Archive for the ‘Tibetan Buddhism’ Category

We also received images of the recent winter teaching retreat for monks, nuns, and laypeople that occurred at Longen Monastery.

Longen Monks Gathering for Winter Teachings

The winter teachings are so popular with local people to the point that there is not enough room for them indoors, so many sit outside all day listening.

Clergy and Lay People Listen to Buddhist Teachings in the Cold Golok Winter


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University of Kansas undergraduate Sam Boje, one of the students in Eric Rath’s History of Tibet course, took up the challenge and created a drawing of the head of a Buddha based upon Professor Yoonmi Nam’s template provided in a previous post.

Head of the Buddha by Sam Boje

Sam Boje also created several drawings inspired by Patrul Rinpoche’s Words of my Perfect Teacher, a required text in the Tibetan history course.  One section of this work describes the suffering of beings in three lower realms of existence: hell, the realm of hungry ghosts, and the realm of animals.  Sam depicted these in the following image.

Three Realms of Existence by Sam Boje

Sam Boje provides a provocative and novel interpretation of Tibet Buddhism in both works, and we are glad to be able to share these with you.

– Eric C. Rath

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On November 5th in Alderson Auditorium at the University of Kansas Union our project team presented “Wrathful Deities and Peaceful Buddhas: Studying Tibetan Art in China.” The presentation described our two-year project to develop a program in traditional arts at a school for Tibetans in China, providing an overview of the process of creating traditional Tibetan paintings (tangkha), and their cultural meanings.

Eric Rath introduced the project, describing the aims and construction of the Mayul school profiling its students and current offering of courses that provide a context for the new courses on traditional art funded by our grant.  Champa Lhunpo described the religious practices and significance of traditional Tibetan painting to Tibetan culture and religiosity.  Eric Conrad and Yoonmi Nam explained the process that the teacher of Tibetan art, Dorje, uses to instruct students at the Mayul School.

Professors Conrad and Nam lecturing on Tibetan Drawing (photo by Dana Rath)

Typically, Dorje draws an image on the blackboard for students to copy and then he critiques their work as they reproduce his drawing in class.   This allows students to practice the proportions and stylistic conventions fundamental to Tibetan art.  Since paintings begin as sketches, drawing is the literal and physical foundation of Tibetan painting.


Eric Conrad's rendering of a drawing of a yak by Dorje

Thank you to everyone who joined us for this event and made it possible.

– Eric Rath

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Besides teaching drawing classes to the students in the school, Dorje, the traditional art teacher, maintains an ongoing painting studio at the school.

Dorje in Drawing Class

There he works on his own commissions and trains apprentices in the rigorous art of tanghka painting.  Here are few photos of his studio.

Two Works in Progress

Note how the tangkha are painted on canvas stretched tightly on wood frames.

Dorje Explains how to Apply Colors

Work in Progress (detail)

Work in Progress (detail, 2)

It can take seven months to finish one tangkha painting and the level of detail in these examples explains the reason for that.

– Eric C. Rath

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Exterior of the Main Prayer Hall

Yesterday the paintings in the main prayer hall were uncovered in anticipation of a visit by government officials today.

Prayer Hall Interior

Usually the paintings that adorn the walls of the prayer hall are covered by cloth strips that have to be lifted to see the paintings underneath.  With the cloth removed, the paintings could be viewed in their full glory.  Here is just a selection of a few of these.

Dorje Purba (Vajrakilaya)

Dharma Regent

Guru Rinpoche with Consort and Entourage (Detail)

— Eric C. Rath

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Last year, I wrote about the local yogi, “the demon-dispeller” Dundral, who guards the entrance of the monastery and is responsible also for disposing of corpses for the monastery and surrounding community. Since he would not let me take his photo, I had to use a picture that closely resembled him, namely Jack Benny. Judging from our search records for this site, many of our visitors have been searching for information about Jack Benny and they wind up here.  My apologies.

Today, however, when I visited Dundral’s home he allowed me to take his photo. Here it is:

Dundral at home

I noticed immediately that he had made some improvements to make his home even more comfortable.  He had lined the ceiling and walls with pink and blue bed sheets.  He also had a lot more appliances to make his life easier.  But his best innovation was a rope that lead out his window.  He no longer has to run outside to block a car from entering the monastery compound.  Instead, he pulls on his rope and that raises the traffic barrier, his version of a highway tollbooth.

Dundral and friend visiting at the window

You can just see the rope leading outside the window in this picture I took when his friend dropped by.

I could not stay long during this visit — Dundral told me that it was getting late and that I should return home.  However, I look forward to stopping by again soon.

– Eric C. Rath

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Lamasan Statue

H.H. Orgyen Kusum Lingpa, better known as Lamasan, whose vision established the monastic complex and town of Longen, passed away last year, but his presence endures in many ways.  One tribute to his memory is a life-size and very life-like statue created by one of his Chinese devotees.  That statue maintained vigil in the prayer hall during the recent prayer service (monlam).  Yesterday it was moved to Lamasan’s compound to a seat in his winter home.

Lamasan's Compound

Lamasan's Summer (left) and winter (right) residences

Lamasan's Statue in the Winter Residence

Surrounded by pictorial and sculptural reminders of his faith including large photos of his teachers, the statue of Lamasan appears so lifelike that at any moment it might pick up a drum and begin to pray.

Lamasan Statue (detail)

– Eric C. Rath

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