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Paintings > Thangka > Towards an Aesthetic of Nirvana
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Towards an Aesthetic of Nirvana

Towards an Aesthetic of Nirvana

Towards an Aesthetic of Nirvana

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Tibetan Thangka Painting

20.5" x 29.0"
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Towards an Aesthetic of Nirvana

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Viewed 2750 times since 30th Sep, 2010
Enlightenment, or Nirvana is central to the whole notion of spiritual advancement in Buddhism. Translating this abstract concept into visual terms is a both challenging and exciting task. In this well-thought out painting the artist sets out to achieve just this and his skill is evident in the vibrant use of colors and faithful adherence to iconographic norms.

On a full-blown lotus sits the primordial Buddha known as Vajradhara. The name Vajradhara means "holder of the vajra [thunderbolt]," and since the vajra is the quintessential symbol of Tibetan Buddhism it is obvious that we are in the presence of a particularly empowered form. Indeed, Buddhist aesthetics seeks in Vajradhara a personification of the intangible concept of enlightenment (satori or kensho in Japanese), which is realized in the following manner:

1). Vajradhara holds the vajra in his right hand and the bell in his left. His hands are crossed at the wrists, a gesture symbolizing the union of compassion and wisdom which is necessary to reach enlightenment. The vajra represents the compassion of the Buddha, the masculine principle; and the bell represents wisdom, the female principle. To achieve enlightenment, these two principles must combine, or in other words, all notions of duality are swept away by the unifying winds of Nirvana.

2). Vajradhara is blue in color, like the infinite sky. This is expressive of the fact that enlightenment is but a realization of emptiness or nothingness known in Sanskrit as 'Shunyta (zeroness).'

3). Vajradhara is supremely beautiful. So is enlightenment. Like Vajradhara, it is both sublime and mystical.

4). The deity is seated here on the six-ornament throne of enlightenment, a privilege reserved in Buddhist art for only those who have reached the ultimate shelter of Nirvana.

Thus is the spiritual goal of achieving in physical 'form,' the abstract concept of enlightenment, achieved.

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  • Nameste, Is the size of the thanka 20.5" x 29.0" the size of the painting or does that size include the Brocade. It is important for me to know as I want it to match another Thanka that I already have.
    by joseph stern on 26th Jul 2004
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