Bhutanese Paintings

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Preserving cultures of antiquity for the beneďŹ t of humanity.

Choki is a non profit organization founded with the mission of protecting the culture and traditions of some of the most sacred places left in the world that are under the threat of “globalization.” Through Choki’s support causes, beneficiaries will receive opportunities for human sustainability, security, and empowerment. The economic opportunities are provided only to the world’s poorest communities, who otherwise may continue to suffer the cycle of poverty. Choki wants to accomplish a world of “I believe,” with the purpose to share the beauty of traditional arts and culture with the world. We believe that art has the capacity to create and reinvent life in unimaginable ways.

“Art is the most beautiful invention of man, the universal language of life, a reflection of self for the artist, the audience, the past, present and future. The creative powers of people are infinite, and must be supported.”

Casey Hartnett - Founder Choki

Choki Traditional Art School Choki Traditional Art School is the only private institution that offers training of traditional arts and crafts in Bhutan. In addition, the school serves as an orphanage providing free tuition, food and lodging to the most disadvantaged youth of the region. The limited resources make it difďŹ cult for students to continue their training. In consequence, some of them cannot pursue their education and strive to pursue their dreams.

Choki seeks to ďŹ nd economic sustainability for the school and its students to preserve traditional art techniques for future generations. Beyond this, the traditional arts will be valued and preserved by the following generations. Pride is unequal to any other, heart and mind work together to create art that is beautiful beyond measurement and Choki wants to create this invaluable opportunity for the future artists.

The Art Buthanese unique art is still unseen around the world. The ancient art techniques such as drawing (Rimo), painting (Thanka), wood carving (Patra), weaving (Thag-Zo), and embroidery (Tshem-Zo) portray the rich culture of Bhutan. From cosmic mandalas to the stories of Gautama Buddha the incredible attention to detail and passion of the students reflect the love Bhutanese people have for their culture and heritage.

Kalachakra Dimentions: 40 x 40 in With frame: 70 x 70 in

About the Deity: The Kālacakra deity represents Buddhahood omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence. Kālacakra is time and everything is under the influence of time, therefore, Kālacakra is all and knows all. Kālacakri is his consort. She is aware of everything that is timeless and therefore, not time-bound. They are in union demonstrating temporal and non temporal. Similarly, the wheel is without beginning or end. The Mandala: The Kālacakra revolves around the concept of time (kāla) and cycles (chakra). The cycles include the cycles of the planets as the outer manifestation to the cycles of human breathing, an inner manifestation of time. Kalachakra teaches the practice of working with the subtle energies within the human body known as yoga channels and winds. Kalachakra and Kalachakri reside middle of the mandala. His palace consists of 4 mandalas: body, speech, mind, and wisdom. There are 772 within the complex geometry of the mandala.

Guru Dragpo Dimentions: 80 x 80 in

About the Deity: Guru Padmasambhava (also known as Guru Rinpoche) brought tantric Buddhism to India, Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal. Guru Padmasambhava has 8 manifestations. As Guru Dragpo, a wrathful form, he is a fierce protector of the Buddha's doctrine. He is a destroyer of obstacles on the path to enlightenment and transforms negative conditions into wisdom. The Mandala: Standing in the middle of the mandala on a lotus, at the center of his palace, is Guru Dragpo. He is fierce in appearance, red in color, has three faces and six hands and embraces the consort. Large blue wings unfurl behind him. He stands surrounded by the brightly burning flames of pristine awareness. His retinue of other enlightened deities sit on pedals of the open lotus encircling the center of the mandala. His syllable “Hung” simultaneously radiates and permeates space as indestructible rays that dissipate all illusion and confusion.

Lagyen Jaro Dong (Bernagchen Mahakala)

Dimentions: 80 x 80 in

About the Deity: Mahakala is a protector in Tibetan Buddhism of the Buddha’s doctrine and followers on the path to enlightenment. There are a number of different forms of Mahakala. Bernagchen Mahakala is a protector specifically of Karma Kagyu, one of the main 4 schools of Tibetan Buddhism. More particularly, he is the protector of the Karmapas, the lineage head of Karma Kagyu. The Mandala: It represents the 3-sided palace of Bernagchen Mahakala. The mandala is a “T shape”. There are 3 doors and walls. At the very center, is Bernagchen Mahakala or Lagyen Jaro Dong with his consort, Shri Devi (Maha Kali). In this mandala, they are represented with the letter “hung” which pervades all space with the power to destroy illusion and confusion while simultaneously revealing absolute truth. Mahakala has mastery over all aggression (serpents) and attachment (heads) and is inherently peaceful.

Shing Jay (Yamantaka or Yamaraj: Sanskrit)

Dimentions: 81 x 66 in

About the Deity: Yamantaka is commonly known as the destroyer of the concept of death. He is the wrathful form of the Buddha of Wisdom named Manjushri. Yamantaka is awakening of absolute truth, the full enlightenment that conquers the illusion that death exists. The Mandala: Fiercely wrathful, blue in colour, with a snarling buffalo face and gaping mouth, he has three eyes with the middle eye being the wisdom eye. The right hand holds outstretched to the side, a skull stick mounted with a white skull and gold half-vajra. The left hand grasps a black lasso entwined about his hand. He is adorned with a crown of ďŹ ve white skulls representing "naked" absolute wisdom. The garland of 50 fresh heads represents detachment from a view that a self exists. He stands on top of a buffalo and male corpse. He is surrounded by brightly burning orange flames of pristine awareness.

Bernagchen Mahakala Dimentions: 81 x 66 in

About the Deity: Mahakala is a protector in Tibetan Buddhism of the Buddha’s doctrine and followers on the path to enlightenment. Bernagchen Mahakala is a protector specifically of Karma Kagyu, one of the main 4 schools of Tibetan Buddhism. More particularly, he is the protector of the Karmapas, the lineage head of Karma Kagyu. The Mandala: Mahakala Bernagchen is black in color. His one face has three round buldging eyes. The eye in the forehead is the wisdom eye. The right hand holds a curved knife with a vajra handle that severs all attachment. The left holds a white blood filled skullcap. His is adorned with a crown of five dry white skulls representing naked truth that is wisdom. The garland of freshly severed heads represent complete detachment to a body and identification of a self. He is specially known for his black cloak. He stands in flames of pristine awareness.

Tsepakmed Mandala (Buddha of Long Life)

Dimentions: 80 x 80 in

About the Deity: Buddha Amitayus holds a long life vase with the nectar of immortality contained inside. His cross-legged or lotus position denotes pure undisturbed meditative absorption. His hands symbolize pure stability and undisturbed perfect view of absolute truth. The Mandala: The mandala is surrounded by an outer ring of ďŹ re in rainbow colours that represent wisdom. The next inner ring is a circle of Vajras that indicate protection from negative thoughts and pristine wisdom. The ring of lotus petals symbolizes the awakening of purity of mind. At the center of the mandala, in the center of his palace, sits Buddha Amitayus, known as the Buddha of InďŹ nite Light. Surrounding Amitayus are 8 lotus petals representing different deities of his retinue. Outside of the central circle and the 8 lotus petals are again 4 other deities of Amitayus’ retinue. These 4 deities are represented by the 4 dharma letters.

Medicine Buddha (Sangay Menla – Tibetan)

Dimentions: 80 x 80 in

About the Deity: The Medicine Buddha is the Buddha of Healing and it has the power to heal any disease and purify negative karma. Medicine Buddha brings good health, peace, happiness and it holds the Begging Bowl containing nectar to heal all diseases in his left hand. In his right hand, he holds the myrobalan flower representing the best and most pure medicine. The Mandala: In the center is the Medicine Buddha bestowing healing. The Medicine Buddha is surrounded by another ring of 8 lotus petals. 7 healing Buddhas and Buddha Shakyamuni are seated on the inner 8 lotus pedals. Outside the ring of 8 lotus petals are the 16 Bodhisattvas who are seated on the lotus of 16 petals. Outside this ring sit the 10 guardians of the 10 directions, 12 yakshaw generals and the 4 guardian kings of the 4 gates.

Peaceful and Wrathful Deities Dimentions: 80 X 80 in

The Deities: Samantabhadra is the primordial Buddha. He is pure omniscience, the essence of the enlightenment of all the Buddhas. His consort, Samantabhadri is the female primordial Buddha. Their union represents non-dual wisdom and compassion and that each sentient being has potential for Buddhahood. Samanta means, “universally extending.” Bhadra means “great virtue.” The Mandala: This mandala has 42 peaceful and 58 wrathful deities. At the center of the mandala, is the Buddha Samantrabadra (male) and Buddha Samantrabadri (female) in union. This is the union of perfect wisdom and perfect compassion as well as inseparability of the illusion world with enlightenment . The other peaceful and wrathful deities are the retinue of Samantrabadra and Samantrabadri. These deities appear in the between state of death and rebirth. This "Bardo" is the intermediate state between death and rebirth. This mandala is based on the bardo teachings in Tibetan Buddhism and the Guhyagarbha Tantra.

Avalokitesvara Dimentions: 81 x 62 in

Avalokiteśvara popularly known as Chuchi Shey/Chag tong chen tong (The Eleven Headed and Thousand Arms - Thousand Eyes) is the god of compassion. One prominent Buddhist story tells of Avalokiteśvara vowing never to rest until he had freed all sentient beings from Samsara. Despite strenuous effort, he realizes that still many unhappy beings were yet to be saved. After struggling to comprehend the needs of so many, his head splits into eleven pieces. Amitabha Buddha, seeing his plight, gives him eleven heads with which to hear the cries of the suffering. Upon hearing these cries and comprehending them, Avalokiteśvara attempts to reach out to all those who needed aid, but found that his two arms shattered into pieces. Once more, Amitabha comes to his aid and invests him with a thousand arms with which to aid the suffering multitudes. From the tears of Avalokitesvara were born white and green Tara. These two Taras are found in the painting beneath the Avalokitesvara. Many Himalayan versions of the tale include eight arms with which Avalokiteśvara skillfully upholds the dharma.

Vajrakila (Phurpa) Dimentions: 81 X 62 in

The combined power and activity of all the Dhayani Buddhas is embodied in the all-powerful Vajra Prince, known as Vajra Kila. In reality he is Samantabadhra, the originator of all the Buddhas. Samantabadhra, the teacher with the three sublime qualities, without wavering from his boundless and eternal meditation, took the form of Vajra Kila. This transpired when the meeting of the three perfect times occurred at the place of the three sublime qualities. From the union of the male and female Vajra Kila, sprang forth the wrathful mandalas and wrathful deities of the ten directions, possessing the qualities of three perfect followers. He then gave the teachings of the three sublime qualities. The all-powerful Vajra Kila, head of all the wrathful deities of the ten directions, was born to subdue the exceedingly evil forces that were unable to be pacified by peaceful means. This is the comprehensive painting of Vajra Kila, the most powerful and wrathful deity of Nyingmapa sect. The main central figure is substantially larger compared to the surrounding figures, which gives the painting an impressive appearance. The surrounding deities are attired in a variety of colours, with the majority in unique wrathful attire. Their facial expressions are completely wrathful as they sit atop gold painted sun discs. From the main central deity to the minute corpses in the cemetery all aspects of the painting display great complexity of detail. The placement of the main figure in this painting is higher than is usual for the majority of paintings due to the large number of surrounding deities and followers. All the Five Order Kilas, the Ten Kilayas, and the main vajra Kila have Garudas in the same colour as their bodies above their heads. They are said to be the emanations of the divine wisdom of the deity above whose head they hover.

Gathering of Saints Dimentions: 80 X 62 in

This kind of thangka is called a guruparampara, a “Line of Teachers.” It shows a family tree, as it were, and its function is to indicate a line of descent. The idea is that the presentation should be seen as a refuge for believers. It creates a kind of structure in the chaotic number of deities and teachers in whom believers take refuge, because they will help believers in the course of their spiritual development. All the portrayed personages have been brought together in and around a tree that sprouts forth from a body of water. Originally, this manner of portrayal stems from the Nyingma Order, and finds a parallel there in the way in which Padmasambhava was born, namely on a lotus that was growing in a lake. The Gelugpa adopted this idea. The tree stands in the water. The tree is an ancient symbol throughout Asia. This tree has its roots in the life-giving primal waters, and rises up by way of earth into the higher layers of air, its crown extending into the universe. In cosmic thought, the concepts “tree” and “mountain” are inter-changeable. The cosmic mountain, Mount Meru, where the gods live, is also located in the cosmic ocean. Located in the center of the presentation sits a lama who functions as the believer’s guru on the spiritual path. Often, Tsongkhapa is depicted as guide and model. The central figure bears a small Buddha figure on his chest which, in turn, also bears a depiction of the Adi Buddha on his chest. This represents the spiritual ascension of nirmanakaya by way of sambhogakaya to the shunyata realm of dharmakaya. From the central figure, two rays of light emanate and end in congregations of venerable masters who generally represent the Madhyamika and the Yogacara schools.

‘One Thousand Buddhas’ Choki’s Art Exhibition Space Gallery. Denver CO. May 18th 2015

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