From earliest childhood on I was drawn to thankas,
Tibetan Buddhist pictorial scrolls, and other spiritual art. At the age
of three I began painting, which brought me much delight and was a source
of inspiration. After coming to India, at 11 years of age, I was trained
primarily by H. H. Khamtrul Rinpoche, one of the greatest artists from
Tibet. During those first years in India I was very homesick and painted
my fond memories of earlier times. I also devoted much effort to recreating,
from memory, some of the great thankas, deity paintings, and other artistic
treasures that were destroyed in the cultural revolution.
Later I began what might be called “spontaneous paintings.”
These works come from the craziness of my flowing inner energy—they
manifest as if by themselves. With brush and color I let everything flow
and move without effort and without inserting myself. These paintings
differ from the traditional works in that they do not originate with a
plan or concept. In this process there is no judgment, and no modifications
are made. Painting is not an attempt to capture or convey a predetermined
experience, nor to create something to be known as an “art piece.”
Each painting is a unique experience arising from visions, feelings, sensations,
and from the immediate sparkling clarity of mind. As such, painting is
a language I speak and a world I explore within myself in every possible
Some of my works are created by using a combination of traditional methods
and the spontaneous process. For example, I may indeed plan to paint an
iconographic image or scene or experience from memory, but then I slip
off into essence and spontaneity. I like painting deities and other subjects
used for visualization practice in a way that keeps them alive, as they
appear in my own meditation. Here, then, I keep to the traditional, but
with freedom from the restrictions of lines and rules. This is a way of
combining the historical traditions with the immediate experience. I cannot
say this is a “new” style, but I feel we are in a period where
Tibetan artists can generate a new style that may be very useful.
So while my works differ in style and technique, more important is what
they have in common. They share the Buddha’s vision expressed in
the tantric teachings, that everything is living light energy, a living
universe of all the fantastic wonders of the mind. One can develop this
vast space of clarity, love, and awareness, full of the kind of energies
that we experience in everyday moments—especially in the sourceless
and unending plane of mental energy that manifests through movement and
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BIOGRAPHY ~ DRU-GU CHOEGYAL
Venerable Dru-gu Choegyal Rinpoche is the 8th incarnation
in the Dru-gu Choegyal lineage of the Drukpa Kagyu tradition of Tibetan
Buddhism, all of whom have been renowned meditation masters as well as
The 8th Choegyal Rinpoche was born in Nangchen, Tibet, in 1946. He was
recognized by H.H. the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa while still in his mother’s
womb. Choegyal Rinpoche was enthroned at the age of four. He spent his
early childhood in the Dru-gu region of Tibet, where, he says, “art,
spiritual training, and meditation practice were inseparable.” He
was a close disciple of H.E. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and H.E. the 8th
Khamtrul Rinpoche, a great artist himself.
In 1959, Choegyal Rinpoche joined his root guru H.E. Khamtrul Rinpoche
who had fled to Kalimpong, India the previous year. There, a growing number
of monks and lay followers from Eastern Tibet were forming a refugee community
that would provide a base for Choegyal Rinpoche’s life in exile.
In 1969, they settled in Tashi Jong in the Kangra Valley, Himachal Pradesh.
Despite scant financial resources, the people of this community constructed
a lively monastery for the study and preservation of the Drukpa Kagyu
tradition. Choegyal Rinpoche continues to be very active in the art training
and preservation programs of the Tashi Jong community, which produces
carpets of traditional Tibetan design, woodcarvings, and intricate scroll
paintings of the Vajrayana tradition.
Additionally, he established the Tara Bhir Dru-gu Retreat Center, a center
for spiritual practice, at Shivapuri Mountain in the Kathmandu Valley,
Nepal. In Tibet, he is rebuilding the Dru-gu Temple of his childhood,
has commenced a reforestation project, and is planning a school and clinic
for the villagers. These projects are largely supported by proceeds from
the sale of his paintings.
Well aware of the potentially negative stresses and influences challenging
Tibetan refugee artists today, Rinpoche encourages the exuberant diversity
of expressive forms; at the same time he emphasizes the singular purity
of motivation that must distinguish all dharma activity. His own work
is remarkable both for its radiant clarity and for its range of style—from
the ornate precision of traditional religious thankas to tender depictions
of Tibetan scenes and impressionistic expressions of his spiritual experiences.
Choegyal Rinpoche’s work has been exhibited across Europe, North
and South Americas, and Asia. His paintings, carpets, and carpet designs
are included in museums and prominent private collections.
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& LINKS ~ DRU-GU CHOEGYAL RINPOCHE
Website of Dru-gu Choegyal Rinpoche:
Article: Gold Leaf
Optional / Living Dharma, Living Art, the Paintings of Dru-gu Choegyal
Rinpoche by William Boorstein – Wild Heart Journal. (PDF format)
Video: Two minute excerpt of a video of Choegyal Rinpoche
discussing arts of understanding, or Dharma art, in his life – by
Barbara Green. Requires Windows Media Player or compatible wmv viewer.
Download and play.
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