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Dec 13
Scene and Heard
Death of Sherab Palden Beru, Thangka Master

Sherab Palden Beru was an exquisite thangka painter who died recently on the 29th of November, 2012. He was trained at Namgyal Ling in painting as well as other arts, including dance. He escaped the Chinese invasion in 1959, fleeing to India, where he remained in exile until moving to Kagyu Samye Ling (KSL) in Scotland at the request of Chogyam Trungpa and Akong Rinpoche.

He remained in Scotland until his death, at age 101. His years at KSL were spent, in no small part, both creating masterworks and saving and restoring extant ones retrieved from Tibet.

The passing of Sherab Palden Beru comes as a great loss to the global Buddhist sangha as well as to the Shambhala sangha. Not only creating a huge oeuvre of gorgeous thangkas to inspire our practice, he also trained a generation of painters in the tradition.

Says sangha member Judith Smith, “I was stunned by learning that it was Sherab Palden Beru who drew the Tiger Lion Garuda Dragon images with which we are so saturatedly familiar!”

Many Shambhala practitioners are also familiar with the image of Dorje Trollo that was painted as a visual aid for practicing the Sadhana of Mahamudra, one of the first practice texts created by Chogyam Trungpa for his students. Students will also be familiar with the large Vajradhara thangka that now hangs in a place of honor in the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya at Shambhala Mountain Center.

Sangha member Cathryn Stein shares that, “Sherab Palden Beru attended the 1976 Seminary, invited by the Vidyadhara, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, to design the Tiger, Lion, Garuda, Dragon figures. I was one of his attendants along with David McCarthy and Tessa Pybus. He lived in a cottage behind the Seminary building in Land of Lakes. Every third day for three weeks I watched his meetings with the Vidyadhara as he first drew and then consulted with the Vidyadhara to realize the current designs. He was a quiet, humble and gentle master.”

Thangka painter and resident at Shambhala Mountain Center has offered us the following short video tribute to this great master who so deeply influenced his own life and work. From the beginning of Greg’s training in dharma and art, he says, “his work was there to set an incredible standard.”

courtesy of Shambhala Archives, the Vidyadhara at Samye Ling Meditation Center in Scotland, shown here with Akong Rinpoche, Sherab Palden Beru and a number of early western students

Please see the Kagyu Samye Ling website for a full obituary and aspirations for prayers by clicking here.

A wonderful book of tribute to his work and his life can be viewed online by clicking here.

The story of the Great Vajradhara of Dorje Dzong can be found on Chronicles of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche by clicking here.

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3 responses to “ Death of Sherab Palden Beru, Thangka Master ”
  1. Edie Irwin
    Dec 27, 2012

    Thank you so much for this tribute to Uncle Sherab our revered master and friend. I had the privilege of studying thangka painting under Sherab’s teaching for several years at Samye Ling and then enjoyed his extraordinary kindness as a friend until his passing a few days ago. One of the thangkas I worked on was the Naropa thangka commissioned by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Sherab insited that all of his students of that time should work on this thangka and its simple and profound presence lit up the painting room for the best part of a year. I was then entrusted with carrying the portrait of the Mahasiddha to America. It had been packed in a heavy plastic tube and sewn up to be carried like a bow over the shoulder. Sherab had been very specific: no one was to touch it and it should not be put on the ground or leave my presence. It was large and heavy and at the airport they did n’t want me to take it as hand luggage. I was accompanied by professor Rod Burstall, a member of the Vajradhatu Sangha. I insisted that it was a sacred painting and needed to remain over my head. Rod backed me up. It took awhile but we won and we travelled with Naropa above our heads where he belonged. Just thought I’d share that memory of Sherab and Naropa.

  2. Lynn Pfeffer
    Dec 17, 2012

    Now I know who created the beautiful works of thangka art that inspire all of us!
    I wish I could have thanked him before he passed. He will live on eternally.

  3. Tamara Sell
    Dec 17, 2012

    Beautiful. Thank you Greg and Joshua.

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