Dharmapala Thangka CentreSchool of Thangka Painting

12.20 The Way to Nirvana

According to Shamatha Meditation Practice

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The Nine Progressive Stages of Mental Development

This is a very unique thangka. It is a diagram of the stages of Shamatha, or "tranquil abiding" meditation which is often painted on monastery walls. Sometimes called the "Way to Nirvana".

Primary consciousness itself is pure, yet habitual tendencies gathered over countless lifetimes have ensnared the mind in the 51 secondary mental consciousnesses. These habitual thought processes, which can be positive, neutral or negative, cause the mind to dwell continually in a state of unfocused distraction. The practice of shamatha meditation develops the ability to focus the mind in single-pointed equipoise or perfect concentration, and is a prerequisite for the development of vipashyana or analytical insight meditation.

This illustration of the development of mental tranquility is often painted on monastery walls. This mnemonic diagram depicts the nine progressive stages of mental development, which are obtained through the 'six powers' of study, contemplation, memory, comprehension, diligence, and perfection.

Beginning at the start of the path in the lower right, the diagram shows a monk chasing, binding, leading, and subduing an elephant whose color progresses from black to white. The elephant represents the mind, and its black color the gross aspect of 'sinking' or mental dullness.

The monkey represents distraction or mental agitation; and its brown color, 'scattering'. The hare represents the more subtle aspect of sinking or mental torpor. The goad and lasso which the monk wields represent clear understanding and mindful recollection. The progressively diminishing flame, which occurs along the path, represents the decreasing degree of effort needed to cultivate understanding and recollection. The five sense objects of cloth, fruit, perfume, cymbals and a mirror represent the five sensual sources of distraction.

At the end of the path single-pointed concentration is attained, and the 'purified elephant' of the mind is now completely submissive. The flying monk represents bodily bliss; and his riding of the elephant, mental bliss. Riding the elephant back triumphantly across the rainbow, wielding the flaming sword of perfect insight having attained the flame of clear understanding and mindfulness, represents the uprooting of samsara by the unity of shamatha and vipashyana which directly realizes emptiness [shunyata].

Measurements: 21.3 x 30.7" | 54 x 78 cm
Price: on request
Shipment: Parcel Service from Germany or Nepal
High resolution: Display [1.9 MB, 2480 x 3643 px.]
Color: Color Version
Material: Natural Stone Colors