á¡kyamuni - An Exhibition of Rare Thankas
Department of Culture of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism has shown an
extraordinary magnanimity and vision in arranging an exhibition of Thankas
in New Delhi, Hyderabad and Samath-Varanasi. The authorities and officials
deserve our congratulations that they have taken up such a topic for the
exhibition which has a very wide and far-reaching implication. It may open
Up floodgates of knowledge and entertainment to the people who would get a
chance to have a view and glimpse
of the rare items which are seldom displayed.
to organize the exhibition has been rightly assigned to our Institute
i.e., the to Central Institute of Buddhist Studies, Leh (Ladakh) which
happens to attract the cream of intellect as found in Ladakh and other
Himalayan regions and secondly which represents the centre of Buddhist
learning and culture in Ladakh. Consequently as many as sixty Thankas have
been collected from as many as four major gonpas (Buddhist viharas or
monastic settlements comprising seminaries and residential abodes of the
Buddhist monks and novices).
to the Mah¡y¡na scripture the Mah¡k¡ru¸ika Buddha himself had
ordained his disciples to learn the five mah¡vidy¡s (Five Great
learnings-áabda (Grammar), Tarks (Logic and Epistemology), áilpa (Art
and Craft), Cikits¡ (medical Science). and Ëdhy¡tma (Spiritual
Science). The Knowledge of these branches of learning is essential for the
realization of Nirv¡¸a and for the attainment of the Ominiscience, i.e.,
the Bodhisattvas are required to make tireless efforts towards the
fulfillment of the Perfections (P¡ramit¡s). According to one of the
verses of the Bodhicary¡vat¡ra of Ëc¡rya á¡ntideva, there is not
even a single branch of learning which the Bodhisattvas can afford to skip
from their scope of studies. Keeping this tradition in view, the Buddhist
practitioners concentrate on the study and teaching of the Five Great
Branches of learning.
Maitreyan¡tha has also opined in his Mah¡y¡nas£tr¡la´k¡ra
that without learning these Five Great Branches of Learning, even the best
of the Ëryas cannot attain Ominiscience. It is, therefore, essential for
them to learn the Five Great Leaning in order to remove the wrong views (mithy¡-d¤Àt¢s)
of their disciples, to do favour to them in their goal of emancipation and
to know the Jµeyadharmas set for them. Ërya Maitreyan¡tha is recorded
to have said in one of his verses that the learners should be taught the
First Four Mah¡vidy¡s while the Bodhisattva should himself concentrate
on the Adh¡yatma vidy¡, i.e., Spritualism of the highest order as
Ominiscience is a must for the attainment of Buddhahood. It is also to be
noted in this context that the First Four Branches of Learning are being
taught the studied in many institutes, but the last one i.e., the learning
of spiritualism can be acquired only at special centers of learning alone.
In fact, Nirv¡¸a cannot be attained without the accomplishment of the
ancient period, the teachers used to be full of knowledge and the
disciples were steeped in faith. Consequently the latter were able to
acquire knowledge with ease and without stress. The Five Major Branches of
Learning are also associated with Five Minor Branches of Learning. In
fact, both are equally essential for spiritual advancement of the highest
á¡kya Pandita of Tibet has opined that Ominiscience is like endless sky.
It is, therefore, essential to have knowledge of all subjects with the
help of the intellect of one's own.
is also to be noted that the Bodhisattvas required the practice of four
prAti¿amvits. These are Dharma Pratismavit, Arth PrAti¿amvit, Nirukti
PrAti¿amvit and Pratibhana PrAti¿amvit. One has to acquire them for the
attainment of knowledge till the end of his life. Ëc¡rya N¡g¡rjuna has
also emphasized that one cannot understand the Absolute Truth without
acquiring the support of Conventional Truth. The Nirv¡¸a cannot be had
without the attainment of the Absolute Truth.
Buddhist Art of Drawing and Sculpture were created for the purpose of
spiritual practices. It is reported that the Blessed One had mentioned
these branches of Art in many of his Sutras and Tantras. The purpose of
referring to these Arts was to liberate his disciples who were eager to be
brought under the Vinayic discipline. The teachings of the T¡thagata are
competent enough to quicken the process of the attainment of Omniscience
in respect of his disciples. The practitioners in Mah¡y¡na have to
resort to the Mantray¡na practices in order to attain Buddhahood faster.
Hence the need of the Arts for the spiritual practitioners.
monasteries of Ladakha are today the most important institutions which
represent the Buddhist Art traditions. They are a storehouse of many rare
and fascinating Thankas. This exhibition is very important not only
because one may be able to see these fascinating and unique Thankas for
the first time but also for the reason that one may realize the importance
of continuance of this wonderful and sacred tradition of Buddhist Art.
people have helped us in organising this exhibition and in the preparation
of this catalogue. We are extremely thankful to the four gonpas for their
help and for lending these rare Thankas for this exhibition. we would
specially like to express our thanks to Shri Rajiv Yadav, Director,
Department of Culture for his help and support in all matters.
the end we would like to express our thanks to Aryan Books International
for publishing this catalogue in an elegant manner and within a very short
Copyright © Central Institute of Buddhist Studies, Choglamsar, Leh, Ladakh, 2001