Fig. 1: Stupa of Enlightenement in Elista/Kalmykia, bilt in 1998/1999.(see Tolek Sokolov, Ein Stupa in Kalmückien (in: Buddhistmus Heute, Nr. 26, München 1999, p. 56 – 62))
THE REPRESENTATION OF THE SIXTEEN KARMAPAS IN TIBETAN ART
THE BLACK CROWN
fig. 2: The black hat of the Karmapas (Detail, fig.)
fig. 3: The Black Crown of the Karmapas (Detail, fig.)
text sources and meditation instructions (skt. sadhana), the art tradition the artist belonged to and also the creativity and whim of the artist. Besides that, copying famous older paintings and using them as a model has always played a crucial part in the history of Tibetan art.
In general, one can say that a special Karmapa iconography started to form during the 18th and 19th Centuries. This process is particularly connected with the activity of the 8th Situpa Chokyi Chungne (1700–1771) who was a lineage holder of the Karma Kagyu tradition and a brilliant scholar and exceptional artist of his time. The 8th Situpa is said to have painted a famous thangka set of the successive lineage holders of the Karma Kagyu lineage
fig. 4: The 1st (?) Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa (1110–1193), thangka, colour on silk, central Tibet, c. 13th Century, 54, 6 x 48,3 cm (Rubin collection, New York).
fig. 5: The 1st Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa (1110–1193) and Gampopa, thangka, colour on canvas central Tibet, 16th Century, 86,9 x 60,3 cm (Rubin collection, New York).
including the portraits of the Karmapas. The set was copied many times until today and has influenced the development of the Karmapa iconography in contemporary Tibetan art (see fig. 7, 8).
DATE AND STYLE OF KARMAPA REPRESENTATIONS
THE KARMA GARDRI STYLE
fig. 6: The 9th Karmapa Wangchug Dorje (1556–1603), thangka, colour on canvas, Eastern Tibet, 16th/17th century, Karma Gardri-style, 124,4 x 82,5cm (Navin Kumar collection). collection, New York).
fig. 7: The 9th Karmapa Wangchug Dorje (1556–1603), thangka, colour on canvas, eastern Tibet, Gonpo Dorje, 19th/20th Century.
fig. 8: The 9th Karmapa Wangchug Dorje (1556–1603), line drawing, line drawing, Christopher Banigan, late 20th Century (see Karma Thinley).
attending figures — lamas, students, yidams and protectors — are arranged on the outer rims of the painting in the landscape or the sky.
THE KARMAPA PAINTINGS IN THE STUPA OF ELISTA/KALMYKIA
fig. 9: The Lineage Holders of the Karma Kagyu Tradition, Denzong Norbu (b. 1937), 2001, Elisat/Kalmykia (Detail, right wall).
fig. 10: The 16 Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje (1923–1981) (middle), the 9 th Shamarpa Kunchog Jungne (1733–1741) (left) and the 9 th Karmapa Wangchug Dorje (1556–1603) (Detail, see fig. 9, back wall).
fig. 11: The 12 th Karmapa Changchub Dorje (1703–1732) (Detail, see fig. 9).
fig. 12: Peacocks (Detail, see fig. 9).
fig. 13: The 1 st Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa (1110–1193) (Detail, see fig. 9).
fig. 14: The 8 th Karmapa Mikyo Dorje (1507–1554) (Detail, see fig. 9).
The representation of the sixteen Karmapas in the stupa of Elista is characteristic for their iconography (see above).
THE 1st KARMAPA DUSUM KHYENPA (1110-1193)
In Tibetan art, the 1st Karmapa is generally shown with the his characteristic features: a prominent lower jaw, a stubbly beard, grey hair and a wrinkled face that indicate his high age. On most representations he performs the dharmawheel gesture in front of his chest. (see fig. 13)
THE 8th KARMAPA MIKYO DORJE (1507–1554)
On paintings he is usually shown performing the dharmawheel gesture in front of his heart (see fig. 14). As a bronze statue he can hold his right hand in the gesture of granting refuge (skt.: śaranagamana-mudrā; tib.: skyabs sbyin gyi phyag rgya) at the level of the chest while he clasps a text with his left
fig. 15: The 8th Karmapa Mikyo Dorje (1507–1554), bronze, 2004, (Buddhist center of the Karma Kagyu lineage Hamburg).
fig. 16: The 8th Karmapa as a yidam form, thangka, colour on canvas, 20 th /21 st Century, Karma Gardri style (private collection).
hand which rests in meditation gesture in his lap (see fig. 15). Furthermore, he can have a youthful face or that of an old man with wrinkles and grey hair. As a yidam form he has crossed hands at his heart in the diamond gesture (skt. Hūmkāra-mudrā; tib.: hum mdzad kzi phyag rgya, rdo rje phyag rgya) and holds a dorje and a bell in them (see. fig. 16).
THE 16 th MAPA RANGJUNG RIGpE DORJE (1923–1981)
The 16th Karmapa holds a golden dorje in his right hand and a silver bell in his left hand and sometimes also two lotus flowers on which a book and a sword lie. Typical of his representation is the diamond gesture which he performs in front of his heart (see fig. 17).
fig. 17: The 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje (1923-1981) (Detail, see fig. 9).
The paintings in the stupa of Elista are an example for that Tibetan Buddhism and its art is getting gradually transferred to modern Western societies. After the destruction of Buddhism in Kalmykia and Buryatia during the communist era in Russia, the teachings of the Buddha are now being revived by a new generation of Russian Dharma practitioners. Since about 30 years, more and more people have get acquainted with Tibetan Buddhism and its art in the West and in Russia. At the moment, many exhibitions and events take place in this field and Buddhist art has become popular as never before. In the future, Tibetan thangkas, wall paintings and Buddha statues of high quality will be produced in the West and in Russia to fit the needs of the Dharma practitioners there (see: Astrid Schmidhuber, «In Zukunft wollen wir die Statuen in Europa herstellen». Interview mit dem Thangka-Maler Norbu (in: Buddhismus Heute, Nr. 40/2006, München 2006, p. 77–79)). This development is demonstrated in the paintings of the stupa in Elista where Russian and Western artists got the transmission of executing traditional Tibetan art in a modern context. One can say that Tibetan Buddhism and its art has already arrived in the West.