, Rendawa, and Lama Tsongkhapa’s Guru-student relationship became legendary and they were very close. In Tsongkhapa’s search for Dharma, Rendawa was also impressed by his young student’s immediate grasp and in depth understand of the teachings, and Rendawa never had to repeat himself.

Lama Tsongkhapa studied intensely and continuously; not just the main scriptural texts but also the commentaries, His capacity to memorize was phenomenal and his skill at debate legendary. His attainments were reflected in the fact that despite the reverence and respect gained from the spiritual community and renowned teachers, Tsongkhapa never had the slightest sense of arrogance or pride.

In honour of his Guru, Lama Tsongkhapa offered a prayer to Rendawa. Tsongkhapa had earlier received a prayer from Manjushri and so, he altered two lines to suit his Guru and offered it to him. However, Rendawa then altered the verse to include Tsongkhapa’s name instead and offered the prayer back to Tsongkhapa. This prayer, containing the blessings of both Lama Tsongkhapa and Master Rendawa, is now known as the Migtsema mantra, one of the most important prayers for Gelugpa practitioners and devotees of Tsongkhapa. It is the heart of Lama Tsongkhapa’s Guru Yoga, which was composed by Pelden Sangpo.

From Tsongkhapa to Rendawa:

Lord of stainless wisdom, Manjushri,
Objectless compassion, Chenrezig,
Crown jewel of the Sages of the Land of Snows,
O Rendawa Zhonnu Lodro, at your feet I make this request;
Grant protection to me; a fly seeking liberation.

Revised by rendawa and offered back to Tsongkhapa:

Objectless compassion, Chenrezig,
Lord of stainless wisdom, Manjushri,
Congquering mara’s hordes, Vajrapani,
Crown jewel of the Sages of the Land of Snows,
Losang Drakpa, at your feet, I pray.

 
Tsongkapa
 

Renunciation

At the age of 23, Tsongkhapa went to the region of U to meet up with some people from his hometown, Amdo. His friends entreated him to return to Amdo and they also gave him a letter from his mother. She also requested him to return to Amdo and had slipped one of her white hairs in the letter too.

Touched by this, Tsongkhapa considered returning to Amdo for a while. However, when he contemplated deeper. he realized that if he left for Amdo, he would be disrupting his practices of mental discipline. As there was no benefit, he sadly decided not to return to his homeland. Instead he sent a thangka of a painting of himself to his mother in Amdo. When his mother opened it, the picture spoke to her and it was as if Tsongkhapa was there with her, which brought her great joy. In a letter accompanying the thangka, Tsongkhapa requested his mother and sister to build a stupa around the sandalwood tree which had sprung up at his birth. His mother and sister complied and from that stupa, the holy monastery of Kumbum developed.

 

Full Ordination

In his twenties, Lama Tsongkhapa was already gaining great renown for his sharp comprehension and skilled speech. The number of his disciple was growing and Tsongkhapa decided that it was time to become a fully ordained monk. He went to Namgyel Monastery in the region of Yarlung, where he took his ordination vows from the Sakya Master, Kashipa Tsultrim Rinchen, in the presence of 20 members of the Sangha.

Tsongkhapa kept his vows strictly throughout his entire life, and always held the vows in the highest regard.

Umapa and Manjushri

UpamaTsongkhapa began to focus on studying Tantra when he was 34 years old. At this time, he met a Karma Kagyu Lama called Umapa who had come to him to get authorization of Saraswati. During their discussion, Lama Umapa told Tsongkhapa that he had a vision of Manjushri in which Manjushri had asked him to see Tsongkhapa for Saraswati’s empowerment initiation. Lama Umapa explained that he had experienced regular visions of Manjushri since his childhood but he was unsure if it was really Manjushri. He requested Tsongkhapa to investigate. Tsongkhapa thus examined thoroughly and concluded that Lama Umapa and Manjushri were of the same mind. Checking the authenticity of visions is critical as visions can be misrepresented by demons. Demons can appear as holy beings to manipulate us, therefore out of humility, even highly attained monks would usually ask another qualified being to check the authenticity of a vision.

Tsongkhapa greatly wished to learn the practices of Manjushri and requested Lama Umapa to be his teacher. Through the mediation of Lama Umapa, Tsongkhapa began to receive teachings from Manjushri. Tsongkhapa would ask Manjushri questions through Lama Umapa who would relay the answers from Manjushri himself.

In 1392, Tsongkhapa went to Lhasa with Umapa and made abundant offerings to the famed Jowo Rinpoche statue in Jokhang Monastery. During a very intensive Manjushri retreat there, he gained a very clear vision where Manjushri appeared within a mandala. On Manjushri’s chest was written a red mantra. However, out of deep humility, he did not speak about his visions until his Lama Umapa asked him about them.

 

Purification Retreats

It was while Lama Tsongkhapa was engaging in many meditations, Manjushri appeared and spoke to Lama Umapa, advising him to tell Tsongkhapa that he was doing too much meditation. Manjushri advised Lama Tsongkhapa that he would not gain realizations by meditation alone. This was because although meditation practice helps a practitioner to collect positive merits and purify negative karma, it would not purify all of Tsongkhapa’s negative karma at the rate that was necessary for him to become enlightened. Manjushri thus advised Tsongkhapa to see his Guru as being of the same nature as his Yidam,and to make requests and increase purification practices to clear the accumulated faults and mistakes he had previously committed. If Tsongkhapa was to give teachings at that time, the benefits would not be as significant as if he were to go into purification retreat.

35 Confessional Buddhas

35 Confessional Buddhas

Therefore, at 36 years old, Lama Tsongkhapa went into a four-year retreat with eight disciples who had been selected by Manjushri; four were from the region of U, Pelden Sangpo, Tokden Djang-sen, Neten Rinchin Gyeltsen and Neten Sangkyong. The other four were from Amdo, who were Lama Tokden Jampel Gyatso, Geshe Sherap Drak, Geshe Djam-pel Trashi and Geshe Pel-kyong.

The site of their retreat was a cave called Wolka Cholung, which remains a highly revered pilgrimage site today. There, he and his eight disciples engaged in a four-year retreat, which became among his most famous retreats. Within the four years, he performed 100,000 prostrations to each of the 35 Confessional Buddhas, completing a total of 3.5 million prostrations. Normally, practitioners would only perform 100,000 prostrations to all of the 35 Confessional Buddhas at once; this would take approximately six to seven months. Lama Tsongkhapa took his practice much further by doing 100,000 not just to the collective 35 Buddhas, but to each individual Buddha to purify his negative karma. Imprints of his body could be seen onto the ground after the retreat. Because of this ardent practice, he gained direct visions of the 35 Confessional Buddhas.

At the conclusion of the retreat, Lama Tsongkhapa had a vision of Manjushri directly whereupon Manjushri told him that his negative karma was purified. Manjushri told Tsongkhapa, “Your last obscurations are purified. You can see me now. You do not need to go through Lama Umapa anymore. “However, Lama Tsongkhapa was so humble, he refused to believe that the vision he saw was really of Manjushri until his Guru, Lama Umapa, confirmed that his vision was true. Tsongkhapa also gained a vision of Maitreya Buddha at the end of this retreat.

During that famous retreat, Tsongkhapa also did 1.8 million mandalaofferings with his hands, and as the base of his mandala was made of rocks, his wrists and forearms became raw and bleeding. Many masters now cite this retreat as an example of how much dedication Tsongkhapa put towards his practice, although he was already so highly attained. It is a reminder to all spiritual practitioners of the faith and commitment that we should invest in our spiritual path.

 

The Lamrim Chenmo

In the early 15th Century, many scholars and lamas began requesting Lama Tsongkhapa to write books that would provide teachings about the graded path to Enlightenment. Thus, Tsongkhapa began to write the Lamrim Chenmo, or The Graded Stages of the Path to Enlightenment.

Among the many texts he composed, the Lamrim Chenmo is Tsongkhapa’s most famous work. This important treatise is based on Atisha’s text, Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment. Tsongkhapa’s Lamrim Chenmo united all Buddha’s teachings of the existing schools of Buddhism in Tibet and even of the Indian pandits, and provides a most excellent guideline for the practice of Dharma, from the moment we step onto the path all the way up to Enlightenment.

After completing the Lamrim Chenmo, Tsongkhapa then began writing the Ngarim Chenmo, or The Stages of the Path of Tantra. Among his other famous texts, Tsongkhapa also wrote many extensive commentaries on root texts such as the 50 Stanzas on Guru Devotionand the 14 Tantric vows.

 

Reviving Monastic Discipline

During the period of decline, monastic communities had not followed the rules of the Vinaya (monastic rules) conscientiously, Buddhist practices had degenerated, the Sangha had become corrupt and were abandoning themselves to worldy pleasure.

Tsongkapa

However, Tsongkhapa followed the methods of Atisha – the prominent Indian Buddhist said of the 11th Century – to revive monastic disciple. In his teachings, he particularly stressed the importance of holding vows and commitments, and adhering to discipline. Not only did he teach, he embodied the teachings and maintained excellent discipline himself.

With the guidance of his Gurus, Rendawa and Chennga Chkoyki Gyalpo, and his personal example, Tsongkhapa accomplished the enormous task of reviving the Vinaya among the Sangha. For this, he gained great respect from many people who began to follow his teachings and become his disciples. Tsongkhapa explained that the reason why he had emphasized so strongly on monastic discipline was because he did not wish for Buddha’s doctrine to degenerate again in Tibet.

…without practising
The three ethics, Enlightenment cannot be attained.
Knowing this well, please bless me to intensively
strive to train in the Bodhisatta vows.

-Yonten Shigyurma

 

The Great Monasteries

Maitreya Statue at Dzingji

Manjushree_templeThroughout his life, Lama Tsongkhapa made extensive offerings to the Three Jewels. The first of his Great Deeds was the restoration of the ruins of the Maitreya Statue in Dzingji Temple to a resplendent state. As advised by Manjushri, Tsongkhapa went to the temple and wept when he saw the dilapidated state of the buildings and the statue within. The Maitreya statue was covered in dust and dirt and Tsongkhapa resolved to restore it. However, just when construction was about to begin, Lama Tsongkhapa found that he did not have enough funds for the restoration. Tsongkhapa and his disciples then decided to make offerings and request for assistance from Vaishravana, the Protector of Wealth. As a result, resources arose and Tsongkhapa was able to carry out his task. There were many instance when Tsongkhapa requested assistance from Vaishravana with offerings and because of Tsongkhapa’s pure motivation for the Dharma, whatever Tsongkhapa needed would manifest. Many miracles happened during the renovation of this temple. When a painting of Manjushri was outlined on the wall and Tsongkhapa carried out a consecration ritual on the image, Manjushri appeared as a Wisdom Being and dissolved into the painting. This happened with all the paintings of Wisdom Beings in the temple.


 

Gaden Monastery

MonaasteryAs Lama Tsongkhapa’s renown grew and grew, his disciples requested him to establish a monastery. Many patrons and high lamas offered him their own monasteries and rich sponsors offered to finance the construction of a new monastery, Tsongkhapa requested guidance from the statue of Jowo Rinpoche at the Jokhang and from visions and dreams he had, Tsongkhapa decided to build Gaden monastery in 1409 at the Drok Riwo mountains. This would become the first and most central monastic institution of the Gelugpa school of Buddhism, which was also established by Tsongkhapa. Lama Tsongkhapa’s two disciples, Gyaltsab Je and Bhikkshu Gyeltsen (1375-1434) were in charge of the construction of Gaden monastery. The buildings were designed and constructed according to the Vinaya rules, such as the size of the rooms which are stipulated within the Vinaya texts. This was yet another example of how Tsongkhapa embodied the Buddhist doctrine in very part of his life.


 

Drepung Monastery

TempleFollowing the construction of Gaden, Tsongkhapa told one of his students, Trashi Pelden Pelsangpo, also known as Jamyang Choje (1379-1449), that if he built a monastery, it would be even bigger than Gaden. He offered the conch shell which was uncovered during the construction of Gaden to Jamyang Choje, who proceeded to build Drepung, another of the greatest Gelugpa monasteries. The conch shell remained at Drepung until the mid 20th century. Construction began in 1416 and was completed in 1419. In his last few months, Tsongkhapa went to Drepung to give teachings, during which a rainbow appeared and an earthquake shook the lands. People felt that this was a sign that Tsongkhapa would be leaving. While he was teaching the Guhyasamaja Tantra, Rinpoche stopped teachings halfway and despite many entreaties by his disciples to complete the teachings, Tsongkhapa left. As he departed, there was a sudden earthquake and the sky became very dark; many rainbows and clear streams of light shone forth in the direction of Gaden. By Tsongkhapa leaving some teachings still be taught, he left an auspicious omen for his teachings to endure.


 

Sera Monastery

seraIn 1419, another Tsongkhapa’s disciples, Shakya Yeshe, built Sera monastery as a place dedicated to tantric teachings. Shakya Yeshe raised the necessary resources to build the monastery and supervised the its construction to ensure its accordance with the Vinaya. Together, Gaden, Drepung and Sera would become three of Tibet’s most prominent monastic institutions and housed several thousand monks. Today, these three monasteries have been re-established in india, where they continue to flourish with a rich Sangha community and produced unrivalled, highly skilful and wise Dharma teachers.
 

Back to the Pure Land

On Lama Tsongkhapa’s way back from Drepung, he visited Jokhang monastery to make many offerings and prostrations to Jowo Rinpoche. He prayed there that Dharma would exist forever. Many people thought this unusual – it is only when he was very sure that he would not be coming back to a place that Tsongkhapa would do prostrations as he left.

When Tsongkhapa returned to Gaden, he made many offerings, dedicated the merit to all sentient beings and recited a Pure Land prayer. That night, he felt great pain all over his body and the monks performed prayers for him.

On the second day, he passed his pandit’s hat to one of his foremost disciples Gyaltsab Je, requesting him to inherit the teaching throne.

On the morning of October 25, Tsongkhapa entered into samadhimeditation. He made many inner offerings and stopped his breath. Many saw his body transform back into that of a 16-year-old boy and rainbows emitting from his body. Some even saw dakas and dakinis in the sky, making a lot of offerings to welcome Tsongkhapa back into the Pure Land. He was 63 when he passed away.

Gyaltsab Je inherited Tsongkhapa’s throne, becoming the first Gaden Tripa (Gaden Throne Holder) to continue Tsongkhapa’s magnificent lineage. This is symbolic of Tsongkhapa’s presence on earth and the propagating of his teachings. The illustrious position of the Gaden Tripas continues in an unbroken lineage until today, upholding Tsongkhapa’s teachings with great fortitude and practice.

 

Lama Tsongkhapa’s Two Heart Sons

Tsongkapa

Lama Tsongkhapa and his two Heart Sons.

Gyaltsab Je

Gyaltseb Je (1364-1432), also known as Dharma Rinchen, was an ordained monk of the Sakya lineage who was an accomplished and eloquent scholar, famed for his intellect and knowledge. He had heard of Lama Tsongkhapa’s renown but thought that his own knowledge was superior to Tsongkhapa. Supremely confident, he went to attend a teaching by Tsongkhapa at Ratrong Monastery. When he arrived, Tsongkhapa had already started teaching. Unabashed, Gyaltsab Je walked in proudly, not even removing his hat. which he should have done as a sign of respect. He even climbed up to sit on the same throne from which Tsongkhapa was giving his teaching. Tsongkhapa was not at all perturbed, and simply moved aside to give Gyaltsab Je some space on the throne.

However, as Gyaltsab Je listened to the incomparable Tsongkhapa, he was stunned by the profundity of the teachings. Immediately, he realized the error of his arrogance and removed his hat. He quickly climbed down from the throne, made three prostrations to Tsongkhapa and sat down on the floor with the other disciples. From then on, Gyaltsab Je was completely devoted to Tsongkhapa and became one of his main disciples who supervised the construction of Gaden Monastery.

Before Tsongkhapa passed into clear light, he appointed Gyaltsab Je as the second Abbot of Gaden Monastery, Tsongkhapa himself being the first Abbot, as well as the first throneholder of the Gaden tradition.


 

Khedrup Je

Khedrup Je (1385-1438) also known as Gelek Pelsang, was extremely accomplished in his learning and well respected for his knowledge. At the age of 16, he went to the region of Tsang to participate in the dialectical debates. There, the master Tchok-le Namgyel was challenging all the monks to a debate but no one dared accept.

Unafraid and confident despite his youth, Khedrup Je stepped up and successfully rebutted all of Tchok-le Namgyel’s positions. The points Khedrup Je brought up during his debate was noted by the scholars in attendance and later incorporated in his composition on The Seven Treatises on Valid Cognition.

Khedrup Je was ordained in the Sakya tradition by the great Master Rendawa, who advised him to meet with Tsongkhapa. When Khedrup Je met with Tsongkhapa, Tsongkhapa predicted that Khedrup Je would have great tantric achievements and benefit many. Khedrup Je became extremely devoted to Tsongkhapa and wrote Tsongkhapa’s biography after the great master passed into clear light. As the other heart son of Tsongkhapa, he became the third Abbot of Gaden and the second Gaden Tripa after Gyaltsab Je.

After Lama Tsongkhapa passed away, Khedrup Je always used to pray to him. He always thought about his Guru and was always sad. When Khedrup Je had some questions about Dharma, he could not ask any scholars because he was the best scholar in the land at the time. So, one day, he made a mandala offering to Lama Tsongkhapa and strongly request Tsongkhapa to come. The minute he made this offering, Lama Tsongkhapa appeared from the Gaden Heaven, from the heart of Maitreya and answered his questions. When Khedrup Je understood and all was clear, Lama Tsongkhapa dissolved back into Gaden Heaven. Lama Tsongkhapa appeared five times to Khedrup Je, which is now known as the five visions of Tsongkhapa.

 

The Five visions of Tsongkhapa

 

1. On an elephant

Tsongkapa Vision

Tsongkhapa was seated on a jewelled seat, upon a white elephant with six tusks. Tsongkhapa spoke to Khedrup Je and advised him to not be consumed by sadness and that if he thinks of his Guru, he could purify the negative actions he had previously committed and accumulate much merits. Tsongkhapa also advised him to read the mystical songs by Milarepa and to work on developing the teachings.

 

2. On a Throne held by celestial beings

Tsongkapa Vision

At another time, upon the request of Khedrup Je, Tsongkhapa appeared again, this time on a throne of gold and jewels, held by many youthful celestial beings. Tsongkhapa gave Khedrup Je teachings to clarify his questions and deepened his understanding of the doctrine.

 

3. As Manjushri on a white Lion

Manjushree on White Lion

The next time Khedrup Je invoked his Guru, Tsongkhapa appeared – this time in the form of a 16 year old, Bodhisattva Manjushri, with a red-orange body, sitting upon a bejewelled white lion. In this form, Tsongkhapa advised Khedrup Je to spread the tantric teachings.

 

4. As a Yogi on a Tiger

Yogi on a Tiger

In Khedrup Je’s fourth vision of his Guru, Tsongkhapa appeared in the form of a yogi with long red hair tied with green silk at the top of his head. He was riding a ferocious tiger and his right hand carried a flaming sword like Manjushri while his left held a skull cup of nectar at his heart. Tsongkhapa advised him that whenever he thought of his Guru, he should read the treatises Tsongkhapa composed on the two stages of generation and completion of the path of the Tantras.

 

5. In his normal form

Tsongkapa Vision

The final time that Tsongkhapa appeared to Khedrup Je in a vision, he was in the form of an ordained monk, in the middle of a white cloud. Tsongkhapa told Khedrup Je that he was giving a teaching on Wu Tai Mountain in China to an assembly of more than 1800 holders of the vajra. He advised Khedrup Je to make prayers to go there too and that they would meet again soon.

On Lama Tsongkhapa’s last appearance to him, Khedrup Je cried and cried and asked his Guru, “Please may I not stay on Earth anymore. May I join you in Gaden Heaven, please?”

Khedrup Je had already asked Lama Tsongkhapa this many times previously and each time, Lama Tsongkhapa had told him not to come yet.

However, on that last occasion, Lama Tsongkhapa said to him, “Yes, you may come.”

Khedrup Je went into meditation, passed into clear light and was born in Gaden Heaven with his Guru, Lama Tsongkhapa. These disciples were not just ordinary disciples but enlightened Beings themselves.

 

Tsongkapa Vision

February 08, 2018
Mandala Thangka paintings

Thangka Painting Composition

Thangka Painting is a traditional form of painting which can also be called as a Roadmap to the Enlightenment. These form of painting is painted on a pure cotton canvas which takes several days just to prepare the base. A very fine brush and other thickness brush are prepared to paint a thangka. Different natural minerals has to be collected grind to form powder to paint the thangka. 

The thangka paintings has different buddha and bodhisattva or Mandala which helps to understand the way of life and help us to transform our mind, body and speech to live a life with love, kindness and compassion.  

Click here to read detail on how thangka painting is painted. The article explains in detail on every step of painting a thangka. 

February 02, 2018
Auspicious symbol of Dharma Wheel

The Dharma Wheel

This wheel is also called the dharma chakra or the dhamma chakka and is often used to represent Buddha himself. It has also universally become the symbol for Buddhism. The dharma wheel has eight spokes, which represent Buddha’s Eightfold Path.

The three components of the wheel - hub, spokes, and rim - symbolize the three aspects of the Buddhist teachings upon integrities, wisdom, and attentiveness. The central hub represents ethical discipline, which centres and stabilizes the mind. The sharp spokes represent wisdom or discriminating awareness, which cuts through ignorance. The rim represents meditative concentration, which both encompasses and facilitates the motion of the wheel. A wheel with a thousand spokes, which emanate like the rays of the sun, represents the thousand activities and teachings of the Buddhas. A wheel with eight spokes symbolizes the Buddha’s Eightfold Noble Path, and the transmission of these teachings towards the eight directions.

When four swirls are depicted they are usually colored to correspond to the four directions and elements, and symbolize the Buddha’s teachings upon the Four Noble Truths. The rim of the wheel may be depicted as a simple circular ring, often with small circular gold embellishments extending towards the eight directions.

The Buddha’s first discourse at the Deer Park in Sarnath, where he first taught the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Noble Path, is known as his ‘first turning of the wheel of dharma’.

January 08, 2018
White konch shell thangka

WhiteKonch

WhiteKonch


The right coiled white conch denotes deep, melodious, and sonorous sound of the Buddha’s teachings. In Buddhism, our voice does the Buddha’s work. This means that Buddhism is effectively propagated through sharing and dialogue with people.

As disciples of the Buddha, we need to have dialogue about Buddhism with as many people as possible in order for the Law to spread far and wide.

By sharing your joyful experiences as a Buddhist, you create an awareness that will awaken the Buddha-nature in people toward Supreme Perfect Enlightenment.
January 07, 2018
Wheel Of Life Thangka Painting

Wheel Of Life Thangka Painting - Explained

Play The Video Below

The Depiction of the wheel of life is comprised of 4 concentric circles, excluding the outermost area with the demon or the mara. These depict the causes and conditions by which sentient beings of the 3 realms (Desire realm, form and formless realms) revolve through cyclic existence and in what places and what manner they revolve. Now negative or afflictive emotions are true cause of  all the sufferings and turnings in the samsara.

First Circle of the Wheel

The three root afflictive emotions which are attachment, aversion and ignorance. So, in the innermost circle of the Wheel of Life the three roots or three poisonous afflictive emotions are symbolized by three animals.

Wheel of life showing the 3 cause of suffering

Attachment is symbolised by a rooster, aversion by a snake and ignorance by a pig. Since, ignorance is the root of the other afflictive emotions, the tails of the rooster and the snake emerge from the pig's mouth. Hence, the inner circle shows the roots or the cause of the suffering.

Second Circle of the Wheel

Karma and Effect

The second circle out from the inner circle is coloured half white and half black, representing respectively positive action or meritorious  karma and negative or non-meritorious karma.

With afflictive emotions as a cause we accumulate these positive or negative karmic actions. 

Accumulate of non-meritorious karma impels us to miserable rebirth in the lower realms of the hell beings, hungry ghosts and animals.

Accumulation of meritorious karma impels us into higher rebirth as a human or celestial being.

                                  Bad Karma

Thus, in the black half circle the lord of death drags down those beings who are going to take birth in hell by putting a noose around their neck, which symbolizes how one will go to hell if one accumulates negative deeds.Good Karma

On the white half-circle, monks and laypeople are depicted facing upward with white folded hands and showing the gesture accumulating positive actions, symbolizing how if one accumulates positive actions one will achieve higher rebirth as humans and demigods.

Thus, the second circle displays the two different kinds of karma :- Meritorious Karma and Non-meritorious karma.

Third Circle of the Wheel

Wheel of life

Having identified the cause of cyclic existence, then in which samsaric realms will the six classes of migating beings, the three higher beings and the three miserable beings.

The three lower beings are the hungry ghosts, hell beings and animals are depicted on the lower part of the circle.

Wheel Of Life

The three higher rebirths, those of the human beings, celestial beings and the demigods, are on the upper part of the circumference.

Therefore, if you accumulate virtuous karma you will reborn in a higher state of rebirth and if you accumulate non-virtuous actions they will impel you to one of the three miserable states. So, all sentient beings will be reborn as one of six migrating beings.

Now in regard to the modes of birth of sentient beings, there are 4 types of birth taught in the Buddhist texts:

  1. Womb-birth is where the consciousness meets with the semen in the mother's womb and delivers the baby. Such birth consists of not only human beings but all the mammals having same birth from the womb. 
  2. Egg-birth is where the are born from the eggs.
  3. Spontaneous-birth is the method of birth for Form and Formless beings of the higher realms.
  4. Birth from heat and moisture and all insects and bugs which we observe are born from heat and moisture.

Thus all migrating beings take birth by one of these 4 methods. As I stated before, with afflictive emotions as a cause we all cycle again and again through the realms of the six migrating beings through four birthplaces as the basis. 

This is the brief explanation of the third circle of the wheel of life.

 

Fourth Circle of the Wheel

Wheel Of Life

The fourth circle reveals how and in what manner sentient beings migrate through cyclic existence. It is through the process of the twelve links of dependent arising that the six migrating beings are reborn in samsara. Since, the division into twelve links are represented in pictorial form in the Wheel Of Life I am going to explain the symbolic meaning of each.

1) Avidyā: Ignorance – The first of the 12 links of dependent arising is ignorance which is symbolized by a blind man carrying a stick.

The blind old man wants to go to different place he wishes to visit, but is unable due to the loss of his vision, aging and to the dangers of falling from the cliff along the way. Likewise, we are confused about the karma and its results. Many of us have no idea that accumulating negative karma results in rebirth miserable realms and positive karma results in rebirth in higher realms. Even though we have some understanding about the effects of karma but lacks faith. Though that confusion we have committed many negative karmic active actions and been reborn in the lower realms of the hell beings and animals.

2) Saṃskāra: Mental Formations – The second of the 12 links of dependent arising compositional activity which is represented by a potter. 

Karmic activity motivated by ignorance accumulates a whole variety of virtuous and non virtuous karmic actions of the body, speech and mind which then bring about different varieties of Samsaric states in terms of form, wealth, size etc just as the potter makes various sizes of pot.

3) Vijñāna: Consciousness – The third is Consciousness, symbolized by a fickle-minded monkey in a tree.

As the contaminated principle consciousness which holds all the latent karmic proppensities or imprints cannot fix to one object of observation and keeps jumping from one samsaric place to another, likewise the fickle minded monkey jumps from one tree to another.

4) Nāmarūpa: Name and form – The fourth link is Name and Form.It is described as either Nam or the Form because if you are reborn in a formless realm you have no actual form.

This is symbolized by a boat carrying people. Just as a boat serves a medium or basis for carrying passengers from one side of a river to the other likewise, the fourth link of dependent arising, Name and Form, also serves as a basis fir the consciousness that has traveled from the previous birth to this life and will migrate from this life to the next. Furthermore it serves as a container for all the pain and pleasure that we experience in our life. 

5) Ṣaḍāyatana: Six senses –The fifth link is six sources, represented in the picture by an empty house with a door and windows. 

The uninhabited house symbolize show during this stage the six sensory powers or six senses which are the base of consciousness have already come into existence but the consciousness which is based upon those six sensory powers is not yet manifest. Likewise for a house which has been built but in which there are not yet any residents, there is the base but absence of the very thing which is based upon that.

6) Sparśa: Contact – The sixth one is Contact which is shown in the picture by a couple embracing and kissing. Here embracing and kissing of the couple is motivated by attachment and sexual desire, and is not like an embrace or kiss which occurs due to some particular custom as a sign of greetings.

When we kiss each other out of sexual desire, the sensorial object, the senses and the consciousness are in contact with each other but the complete feeling of sexual intercourse will not be experienced whilst we kiss. Likewise  at the stage of contact, when someone experience contact with something hot or cold, smooth or rough etc there is a mere feeling of contact but one is notable to completely experience the pain and pleasure.

7) Vedanā: Feeling –The seventh link of dependent arising is feeling depicted by a man with an arrow piercing their eye. Some pictures represent this link with a sick man lying on a bed but both have the same meaning.

When someone has an arrow stuck in their eye, they will not be able to think of or notice due to so much pain, and not able to see due to the arrow in eyes. Likewise during the link of feeling we experience strong sensations of pain or pleasure and the intensity of our feelings aspiring for happiness and wishing to avoid suffering will increase.

8) Tṛṣṇa: Craving – The eight of the 12 links of dependent arising is Craving shown by a drunk man being pulled up by a woman, because he cannot stand without her help.

There is a saying in Tibetan that "there is no satisfaction for the drinkers to quench the thirst". Due to addiction the drinker cannot quit drinking alcohol and they continue to take as much as they can. Too much drinking can loose control of the mind, which leads to numerous other shortcomings such as idle gossip and provoking fights. Likewise the craving of attachment nourishes the karmic tendencies accumulated in the past and also increase or desires, although they can never be satisfied and how much you rely on them they will cause numerous faults of cyclic existence. So, craving is like a drunkard who creates many present as well as future sufferings. 

9)Upādāna: Grasping – The ninth link is Grasping, symbolized by a man plucking fruits from a tree. In some pictures there is a monkey holding fruit in one hand whilst grasping at more fruit with the other.

When the degree of attachment arises the yearning for fruit leads you want more and more, without ever finding contentment.  Then whilst eating one fruit we try to grasp after more fruits with the other hand. Likewise due to the yearning for craving which is the eight link of dependent arising led the grasping ripen the karma for the next birth.

10)Bhava: Existence – The tenth link of the dependent arising is Existence which is symbolized by a couple sleeping together. In some pictures it is shown a pregnant woman who is ready to give birth which also has the same meaning. 

In the past, karmic activity laid down latent propensities on the consciousness, which when nurtured by craving and grasping, became empowered to bring forth existence in a new birth.

 

11) Jāti: Rebirth –The eleventh link of dependent arising is Birth, represented by a mother delivering a baby or giving birth to a child.

Just as when a baby comes of the womb, our primary consciousness is separated from the old body and after death transmigrates to the intermediate state. Then the consciousness initially enters one or another of the four types of rebirth. 

One will take rebirth in higher realms if you have accumulated virtuous karmic actions and one may fall in the lower realms if you have committed non-virtuous karmic actions.

12)Jarāmaraṇa: Aging and Death – The last of the 12 links of dependent arising is Aging and Death, symbolized by a man dead body on his back. 

When we encounter a dead body it gives rise to spontaneous feelings that we are subject to the nature of death. Even though may be in the youthful stage of life right now, but gradually the stage of aging will arise and you will become old.

When the disscoultion of the 4 elements ( the earth, water, fire and wind) occurs near death, there is a complete separation of consciousness from the present body, which is what we call death.

Therefore, as long as we are under the influence of contaminated physical and mental aggregates and are reborn as one of those six migrating beings, we are subject to impermanence and aging and there is no other way to overcome this.

So, this is how and in what manners do we engage in and turning again and again in cyclic existence through the forward progession of the twelve links of dependent arising.

 Four Classes of Cause and Effect

The 12 links of dependent arising of cyclic existence are also categorized into four classes of cause and effect:-

  1. The Projecting cause
  2. The Projected effect
  3. The Actualizing cause
  4. The Actualized effect

The first three of the 12 links of the Wheel of Life, Ignorance, Karmic activity and Consciousness are the projecting causes.

Name and Form, The six sources, Feelings are the projected effects.

Craving, Grasping, Existence are the actualizing causes.

Rebirth, Aging and Death are the actualized effects.

At the back of the Wheel of Existence there is a terrifying demon or Mara representing the Lord of Death, gripping the wheel of life with both is armas and feet and piercing it with his sharp teeth. When the person is caught in the hands of a demon, there is no chance of escape and death in only a matter of time.

Likewise I explained before that once you are reborn in any of realms of cyclic existence there is no other alternative than to finally face death.

Putting an end to Cyclic Existence.

So far i have briefly introduced the unenlightened state of existence based on the forward progression of dependent arising. Now, I am going to introduce the reverse order of dependent arising leading to the enlightened state which explains how to put an end to cyclic existence.

Ignorance, the first of the twelve links of the dependent arising, is like a blind man. So, when we thoroughly examine the self which is apprehended by this ignorance, and again analyze whether this self exists or not using logic and thorough investigation over a long period of time, we will gain a deep conviction such a self does not exist at all.

Once we realize emptiness directly then this dispels the ignorance which is the root of the cyclic existence. Name and form then cease, the six sources then cease, then contect ceases, then feeling ceases, then craving, grasping and then existence ceases.

If existence ceases then birth ceases, and if birth ceases there will be no aging and death.

Thus one will fully be liberated from the power of afflictive emotions and Karma forever, and such state of mind where one has ceased all negative emotions and karma, we call Nirvana or liberation (Moksha).

So this is the brief introduction to the forward progression and reverse order of the twelve links of dependent arising.

A full moon is drawn on the upper left side of the wheel of life which symbolises the state of cessation or Nirvana.

Full Moon (Purnima)

The dark side of the moon starts been gradually dispelled from the 1st day of the lunar month up until the 15th day when the full moon arises, unsustained by any Darkness. So just like the full white moon having the quality of serenity, coolness and illuminate light all over, the state of liberation or gradually abandon all faults off afflictive emotions and possess all the goodness.

Thus dispel from the heat of emotions and attain complete serenity of peace forever.

On the right side of the Wheel of Life is a serene Buddha, pointing his hand to the moon, which symbolises the Path that leads to cessation or the complete state of liberation.

In the upper left corner of the Wheel Of Life, Buddha is teaching disciples how to liberate themselves from samsara.
January 06, 2018
Victory Banner Tibetan Thangka

The victory banner

This symbol represents how Buddha won over the demon Mara. This demon, in Buddhism, is synonymous to passion, lust and pride. The Banner of Victory is used to remind people that one must win over their own pride, lust and passions to be able to reach enlightenment.


Similarly the gods elected to place a banner of victory on the summit of Mt Meru, to honour the Buddha as the ‘Conqueror’ who defeated the armies of Mara

January 06, 2018
Pair of Golden Fish Thangka

The Pair Of Golden Fish

In older times, the two fish were drawn to symbolize the Ganges and the Yamuna rivers. It has, through interpretation, come to mean luck and fortune. It also means the courage and fearlessness to face the ocean of sufferings and to be able to swim freely like fish through water.

In Buddhism the golden fishes represent happiness and impulsiveness, as they have complete liberty of movement in the water. They epitomize fertility and profusion, as they multiply very rapidly. They embody freedom from the fetters of caste and status, as they mingle and touch readily. Fish often swim in pairs, and in China a pair of fishes symbolize conjugal harmony and loyalty, with a brace of fishes being traditionally given as a wedding present.
January 05, 2018
Treasure Vase Thangka

The Treasure Vase

The Treasure Vase

A vase can be filled with many different things. The vase, in Buddhism, can mean the showering of health, wealth, prosperity and all the good things that come with enlightenment.

Each of us has “the Treasure Vase” within us because we have the innate capacity as vast as the ocean to embrace the supreme Law of Buddhahood.
January 04, 2018
Parasol Thangka Painting

The Parasol


The parasol, in other words, an umbrella is a traditional buddhism symbol of royalty and protection from the raging heat of the tropical sun. The coolness of its shade signifies shield from the aching heat of suffering, temptation, hindrances, illnesses, and harmful forces. An umbrella can protect people from the different elements, like the sun or the rain. In this context, a parasol or umbrella can mean protection from suffering and harmful forces. It can also mean the enjoyment of the cool shade it provides.

Just like the Bodhi tree is the sanctuary from which the Buddha attain enlightenment, so is the parasol through which people enjoy the cooling shade of protection from Buddhas and bodhisattvas.

January 03, 2018