Tibetan Buddhist Art

Similar to Christianity in which there are numerous denominations, Buddhism also has different sects. Tibetan Buddhism is a style of practice developed by Buddhist practitioners in the geographic section of Asia, north of India, which includes such countries as Nepal and Bhutan, as well as Tibet.

Having studied Eastern philosophy through the avenue of Yoga, I was attracted to Tibetan Buddhism with it’s apparent similarities to other Eastern practices. As in Hinduism, there is great emphasis on the use of art in Tibetan Buddhist worship. In these photos (with my minimal photography skills!) I present but a portion of the artwork in the main shrine room of the Tara Mandala Temple.

Thankas are large paintings usually done on silk fabric which depict the life of the Buddha or other important deities. A torma is a figure sculpted of  barley flour and butter, often quite ornate in their embellishments. Seen as an offering cake (hence flour and butter), the torma is eventually scattered across the land or water as an offering, as an act of non-attachment.

Tibetan Buddhist practice often involves periods of  specifically outlined prayer chanting, interspersed with silent meditation and mantra practice. All aspects of one’s psyche are acknowledged; from the fierceness needed to dispel negativity, to the rapture of bliss, to the peace of open space.  Undeniably there is a huge cultural aspect to Tibetan practice and this is an obstacle for some. However I have found the practices to be of great benefit in “reprogramming”  some of my unconscious egotistic intentions. As I have traveled the US these past years, I have been surprised at the widespread availability of Tibetan Buddhism in places as far away as Montana and Utah. If you are so inclined I would suggest you look into a Center in your area.

Enjoy the Art!

Blessings for a very happy Thankful Season!

Tara Mandala Buddhist Retreat Center

A Retreat Center is often a facility established to provide an opportunity for personal practice and study away from day to day life in civilization. Many times this type of Center is in a rural setting. Often technologies such as computer and phone service are limited. “Retreat” can be defined as a place of privacy or refuge. In the Buddhist tradition students are encouraged to go on retreat to help strengthen their meditation and associate practices.    I have been involved with various spiritual Retreat Centers and fully appreciate the deepening of one’s understanding and growth by stepping out of the “mainstream” of life.

In the early months of this year I made the decision to enter a 2 year study program at the Namgyal Institute of Buddhist Studies in Ithaca, NY.  Upon application to the program and meeting with the Director, it was explained to me that the Namgyal Institute is strictly a study facility and offers minimal practice opportunity. This is a viable approach for study, but was not what I had envisioned for my time in a 2 year program. Subsequently I found the Tara Mandala Buddhist Retreat Center in Pagosa Springs, CO. For more complete information on this beautiful Retreat facility please go to their website at http://www.taramandala.org.

In these photos you get a glimpse of the beauty of Tara Mandala both in nature and in esthetics. Due to the cold temperatures of the Colorado mountains, the Center is only open from May until October. There are numerous volunteer positions for Buddhist practitioners who would like to help support their practice with service. My primary work was with the gardens, both temple gardens and vegetable gardens. I would encourage those of you who have a semester schedule, with freedom in the summer, to explore the opportunity of  living and working in a full time practice environment.

For a better visual you can click on the photos for a full view. To return to the blog use your “back arrow” key. My next post will focus on some of the art of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition celebrated at Tara Mandala.

Happy Autumn!

Namaste

Sivananda Yoga Ranch

Holiday Greetings from New York!

The Sivananda Yoga Ranch is 90 miles northwest of New York City, making it an easy retreat center for urban residents. I arrived here in November for a 3 month work exchange program. In exchange for work in the kitchen, laundry, and housekeeping departments, I get room and board and the availability of  6 hours per day of Yoga Sadhana. Sadhana is the Sanskrit term for practices aimed at developing one’s spiritual potentials. It is valuable to me to live in a community that shares and supports my interests in yoga and Eastern philosophy. With the practice time and the work time, there is very little “free” time, thus blog posting becomes a bit problematic.

In these photos you meet some of the fellow residents with whom I share many hours of work and study. As most of them are in their early 20’s, I feel rather fortunate just to keep up! Living in close proximity with others is never easy, therefore the lifestyle provides a groundwork for the development of patience and allowing. I feel very blessed to have a lifestyle that can afford me such an opportunity.

As we have safely navigated the Mayan Calender and will soon be celebrating the New Year of 2013, I send to each and everyone blessings for a joyful and loving holiday. We have so very much for which to give thanks. As we bustle about in our celebrations, be sure to include a few deep breaths of thanksgiving.

Happy Happy Holidays! You can click back and forth on the photos for a better view.

Namaste