A prayer for Losar, and a Tibetan Christian thangka

For those of you who don’t know, I work for a Tibetan Buddhist publisher. That means that tomorrow I have off of work for Losar (the Tibetan New Year—Happy Year of the Water Snake!). The president of the company encouraged us to spend the day reflecting on the spirit of this blessing, written by a Tibetan master for a recent Losar, and to consider how we might welcome in the coming year:

May a rich timely rain of the nectar of auspicious blessings shower upon you hundreds of times,

Enlivening the leaves and petals of your longevity, merit, glory, and wealth, which sprout from the seeds of virtuous acts, source of happiness and excellence.

May magnificent fruit—spiritual experience and realization—ripen as a spontaneously appearing crop that fulfills your and others’ well-being.

As a Christian, this blessing makes me feel gratitude for the “longevity, merit, glory, and [spiritual] wealth” Christ has already bestowed on me. He is the virtuous seed who fell into the earth so that he might produce abundant life (John 12:24). The benefits of lines 1 and 2, therefore, I can already claim with confidence. I have been made alive by Christ!

Line 3 is what I pray to God in this new year: Dear gracious God, please bear your fruit in me, and let it be for the good of all sentient beings. May they and I both glorify you who bring it forth, you who are the eternal source of happiness and excellence. Amen.

Below is one Tibetan artist’s visual telling of the “auspicious blessings” showered forth on humanity through Christ. He/she uses the traditional Tibetan art form of thangka (“that which can be rolled up”), a cotton or silk scroll onto which a picture is either painted or embroidered. Meant to serve as a teaching tool and as a guide for contemplative experience, thangkas typically depict the life of the Buddha or Buddhist deities. Here, though, the artist has chosen to illustrate the life of Jesus. The thangka is meant to be read from top to bottom.

Jesus thangka

“Jesus’s Life on Earth” by an anonymous Tibetan artist, 2007. Original: 2.5 x 3.5 ft., in a collection in the UK. Full-resolution image provided by the organization Rewa (“hope” in Tibetan) (www.rewahope.com).

1. The top level depicts The Nativity, The Annunciation to the Shepherds, and The Journey of the Magi—all part of Jesus’s birth narrative. (Click on the image for an enlarged view.) ↓

Tibetan nativity

2. The second level depicts The Baptism of Christ, Christ Departs into the Wilderness (The Temptations of Christ), The Calling of the Disciples, and Christ Preaching. Here Jesus begins his teaching ministry, acting as Rabbi and gaining followers. ↓

Tibetan Jesus

3. The third level depicts Christ Healing the Sick, The Raising of Lazarus, and The Triumphal Entry. These episodes highlight his healing ministry as well as lead into the passion week. ↓

Tibetan Jesus (miracles, Palm Sunday)

4. The fourth level depicts Jesus arguing with the religious leaders (Luke 20:1-26), and The Last Supper. Here the tension in the story mounts. ↓

Tibetan Last Supper

5. The fifth level depicts The Prayer in Gethsemane, The Arrest of Christ (Judas’s Betrayal), and The Flagellation of Christ. Jesus has become the Suffering Servant prophesied by Isaiah. ↓

Tibetan Jesus (Gethsemane, Arrest, Flogging)

6. The bottom level depicts The Mocking of Christ, Christ Carries the Cross, and The Crucifixion. ↓

Tibetan Jesus (crucifixion)

But this is not the end of the story. If it were, man’s longevity, merit, glory, and wealth would not be secured. Here’s the rest of what happened, and what will happen, according to the Christian Scriptures:

Jesus Thangka (Resurrection, Pentecost, Judgment) (full)

Christ rose from the grave, showing that the transfer of his perfect merit to humanity was accepted by Father God. He commissioned his disciples to tell his story to the world, and then he ascended into heaven. To equip them for such a task, he poured out his Spirit (manifested as tongues of fire) among people of all nations. They formed a church based on such Spirit-empowered virtues as selflessness, compassion, and humility, and distinctives like faith in the atoning work of Christ, the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, and a future resurrection of saints. One day Jesus will return to earth to finish his mission of connecting people to God. This will involve a Judgment Day in which evil is done away with once and for all and the world’s wholeness is restored.

To view two Old Testament-themed thangkas by the same artist, click here. These thangkas tell the story of humanity, including God’s intervention, prior to Christ.

This entry was posted in Non-Western Art and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A prayer for Losar, and a Tibetan Christian thangka

  1. Steve Chang says:

    I love this where can i buy the Christ centered thangkas?

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