The Tantric Spiritual Art of Nadean O'Brien

Mandalas by Rampal






"Samvara Supreme Bliss"

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(acrylic on canvas 30" x 40" embellished with crystals and gold leaf)

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"Samvara Supreme Bliss" is one of my more traditional Tantric paintings, a rectangular thangka rather than a mandala. It depicts the Tibetan deity Samvara in sacred union with his consort Vajravarahi, which through the ages has become one of the most powerful images of universal oneness to exist. The name Samvra means supreme bliss, the bliss that is the fruit of Tantric meditation.

For some time, I have been captivated by Samvara, wanting to paint him in my own modern style. More than an attempt to copy another's art, "Samvara Supreme Bliss" has evolved out of my own practice of Tantra Yoga and reflects the feelings of bliss and higher awareness possible with such practice. It was over six months in the painting and is a joy to behold!

Samvara, a deity of the yidam class, is both the embodiment of a philosophical view and a role model for the meditator. Equal to a Buddha, he is beyond samsara and nirvana. Rather than having an ordinary physical form, he is a congerie of symbolic elements. His color black, the vajra (scepter) in his right hand, the bell in his left, the skull bowl and kartika ("ego chopper") are clues to his identity and function in ritual and meditation.


The Symbolism of Tibetan Tantric Buddhist Art

The father mother symbolism ("yab yum") is not an example of erotic art but is considered by the devout to be a manifestation of the Buddha's highest spiritual essence. It is concrete evidence presented in a most striking and graphic manner of the existence of enlightenment, denoting the highest stage of yoga in which there is no polarity, no discrimination and the truth is indivisible. There in meditation in the presence of this artistic revelation, one can discover infinite bliss and ultimate self-realization.

The feminine symbol (mother) represents transcendent wisdom, the direct awareness of reality as experienced and taught by the Buddha. The masculine (father) represents compassion for all beings which is the natural expression of such wisdom. Their sacred union is believed to generate waves of bliss and harmony, turning the world into a mandala and showering a rain of nectar that satisfies the spiritual hunger in the hearts of humankind.

Today, statues and paintings of "yab yums" are sought by collectors and boldly displayed in museums, while traditionally in Tibet they were created and meant to be seen by only the initiated. The arcane rituals associated with their display were also not for public consumption. Modern depth psychology has recognized that this imagery represents the deepest archetypes of the unconscious, integrating powerful instinctual energies of life into a consciously sublimated and exalted state. As a result, we are fascinated by this beautiful art form, wanting to possess it whether we are Tantric Buddhists or not!

On a final note, Tantra itself is derived from the verbal root tan, meaning to weave. Many things are interwoven on the Tantric path, including the lives of men and women. The Buddha couples of Tantric iconography celebrate the profound harmony of the sexes and the creation of partnerships devoted to the realization of the ultimate truth.

Om Mani Padme Hum

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