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Apr 03
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Rigdens in Boston

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 6.35.31 PMA Museum Collection of Rigden Thangkas Are Now Housed on a Shambhala Website

Images of a rare collection of Tibetan thangkas depicting the Rigden Kings of Shambhala, exhibited by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in 2012, are now housed on ShambhalaNews.com.

The 17th century thangkas were part of the museum’s “Seeking Shambhala” exhibition, for which they were freshly conserved and re-hung in traditional brocade.

MFA MeditationShastri Diana Evans led a public meditation program in the museum at the exhibition’s opening. Museum Director Malcolm Rogers called it, “the first ever meditation session in the museum.” It not only made history, it made the news. It was the featured item of “Celebrity News” in the Boston Globe!

Twenty-two of the thirty-two Rigden Kings are displayed, including the first, Dawa Sangpo or “Suchandra,” who received the Kalachakra teachings from the Buddha.

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche had the opportunity to have a private viewing of the thangkas in 2005 when he was in Boston to run the marathon, and was given a personal tour by the Curator of the Asian collection. Shambhala News holds footage of that visit. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche made a special trip to view these thangkas in 1974; he considered this set of images to be of the highest quality, and wanted to include them in the Visual Dharma exhibit at the Michigan Institute of Technology in 1975.

The museum has graciously given its permission for Shambhala to house this online display. The specialist photography was made possible by the Shambhala Trust. This group of practitioners cultivates generosity to fund projects that advance the Shambhala vision of awakened society.

To learn more about The Shambhala Trust, please click here.

The Rigden Thangkas are not allowed to leave the Museum of Fine Arts – a request of the donor – and are almost impossible for the public to view as they are not on permanent exhibit. There were not sufficient funds in the museum’s budget to produce an exhibition catalogue, and the museum was more than willing to enable Shambhala to make images of the thangkas available on our website.

The Rigden Thangkas are part of the Denman Waldo Ross Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts comprising many thousands of works from all over the world that were donated by MR. Ross in 1906. He purchased this set of paintings in Paris, and for a number of years it was believed that the thangkas were painted in Mongolia. However, research and special photography revealed written instructions in Tibetan script under the paint, and Jacki Elgar, the exhibit’s curator, was able to determine that the thangkas are of Tibetan origin.

It is timely to obtain these images as the Rigden Lineage thangka by Noedup Rongae nears completion. A video of Mr. Rongae describing this thangka can be found on Youtube.

A huge wall graphic, titled Seeking Shambhala, was hung at the entrance to the original exhibition. It read:

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 6.39.26 PM

“Deep within central Asia – according to ancient Tiibetan Buddhist texts – hidden by mist and a ring of snow-covered peaks lies a fabulous kingdom called Shambhala. It’s a mystical, visionary place ruled by a lineage of thirty-two kings. Their charge: to uphold the Kalachakra Tantra, a sacred teaching passed from the Buddha to Shambhala’s first king. Emphasizing transformation and enlightenment, it tells of a world descended into chaos and war and of one king who will emerge from Shambhala to restore order and prosperity . . .

Only the spiritually worthy can find Shambhala and enter. This exhibition examines that search through artworks that invoke the spirit of the journey and the place itself . . .

At the heart of the exhibition are twenty-two paintings of Shambhala’s kings, part of an incomplete set from the 17th century acquired by the MFA in 1906. They are shown here newly-conserved and restored for the first time to their traditional formats as thangkas, or hanging scrolls. . .

Long associated in Western culture with Shangri-la, the utopia where peace reigns, wealth abounds, and there is no illness, Shambhala has fascinated, inspired, even obsessed individuals for centuries. Contemporary society is no exception. The journey to understand Shambhala – and to arrive there – continues today.”

Click here to view the online exhibit.

It can also be accessed from here: www.mfa.org/search/mfa/shambhala

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3 responses to “ Rigdens in Boston ”
  1. Ellen Kahler
    Apr 12, 2014

    In our Shambhala Lineage chant we say there are 25 Rigdens but above it states there are 32. What is the reason for this difference? Thank you.

  2. Linda V. Lewis
    Apr 7, 2014

    Beautiful! Thank you!

  3. Timaree Bierle-Dodds
    Apr 4, 2014

    Below is a more specific link to the 16 thankgas that can be viewed online.
    TImaree Bierle-Dodds


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