Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Elephant Training and the Tibetan Thangka

Collage by Lani and textures from FlyPaper
While away on vacation, we were staying with a friend who happened to have a Tibetan thangka with elephants all over it.  It looked like the traditional ox herding images from Chinese and Korean Buddhism where the ox turns white by the end of the series.  So what was going on with the elephants?  My friend didn't know what the story was behind the thangka to when I got home I checked with Google and found a whole wonderful web page of material!  I do love this metaphor! Check out the story behind the Tibetan Elephant Taming Picture here.

The short version of what is happening is this: At the bottom of the thangka you see a new meditator whose mind wanders so much in its own directions that it resembles a muddy elephant led by a distracting monkey. The meditator has to chase after the elephant and monkey. Half-way up the thangka, the elephant is starting to turn white and it is the meditator who is now leading it – although the monkey is still interfering by pulling the elephant’s tail from behind.  At some point a rabbit also appears representing lethargy.  Further up, the elephant is now white, the monkey goes off to eat fruit in a tree by itself and the meditator alone is in charge.  Finally the meditator is meditating and the elephant is able to lie down. The meditator can now easily ride elephant. At the top of the thangka the meditator is fully in charge of the elephant (his mind) and is now riding down to put its powers to good use.

Want to train your elephant?  Take a look at Elephant Training on Lulu!

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