Way to Heaven Thangka Art is handpainted on cotton canvas which illustrates the different stages of Samatha meditation, showing a monk chasing and finally capturing an elephant.
Samatha or “Shamatha” means calm and with Vipassana is one of the fundamental meditation practices of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. This Thangka painting illustrates the different stages of the Samatha meditation showing a monk chasing and finally capturing an elephant.
The elephant, representing the mind, is led by a monkey representing the distractions. Gradually both the monkey and the elephant change color, metaphor of the ability of the practitioner through his effort to purify the lethargic tendencies of the mind. Even a rabbit turn and look at the monk to indicate that distractions acknowledge who is in charge.
In the following stages, the monk starts leading the elephant. The monkey now follows the elephant rather than leading it and the rabbit disappears. Finally, the mind is under control and pacified. After also the monkey leaves the elephant and stands behind the monk saluting him with reverence.
The last stages show the elephant resting aside the monk who sits at ease. Now the path has ended and a rainbow streams out of the monk’s heart. Perfect equanimity is found and the practitioner is ready to cross over into mental bliss.
The monk rides the elephant along the rainbow path into the perfection of the transcendent realm and returns bearing the sword of Wisdom.
The fires represent the struggle for control which reduces through familiarity. After, the final stage, bliss, and ecstasy are reached using the realization of the wisdom of emptiness to banish(drive away) ignorance.
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