The Tagdrol Mandalas for the Merigar West Cinerary
For the last few months a team of experts, under the guidance of Migmar Tsering, has been working at Merigar West on a project to create a set of beautifully decorated mandalas for the newly built cinerary situated just below the Gonpa. The team is made up of artists, calligraphers and Tibetologists who have put their skills together to create a set of twelve large panels that will decorate the ceiling of the cinerary.
The four main panels depict three different tagdrols, one of which is repeated, and are tagdrols that give liberation through different types of contact, including seeing. One of them is a tagdrol from the ‘Longchen Nyingthig’ (klong chen snying thig), a terma from Jigme Lingpa. The second tagdrol, which is repeated on two separate panels is from the ‘Lama Gongdu’ (bla ma dgongs ‘dus), a cycle revealed by the great terton Sangye Lingpa. The third tagdrol comes from the ‘Nyingthig Yashi’ (snying thig ya bzhi) of Longchenpa.
Before the artistic work could begin, Migmar Tsering, the project leader, Margherita Pansa, Merigar’s resident librarian, and Giorgio Dallorto, calligrapher, researched each of the tagdrols, consulting two separate editions of each text, published by different printing houses. Margherita kindly provided copies of the texts from the Merigar West library. Although the mantras are generally the same in both editions, there are slight differences in the texts, the design, and the background colors. Their research was not limited simply to studying and comparing the different versions of the texts but also enlarging and consulting copies of the small tagdrol that is already available at Merigar.
After checking the original texts, Migmar enriched the different tagdrol with the use of color. In general color is not used with these mantras so he had to work out which colors to use in different sections according to the Buddha families. In addition he made use of the five colors that represent the five elements – Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water – using them in the mother-son order, according to Tibetan astrology, with the mother-color giving protection to the son-color.
The mantras in the four tagdrol mandalas were first of all written in pencil in elegant uchen letters by Giorgio Dallorto and then painted in gold by Migmar. The syllables of the five Dhyani Buddhas were painted in pure gold while the rest of the mantras were painted using gold mixed with other powdered metals including silver, copper, iron, and bronze.
There are many different mantras in all four tagdrol mandalas, the main one being the Song of the Vajra and the mantras of the Five Buddha Families, then the 25 Thigles of the Universe, the mantras of the 42 Peaceful and 58 Wrathful Deities, as well as many other mantras listed in the ‘Tibetan Book of the Dead’. Each mandala also includes the vowels and consonants of the Sanskrit alphabet plus the mantra of interdependence.
The other eight panels are decorated with the six-syllable mantra that liberates the six classes of sentient beings, empowering through the essence of the Six Dimensions of Samantabhadra: HA A HA SHA SA MA. In each panel, the mantra is written in a different type of calligraphy in golden letters. The scripts used were:
uchen (dbu can);
umed (dbu med);
phagpa (‘phags pa) or square script or hor yig;
mar chen (smar chen), ancient writing from Shang Shung;
two forms of spungs yig originally from Tagzig (rtag gzigs kyi yi ge spungs so chung, rtag gzigs kyi yi ge spungs so che ba);
mar (smar) or lha babs yi ge, the language descended from the gods.
The colors used for the mandalas were put together in a traditional way and included mostly natural pigments mixed with powdered semi-precious stones, including turquoise, pearl, coral, lapis lazuli, amber and malachite, as well as eight types of precious pills to increase potentiality. Usually these types of pills are used together with mantras and precious stones inside a statue when it is authenticated.
Some of these precious pills are made up of sacred substances linked to Body, Voice and Mind and to developing their potentiality and prosperity in general. Others on the other hand are composed of medicinal substances. For example, some precious pills contain sangpo drug: [sman] bzang po drug, “The six excellent medicines”, which are used as the base of medicine: nutmeg, saffron, bamboo pith, cloves, cardamom and kakola (Amomum medium) as well as pachung nga (ba byung lnga), five products from the cow: urine, dung, milk, butter, and curd. Still others contain substances such as red sandalwood (tsan dan dmar po), white sandalwood (tsan dan dkar po) and camphor (ga bur).
When all the panels have been completed, the four main tagdrol mandalas will be placed in the centre of the ceiling of the cinerary in the four directions, corresponding to the four doors in the buildings. The eight panels with the tigles of the six Lokas will cover the rest of the ceiling. The internal part of the building will be ready for Rinpoche’s arrival at Merigar in mid June. The external decoration should be completed in time for the August retreat at Merigar West with the Master when the building will be formally inaugurated.
In addition, professional photos will be made of the four tagdrol mandalas that will be reproduced in a much smaller version and made available at Merigar in the near future for those who need them.
The international team for this project who came from different areas of the Dzogchen Community headed by Migmar Tsering consisted of painters Anna Pucci, Magda Zych, Yu Shang, Natalia Kushnariova and Lenka Chanova, Migmar and Giorgio Dallorto for the Tibetan calligraphy and Margherita Pansa for research and advice on the texts and Tibetan scripts. The work, which went over several months, was done entirely in karma yoga. The whole team would like to thank the Merigar Gakyil and the Gekos, Nikol Stanisova for their kind assistance. Their hope is that their hard work will create a good cause for others in the future.
Once the internal part of the cinerary has been completed, work will start on the outer part of the building and the area surrounding it. There are plans to put all the mantras of Simhamukha around the outer part of the building and also to create a pleasant garden. Funds are still needed for this work and we warmly invite readers to donate to the project using the following link: