An Offering of Beauty: Renewing KTD’s Buddha Statue

It's been nearly 30 years since the face on the Buddha image at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra was painted.
It’s been nearly 30 years since the face on the Buddha image at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra was painted.

It’s been nearly 30 years since the face on the main image of Buddha Shakyamuni at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra Monastery and Retreat Center was painted.

In December, 2013, a fourth-generation Tibetan temple painter was welcomed into the Main Shrine Room at KTD to refresh the face of its main image of Buddha Shakyamuni.

Mr. Tashi Dorjee's paint tray, ready for work.
Mr. Tashi Dorjee’s paint tray, ready for work.

Mr. Tashi Dorjee, of Queens, NY, and his mother were welcomed into the KTD Main Shrine Room and were presented with a tea and rice welcoming ceremony by KTD President Tenzin Chonyi.

After the welcome and auspicious scarf presentation, Mr. Dorjee spent about an hour working on the face of the 11-foot-tall statue while below in the shrine room more than 20 KTD retreat lamas chanted the Vajrayogini sadhana as part of their annual Drupchod retreat.

    Standing in the lap of the Buddha, a barefoot Mr. Dorjee paints new gold on the face of the Buddha. He also repainted the eyes, lips, and other features on the face. Mr. Tashi Dorjee's wooden paint box and brush boxes, made in Tibet, now live with him in Queens, NY, where he and his family have settled.
Standing in the lap of the Buddha, a barefoot Mr. Dorjee paints new gold on the face of the Buddha. He also repainted the eyes, lips, and other features on the face.
Mr. Tashi Dorjee’s wooden paint box and brush boxes, made in Tibet, now live with him in Queens, NY, where he and his family have settled.

As the lamas chanted the lineage supplications, Mr. Dorjee, assisted by gold leaf artist Mr. Lee, climbed the 6-foot-tall lotus throne of the Buddha, and as the ritual went on almost 20 feet below, Mr. Dorjee worked carefully, moving from left to right, refreshing the eyes, lips, and other facial details of the statue.

Mr. Tashi Dorjee's wooden paint box and brush boxes, made in Tibet, now live with him in Queens, NY, where he and his family have settled.
Mr. Tashi Dorjee’s wooden paint box and brush boxes, made in Tibet, now live with him in Queens, NY, where he and his family have settled.
IMG_4523
Mr. Tashi Dorjee and Mr. Lee, before scaling the Buddha to paint.

Working from a paint set that came from his family home in Tibet, Mr. Dorjee carefully maneuvered around the statue in his bare feet, working closely with Mr. Lee, who has been refreshing the gold-leaf on the entire statue for the last few weeks.

     Mr. Tashi Dorjee says his family line, from his "father's father's father" have all been temple painters in Tibet. Mr. Dorjee's paint box, left, was made in Tibet, and left with him when he was a young man.

Mr. Tashi Dorjee says his family line, from his “father’s father’s father” have all been temple painters in Tibet. Mr. Dorjee’s paint box, left, was made in Tibet, and left with him when he was a young man.

Mr. Dorjee’s family is from Lhasa, in Central Tibet, and he learned the craft from his father, who is part of a long line of temple painters. Mr. Dorjee also has worked on the temple built by Geshe Sopa in Oregon. An article can be found here:

http://connectoregonwi.com/content/tibetan-landmark-middle-america-0

Meanwhile, Mr. Lee, a devotee of the dharma also from the New York City area, has been spending several days each week at KTD, working alone and with great devotion and skill on the re-leafing of the Buddha image, one of the largest in North America. Previously, Mr. Lee provided the gold leaf for the magnificent throne of His Holiness Karmapa at KTD, and his work is bringing our main Buddha image back into its golden glory.

IMG_4520
Tashi Dorjee, left, a temple painter from Tibet, prepares brushes for the work of repainting the face on Karma Triyana Dharmachakra’s 11-foot-tall Buddha image in the Main Shrine Room. Mr. Lee, the gold leaf expert working on renewing the gold on the Buddha statue, assists.
This close-up of the lotus throne shows (right) the new gold-leafing and the lacquered old leafing.
This close-up of the lotus throne shows (right) the new gold-leafing and the lacquered old leafing.

We rejoice in the work of Mr. Dorjee and Mr. Lee, and pray that their offering of beauty to the body of the Buddha be an inspiration for all!  May all beings benefit!

Lama Kathy Wesley, photos and text   

Flickr slideshow here.

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