In this series, the .gems team is working in cooperation with Pureland Travels with the goal to support Tibetans in their own cultural and economic sustainability and introduce NFTs as an innovative method to extend social benefit.
In the first release with Pureland Travels, we present 3 traditional Thangka paintings in ultra-high resolution:
–འོད་ཟེར་ཅན་མ OZerCenMa- The Goddess of Dawn,
–འཇམ་དཔལ་དབྱངས JamPelYang-The Buddha of Wisdom
– སངས་རྒྱས་སྨན་བླ་ SanGyeMenLa- The Medicine Buddha
The original artworks have been produced by the Thangka painter Tashi in collaboration with his students. Tashi has made it his life’s mission to preserve Tibetan culture by teaching the revered discipline of traditional Thangka painting to the next generation of young Tibetans. Many of Tashi’s students are orphans that lost their parents during the 2010 Yushu earthquake, and much of the revenue generated through selling their work goes back to funding the materials and boarding costs that the students need for their arts education.
Besides going beyond the traditional market for Thangka art and supporting the good cause of Pureland Travels and Tashi, this series also explores opportunities for spirituality in the digital space. It’s trying to answer the question of how the sacredness of a physical masterpiece can be transformed into a digital representation. How much of the object exists in our minds and how important is materialistic presence and ownership in the digital age of the 21st century?
In Tibetan Buddhism, visualization is used as a technique for meditation. While the foundational philosophy is that nothing ultimately exists, our unenlightened minds create the world that we engage with on the relative level. It is thought that meditation on enlightened aspects of the mind – such as wisdom, compassion, and generosity represented in the form of Buddhas (known as Nirmanakaya) will allow us to break through our own ego and join in the expansive union of enlightened energy.
Thangka translates literally to “thing that unrolls” referring to how they are transported or stored. Since the 8th century, Tibetan artists created these paintings on a stretched cotton canvas, applying a distemper wash and painting with hand-ground stone and plant pigments in a technique that could be likened to a painter’s pointillism. A tiny brush is used to mindfully place millions of strokes to create an homage to enlightened beings.
Traditionally, Thangkas were created solely for devotional spiritual purpose, not decorative. In order to meditate on one of these images, the practitioner would receive Wang (empowerment), Tri (direct explanation) & Lung (transmission) from a qualified master who has achieved some level of enlightenment. Practitioners will memorize the features of the thangka and often visualise it coming to life with moving mantras that link their own being with the depicted Buddha. Vajrayana (tantric) practitioners are empowered to imagine becoming one with the Buddha, engaging with the enlightened qualities. There are some images that are kept hidden or secret that embody aspects of practice for only certain levels of practitioners. The images that we have chosen for the NFT collection are all approved by Lamas to be circulated online, and it is thought that it is actually quite beneficial for people, even with no background in Buddhism to view these images, in hope that simply laying eyes on these figures will inspire peace, compassion and wisdom. Our intention is not in any way to convert anyone to Buddhism but simply to invite the digital community to a spiritually significant experience.
Tibetan Thangka paintings have a rich and ancient history. In his painting school/orphanage, Tashi uses traditional techniques and teaches his students in Tibetan language, engaging them in the philosophical and spiritual dimensions of creating art. Thangka painters were for many years only monks, but slowly the tradition was passed to laymen. Today Tashi is fighting for gender equity and tries to recruit female artists into the school breaking gender barriers to empower girls and women, socially, spiritually and economically. As globalization threatens cultural diversity, it is our intention to use the power of NFTs to draw awareness and support for Tibetan artists to maintain their ancient, environmentally friendly and spiritually engaged work to the consciousness of the international NFT community.
The profits from each sale will help sustain cultural livelihoods while bridging the divide between spiritual and digital realms.
-འོད་ཟེར་ཅན་མ OZer ChenMa(Tib.),Marichi (Skt.): The Buddha of Light
Directly translated as the Goddess of light rays, OzerChenMa (as it is pronounced) is known as Marichi in Hinduism and the God of the Heavens in China. In Korea and Japan she is the protector of warriors. Her mythical origins may in fact be Iranian dating back 1,500 years. She is known for bringing the light of dawn and her prayer and mantra can be heard being chanted at sunrise. She is believed to be a powerful protector- especially for travellers, dispelling obstacles while bringing great pleasure. She is the female counterpart to Jampelyang (Manjushri). Tibetans and Chinese practitioners associate her earthly representation in the western hills outside of Kunming in Dianchi Lake.
The Buddha is depicted as female in yellow color with eight arms and hands, three heads (one with the face of a sow), two legs and sitting in lalit-asana on a throne chariot being pulled by seven pigs. Adorned with gemstone decorated hoop earrings, necklaces and anklets she wears a floral silk scarf and dhoti (an Indian wrap skirt). She is both beautiful and fierce. Her background is decorated with a golden Aura of light rays, lotus, blue sky and clouds. The middle ground and foreground depict a mountainous landscape with flowing waters and auspicious offerings of Tibetan style.
OzerChenMa’s mantra is: Om Marichi Mum Swaha, it is primarily used at dawn. In this mantra recitation, the practitioner visualizes OzerChenMa shaped rays of the sun emanating from her to purify all sentient beings that one can imagine. After permeating all beings, including any harmful beings or spirits- blinding them with love light, taking away their desire to do harm. Once that is done, those light rays return to the practitioner. One imagines that these rays signify compassion and wisdom, and that they are filled with these good qualities like OzerChenMa. At the end of every prayer or meditation session, a final wish is made sharing the merit gained from the practice and praying that it enlightens all beings.
Sound like a deep dream? It kind of is. Let’s dive into the meaning. The yellow color signifies her personification of the sun. Each face has 3 peaceful eyes, the extra eye is for tantric deities, representing direct vision of the unity of ultimate reality. Her fangs cut through the false world appearing to materialistic perceptions. The sow face and those pulling her signify the victory over ignorance with the pigs represented.
She holds weapons in each hand:
A Vajra (ritual dagger) to dispel obstacles-through wisdom.
A sewing needle representing the power of one-pointed concentration.
A bow & arrow for protection from obstacles and bad energy.
A medicinal plant for healing.
A noose to bind beings to wisdom from life to life.
A sword to cut through the ignorance of ego and get to wisdom
A lotus embodies enlightenment, its roots in the darkness of mud and its flower floating on the clear water above, open to the sky.
-འཇམ་དཔལ་དབྱངས JamPelYang-The Buddha of Wisdom
Named Manjushri meaning sweet glory in Sanskrit, also known as Vagishvara and Manjughosha. Jampelyang embodies the wisdom of enlightenment. Although the sutras (Buddhist scriptures from the original Shakyamuni Buddha) from AD 250 honor him, it was not until AD 400 that Manjushri was depicted in art, and then again not until the eighth century for Tibetan Thangkas. Though he is a celestial bodhisattva, there are some that give him a human history. Some say that he emanated as Tibetan reformer Atisha, and others believe he was an emperor of China. Manjushri is now the patron Buddha of the Sciences and Arts, used by writers and astrologers alike. Mount Wutai, a sacred site in China’s Shanxi province, is dedicated to him.
As one of eight Dhyani-bodhisattvas, he is depicted like a prince, with royal gem-studded ornaments, orange in color with one face, two arms, his hair tied up, with some curls flowing over his shoulders. He sits in full vajra posture, wearing a floral lungi and silk scarves. His right hand holds a sword of wisdom. At his heart, his left thumb and ring finger hold the stem of a lotus that carries the Prajñāpāramitā (Perfection of Wisdom sutra).
JamPhelYang’s’s mantra is: Om A Ra Pa Tsa Na Dhih and can be heard in schools and monastic institutions across Tibet as the benefits are believed to include the enhancement of wisdom, intelligence, mastery of teaching, memory, speech and writing. In the simplified visualization, one imagines the Dhih, a seed syllable radiating orange rays of light from Jamphelyangs heart. The light is the visualization of ultimate wisdom, each ray emanating countless Jampeyangs. Some are the size of mountain ranges, others as small as sesame seeds -these forms of the Buddha pervade space in its entirety. These billions of Buddhas are then absorbed into one’s body through its pores, uniting oneself with the Buddha’s own nature of wisdom being like a river entering the ocean. The entire body becomes crystal clear wisdom light and it destroys all ignorance and obstacles obscuring expansive wisdom.
The sword depicts his capacity to cut through delusion. Holding the lotus symbolizes his renunciation of destructive emotions (ignorance, attachment, aversion, pride, and jealousy). He appears to be 16 years of age, and it is said that his wisdom offers him constant new perspectives, granting him eternal youth. Those who use his mantra and meditation strive to acquire the transcendent wisdom to see the world in new ways.
- སངས་རྒྱས་སྨན་བླ་ SanGyeMenLa- The Buddha of Medicine
Commonly referred to as the “Medicine Buddha”, he is described as a doctor who cures suffering with the medicine of his teachings. In India he is known as Bhaisajya Guru. There are three sutras that concern the Medicine Buddha, which were used as a basis to develop the complex system of Tibetan medicine. It is said that when Sangye Menla became a Buddha, he made 12 vows to benefit beings, and upon making that aspiration to relieve suffering, the Eastern Pureland of Vaiḍūryanirbhāsa “Pure Lapis Lazuli” was created. The earliest found depictions of this Buddha were found in Afghanistan and are believed to be from the 7th century, but the first Tibetan Thangkas would not have existed until Buddhism was brought from modern day Pakistan to Tibet in the eighth century. The practice of this Buddha is popular throughout Mahayana traditions in Japan, China and Korea.
The Buddha is depicted as male, lapis lazuli blue in color with one face, two arms sitting on a lotus throne. His background is decorated with a halo and an Aura of radiant blue light, behind which are lotus, blue sky and clouds. The middle ground and foreground depict a mountainous landscape with a conch, mirror and drumye (a Tibetan instrument). His right hand rests on his knee touching the earth and holding a medicinal plant. His left hand rests on his lap and, holds a begging bowl of the ambrosia of immortality.
SanGyeMenLa’s mantra is: tayatha om bhekandze bhekandze maha bhekandze radza samudgate so’ha. It is primarily used for healing the sick. sometimes repeated over medicine, over water or food for those suffering to infuse healing energy into the patient. Tibetan doctors of all sorts keep this Buddha as their main practice and meditation. In the simplified visualization, practitioners imagine Sangye Menla on a throne above their head, while rays of light pour down from the Buddha’s heart center purifying them of any sickness, or afflictions, negative karma is washed away. The body becomes clear like a crystal and the blue light rays then radiate in all directions healing all sentient beings. The Buddha himself melts into the blue light and is absorbed into the practitioner’s heart, imagining oneself and all beings as purified and healed, one with SangyeMenla. At the end of every prayer or meditation session, a final wish is made sharing the merit gained from the practice and praying that it enlightens all beings.
The Symbols included in Sangye Menlha Thangkas are not overwhelming. His blue color is like the healing stone lapis lazuli. He wears the robes of a monk, and has the extended earlobes signifying his rununcification of royalty. And a top knot of perfect tight curls signaling his enlightened state. Sitting in full lotus posture, his medicine bowl adorns his lap, symbolizing the dharma (Buddha’s teachings) as the nectar that heals all afflictions, both mental and physical. The medicinal plant is held down to the earth in his hand, inviting all to witness the healing power. The mirror below him signifies the belief that the external world mirrors what is inside our mind. If the mind is sick, the body becomes sick and the external world becomes difficult.
Born in 1975 in northern Tibet, Nyima Tashi began studying art at the young age of seven. At fourteen when he graduated elementary school, he became a monk because he was interested in studying Buddhist scripture. Although he didn’t have much time to study, he always looked carefully at the Thangkas that surrounded him in the monastery. By eighteen he finished his core studies and was named “painter monk”.
Thangkas to him are flat sculptures providing meditation assistance for people trying to visualize the Buddhas and inspire them to be more like Buddhas.
He has taught thousands of students, including 500 orphans over the years, disabled and otherwise impoverished youth. He runs these programs out of his own home workshop. Providing humble accommodations, food cooked by his own family and painting lessons free of charge, so that these students can have their own livelihood and sell their own artwork.
His short term goal is to raise funds for his painting school that will fulfill his long-term aspiration to benefit the underserved Tibetans in his community while sustaining Traditional Tibetan painting, which includes the manufacturing of their own natural paints and washes, and following ancient guidelines on color, style and Buddhist depictions of different levels of reality, thus inspiring the liberation of all beings.