Traditionally, thangka paintings are not only valued for their aesthetic beauty, but primarily for their use as aids in meditational practices by visualizing themselves as being that deity, thereby internalizing the Buddha qualities. Religious art is used as a meditation tool to help bring one further down the path to enlightenment.
Thangka often overflow with symbolism and allusion.
Because the art is explicitly traditional, all symbols and allusions must be in accordance with strict guidelines laid out in Buddhist scripture. The artist must be properly trained and have sufficient religious understanding, knowledge, and background to create an accurate and appropriate Thangka.
The Life of the Buddha
The thangka paintings of the Life of Buddha narrates the most relevant episodes of the life of Siddhartha known as the “Twelve Great Deeds of the Buddha’s Life”.
1. Buddha’s promise to descend on earth.
2. Mayadevi’s Dream.
3. The Birth of Buddha.
4. Buddha’s early years and his wordly life.
5. The four Encounters.
6. Siddharta leaves the palace and starts his ascetic experience.
7. The six years of austerity.
8. Striving for enlightenment.
9 Vanquish the host of Mara which are all the demons, all the negative forces.
10 Achieve perfect enlightenment.
11 Turning the wheel of dharma.
12 Passing away.
A symbol of spiritual purity. The blooming of a lotus is said to mimic the Buddhist eightfold path — it grows from the mud (the cycle of life), it appears clean on the surface and floats above the mud (purification), before finally producing a beautiful flower (enlightenment).
The dharma wheel, sometimes known as the golden wheel, or dharmachakra, is always depicted with eight spokes (the Eightfold Path)
Symbolizes the Buddha's summoning Sthavara, the earth goddess, to witness his defeat of mara (the hindering force) that will be followed by his attainment of enlightenment.
The reverberation of a conch shell is said to symbolize the deep, melodic, far-reaching sound of the dharma, the Buddha's teachings, that awakens spiritual disciples from ignorance.