Monday, 30 March 2009

The Wisdom that binds Eh and Wam

"The wisdom that binds the Eh and Wam"

Tashi Explains..... This beautiful character Eh-Vam in Sanskrit, Eh-Wam in Tibetan ཨེ་ཝཾ་, has always enchanted me, seemingly shrouded in magic and mystery, it has become a favorite subject centre piece for a number of my own art works and intrigues me to solve its riddle. I have yet to learn its origin and would be delighted if anybody could share this with me. But here is a small token to bring about a littler more awareness of this powerful monogram, as there seems to be very little written on it, from what i can find.

I was first of all captured by its depth and wisdom, when during the 80's H E Situ Rinpoche gave a teaching explicitly about the Eh-Wam symbol. He explained the meaning and the interrelationship between the 'Eh' ཨེ་ and the 'Wam' ཝཾ་ Which first of all translates as Means/method and Wisdom/Knowledge. He then went on to explain:

ཨེ་ is a container, ཝཾ་ is the togetherness.

ཨེ་ is space, ཝཾ་ is the galaxy.

ཨེ་ is all, and ཝཾ་ is one of all.

ཨེ་ is the whole solar system, ཝཾ་ is the earth.

ཨེ་ is the whole earth, then ཝཾ་ is the sentient beings.

ཨེ་ is all the sentient beings, ཝཾ་ is the tsa, lung and tigli.

ཨེ་ is the tsa, lung and tigli, ཝཾ་ is the mind.

ཨེ་ is present state of mind, ཝཾ་ is the essence its self.

When we achieve realization until the 10th level Bodhisattva, until that very last moment of the path, that is the ཨེ་. The last moment to achieve the realization becomes no different between the wisdom its self, that is the ཝཾ་, in this way ཨེ་ and Wam can be experienced, this is why the ཨེ་ཝཾ་ is a very great meaningful symbol.
Words by H E Situ Rinpoche, Samye Ling, Scotland, 1986.

Another source of the use of Eh-Vam is that it is the first words used in nearly all Sutras/Sutta, which in Sanskrit begin "evan maya srutam" = "thus I have heard". Evam simply meaning "thus". This is explained very clearly by Jayarava in his illuminating 'visible mantra' website.

and more....

Being a calligrapher, i was interested in the construction of the symbol, below i have explained my findings.

The more lesser known Eh-Wam Style character (shown on the left) seems to be a combination of the Wartu Sanskrit style script.
This is a monogram of the two Wartu letters 'Eh' and 'Wam', shown on the right.

This particular version was given to me while i was visiting Ralang Gompa in South Sikkim, which is the seat monastery of H E Gyaltsap Rinpoche.

The more well known Eh-Wam symbol, shown on the right, is associated with Tibetan Buddhist organizations, such as Rigpa and popular with the Late Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, this is a combination of two letters 'Eh' and 'Wam' from the Lansa Sanskrit style, these two separate letters are shown by the example here above left, which also shows the equivalent in Tibetan, below which is written the translation 'means and wisdom'.

This way of adjoining Sanskrit letters in combination clusters is used for popular Buddhist mantras. The best known of these monograms is the Kalachakra seed syllable, which like the Eh-Vam monogram, is respected for its powerful blessing, which often grace the walls in the elaborate Tibetan temple decoration.
It is also said that these particular monograms, such as the Kalachakra and the Eh-vam, that placed high on the out side of buildings such as temples, is effective as a protection and even has an influence on the elements, in bringing harmony to the environment, this was explained to me by Akong Tulku Rinpoche.

An Extract from "The Perfect Love Poem" by Choyam Trungpa, 6 August 1969.

Then i knew i must surrender to the dance
and join the circle of Dakinis,
Like the confluence of two rivers,
EH the feminine and VAM the male,
Meeting in the circle of the Dance.

"May the inner and outer obstacles be pacified and continual bliss be attained"

Saturday, 28 March 2009

The seal script

༄། ཧོར་ཡིག 

An example of horyig with corresponding letters(from right to left)
 horyig, Lantsha Sanskrit,Tibetan Uchen, Mongolian, 
Chinese and Russian phonetics.
The special Seal script called Phags-pa or horyig in Tibetan, was created at the time of the great Mongolian Emperor Kublai Khan, who ruled during the 13th century, over China, Mongolia, Tibet, to the North into Russia and south to the borders of Burma and Vietnam.
A seal dated at 1287,  collection:
Museum of Inner Mongolia.
The Emperor seeing a uniformed script was needed across his vast kingdom, issued the standardisation of this script by the learned Phagpa Lodro Gyalsten, who in 1268 devised the namely Phags-pa script. The use of Phags-pa was short lived as a universal written language, however its use lived on as a popular seal script in Tibet called horyig ཧོར་ཡིག this  was developed as a 'modern' seal script style, which is not only easily translated from Tibetan, but also mimics the labyrinthine geomantic structure of popular Chinese seal script ideographs.

This seal script, which reads vertically, has a strong, commanding visual impression, which was not only traditionally used for official seals but as popular personal seals too. The distinct design of horyig was widely used in historical Tibet, as seen in the borders of this old Tibetan bank note below, also represented in the bankers black seal design within the note.

The horyig seal script mostly survived up until today adapted and used in Tibetan temple decoration, often flanking door-ways, as shown in the picture below, as well as decorating the walls and pillars as part of their elaborate interior design tradition.

If you are interested to know that more about the horyig and Phags-pa scripts, Andrew West coordinates a very informative blog called BableStone.

A personal seal of Tashi Mannox
in the distinctive horyig script.

The art of seal design using the horyig seal script is almost none existent, less so are those who are skilled in hand-carving seals, called 'chop' in Chinese, which as an art form, has almost vanished across the far-East.  
There are perhaps only a hand full of people in the world today who know the horyig seal script well enough to translate, let alone create and provide an attractive looking seal design, however none are known to carve the actual chop seals. 
Though seals may not be used so commonly to stamp documents, letters and artworks, as they have been historically. 
Such small simple but meaningful design equally lends well to an impressive logo, reproduced on business cards, letter heads and as an icon on the internet. 
Moreover, the angular look of the horyig style seems to sit comfortably in this digital age of modern design and iconography.

A selection of modern seal designs of corporate and personal nature can be viewed here.

If you would like to order your own personal seal bespoke designed, please follow the link here.

A selection of chops, hand crafted by Tashi in various exotic hard-woods, these serve as a practical and attractive mount to fit an exact reduced replica of a seal design etched in rubber. The advantage of rubber is an easily printed and perfect  impression.


How to use a seal

photography by Sam Webb.

In todays business climate of product identity, a seal design can be just as relevant as a logo, as the above photo shows used on business cards and even as a cell phone screen saver.

The Traditional use of a seal is to authenticate a letter, document or artwork, this is normally adjoined to ones personal signature by clipping the end of the written name. The signature and seal impression is usually placed down in the bottom right corner of the paper, which is considered humble place at the very end of the document. It is also customary to state the date on the day the letter or document is signed, placed next to the signature and seal.

There is also a simple code to communicate ones mood at the time of signing off a letter or document. This is delivered with the angle in which the seal is stamped in relation to the piece of paper. This purposeful act can tell a lot about ones intention in relation to the person or organization to letter or document is intended for.

Traditionally this is stamped in a vermilion red colour, which not only gives an attractive contrast to the written text, but also conveys a more positive intention. Sometimes the seal is impressed using a black colour, which was considered more negative, or at least dryly official.

Below is an example of how the suitably place a seal in relation to the bottom right corner of the paper.

  • angled left into the paper conveys a happy positive message.
  • straight conveys a neutral message.
  • angled right, out of the paper conveys a more unfavorable message.

Here is an example of the use of a seal on a letter from the 13th Dalai Lama, showing His personal seal attached to his name.

If you would like to commission a bespoke seal design from Tashi for your own personal use or to represent a company or organization, please follow the link here.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Tashi's name and seal

'Karma Tsering Tashi', the name given by Kalu Rinpoche on Tashi's
ordination as a novice monk: 11th August 1984

Many ask about Tashi's personal seal, so here Tashi tells the story of how it came about:

The  Birth  of  a  seal.

Back in the days when i was a monk, one of my teachers, His Eminence Situ Rinpoche, suggested that i should have my own personal seal, explaining that since i was an artist and my pieces of work should be signed and stamped with a personal 'seal' of authentication. 
I went away and thought about this and came up with a small design of my name 'Tashi' in a Tibetan Umeh script, small round and simple, as shown above right. Presenting the design to Situ Rinpoche; he approved it and for the next few years from 1996 i used this humble little seal.

Four years later, on the date of the 9-9-99 i came up with an idea of a seal design of my Tibetan astrological birth year, being a 'Water Tiger'. The next day sitting on a very slow train from Sligo to Dublin in Ireland, i found the time to plot out a few rough sketch designs of my now water tiger seal.

My intention was to convey a young playful tiger, not too serious but with a slight angry hiss. As you can see in the above example, part of the tiger becomes the energetic swirls of the 'water' inseparable from the Tigers body, this represents  energy and creativity. 
The tiger tail is intentionally handsome, reminiscent of a healthy and thick fury tail. the tail is then curiously turns into a spring like play of design leading down to the strength of the back legs.
Marking the top of the seal, within the border is the Sun sign.

I now have several different seals, but this particular seal seems to be the most popular, it has become just as much a logo as a seal, this is especially the case with the logo used for website and also heads this blog, where the tiger seal has been accompanied with my signature written in Tibetan. 

If you would like to know more about seal designs in general and would perhaps like to own a personal seal, you can commission a seal design here.

There is also a post that explains how to use a seal here.