Life Of Buddha Thangka

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The thangka paintings of the life of the Buddha depicts key episodes in the life of Siddhartha Gautama, known as Gautama Buddha. These major events are traditionally called within the Mahayana sources the “Twelve Great Deeds of the Buddha’s Life” (མཛད་པ་བཅུ་གཉིས་, dzepa chunyi in Tibetan).

The Twelve Great Deeds of the Buddha’s Life:
  1. Descent from Tushita heaven.
  2. Entering the womb of his mother, Mayadevi.
  3. Taking birth.
  4. Becoming skilled in various arts.
  5. Delighting in the company of royal consorts.
  6. Developing renunciation and leaving the royal palace.
  7. Practicing austerities for six years.
  8. Striving for enlightenment to the foot of the bodhi tree.
  9. Overcoming Mara’s demons.
  10. Becoming fully enlightened.
  11. Turning the wheel of Dharma.
  12. Passing into mahaparinirvana.

The paintings of the Buddha’s life at times portray more of the meaningful events and encounters in his life other than these twelve deeds. At the early Theravada tradition the deeds are divided differently:

  1. The descent from Tushita.
  2. Entering the mother’s womb.
  3. Taking birth.
  4. Leaving his family.
  5. Overcoming Mara,
  6. Turning the wheel of Dharma.
  7. Passing into nirvana or parinirvana.

These thangka paintings are not meant to be solely illustrations of the events in the life of the historical Buddha, but they are also seen to be a visual representation of different philosophical aspects of Buddhism, especially the gradual progress towards the achievement of spiritual enlightenment.

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