Sunday 19 April 2009

Geomantic dream flag

༄། རྣམ་མཁྱེན་རྒྱལ་དར། །།

Photo: James Wainwright 

The 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, is well known for his visions and prophesies, one such divine manifestation is commonly known as the 'Kagyu flag' and more famously called the 'dream flag', in reference to the fact that the banner appeared to him in a dream.

He  named the banner 'namkhyen gyaldar' meaning "Victorious Flag of Buddha’s Wisdom”.
Imparting the details of his vision to his close disciples, His Holiness Karmapa went on to proclaim: 

“Wherever this banner is flown the Dharma will flourish.”

Since the birth of the flag, there has evolved a few different versions of the Karmamap's dream flag, most of these versions seem to have strayed from the flags' original legacy; as perhaps its new creators simply did not know and appreciate the profundity of its sacred geomantic construction.

This blog post is to explain and re-introduce the original proportionate construction and meaning behind the banner. There is also a true version of the dream flag that can be freely taken and reproduced for your own purposes, found at the bottom of this post.

This flag shows the incorrect  
construction and shades of colour.
Here shows the flag in respect of the 
correct colours and construction.

During the early 90's Tashi was asked to reproduce the Dream flag by the Samye Ling Monastery in Scotland, who's intention was to donate the flag to Karma Kagyu Buddhist establishments around the world, in order to replicate the flag correctly, in respect of its original design. 
Tashi was privileged to have first-hand authentication of the original banner design to him from two different sources:

One such original design of the banner hangs framed on a wall of a The seat  monastery of H E Jamgon Khontrul Rinpoche in Pullahari, above Boudha, Kathmandu. 
Tashi was sent to investigate the flag with instructions to take notes so to replicate the flag correctly to the right design and dimensions.
The other reference of the flag, was personally explained to Tashi by H E Situ Rinpoche. As Situ Rinpoche was witness to the original creation of the flag while together with his Guru H.H. the 16th Karmapa. 

The proportionate construction of the dream flag.

A sketch made by H.H 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje
Confirming the correct construction of the dream flag.

The sketch above is by the hand of Situ Rinpoche, (note his signature bottom right) who made the drawing especially for Tashi, explaining the geomantic arrangement of how the two waves are approached and swirl together from all four directions: two sides, top and bottom. 
It is also important to noted that in this drawing; the over-all dimensions of the flag was dependent on the dimension of the piece of paper to hand at the time. Never-the-less, the same proportionate construction of the waves should not be altered from their horizontal axis when applied to a more standard 2:1 flag proportion, as shown in the image below.

Situ Rinpoche explained further that the center point of the two waves/swirls should be at the same horizontal plain, contained within the rectangular construction box (as he indicated in his drawing above), this 'construction box' should be placed squarely at the center of the flag and not on a sloping angle, (as many other versions of the dream flag are reproduced) 

The possible reason for the misinterpretation of the wave alignment placed on a sloping axis in other corrupted versions of the flag, could have been confused with to the angular division between the two colours of yellow on the bottom side and blue on the top. This division runs from bottom left up to top right corners, as if aspiring from earth to heaven. 
It seems that such profundity of design could have easily been overseen, if not fully understood while creating the banner and lead to the misrepresentation of the dream flag.

The correct proportionate lined construction of the banner is shown more precisely on the diagram below. This is has also been designed to fit with the international standard 2:1 flag proportion.

The geomantic proportionate construction of the dream flag applied to
the 2:1 standard flag proportion, as drawn by Tashi Mannox
from the instruction of Situ Rinpoche, 1993.

 The colours of the Flag.  

Moreover, Situ Rinpoche explained the colours of the flag to be a bright  sky blue and should not be too dark, the yellow should be earth like, not Lemon yellow and compliment the sky blue in tonal brightness, as the far below colour image  shows. 

During 2012 H.H 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje confirmed the two flag colours, officiating them as Pantone 306 C  and 116 C

To demonstrate the correct balance of tone, the flag colours in the image directly below, have been converted to black and white. 
As you can see there is little difference between the tones, which indicates a similar balanced in brightness within the colours. 
The contrast that catches the eye is more in the colour rather than with the tone, as the particular blue and yellow used is far apart in the colour spectrum and complimentary. 

The tonal balance of the Dream flag.

The meaning behind the dream flag.
"Victory Banner of Buddha Wisdom”

The elements of the flag's geomancy and colours are symbolic of the relative and absolute truth. Relatively the colours blue and yellow represent the sky and the earth, the waves symbolize the Buddha Dharma.
On the absolute level the colours represent the union of emptiness and clarity, the true nature of mind. The intertwining waves symbolizes the union of compassion and emptiness, which is the essence of all phenomena.

The Karmapa's official Namkhyen Gyaldar  Dream Flag.

Please feel free to take this above image for your own use and publish it in keeping with the Karmapa's wishes: that wherever this flag graces, Dharma will flourish. 

May goodness increase !

Saturday 18 April 2009

Natural Law

Dependent Origination: Natural Law, Honorific Uchen script, Tashi Mannox 2009

Dependent origination translates as loosely as Natural law, which is the law of Karma and existence, underpinning the cycle of rebirth and the cause of suffering.
Kalu Rinpoche explained this cycle in relation to the Four Noble Truths, in his book called ‘The Dharma’:
The first two of the Four Noble Truths deal with the nature and cause of samsara. The Buddha describes the basic, world-producing cause as fundamental ignorance in the minds of all beings. This ignorance and its consequences can be analyzed as Twelve Links of Dependent Origination, that from the basis for a description of our experience of the world. The sequence of these links, nidanas, in the cycle of our experience is 1 fundamental ignorance, which leads to 2 Karmic formations. These become expressed in 3 dualistic consciousness, which in turn translated into 4 a sense of identification, and the initial differentiation of consciousness into 5 the various sense fields. Through these sense fields there is 6 contact with phenomenal world; from contact arises 7 sensation. Based upon sensation arises 8 craving for experience, followed by 9 grasping. On the basis of this, the mind harbors a sense of 10 becoming, a will to be, and this causes an actual physical incarnation. Once incarnate in a physical body, the mind experiences the various stages of human existence: 11 birth, and 12 the aging process and the stage of life that eventually lead to and end in death. At death the mind is immersed in basic ignorance again and the cycle is complete.

Dependent Origination, calligraphy by Tashi Mannox, April 2009

In the art piece above, the blue Tsugtung script translates as Natural law. This en-circles from the bottom clockwise, in the sequence of words in the Petsug script:
1. ignorence,
2. karmic propensities,
3. consciousness,
4. name and form,
5. six senses,
6. contact,
7. sensation,
8. craving,
9. grasping,
10. existence,
11. birth,
12. old age and death.
The small Tsugtung text at the base of the calligraphy translates as “this is the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination”.

'Hog eats Cock eats Snake' Circular Tsugtung script arranged reads ‘cyclic existence’ repeated. Chinese ink on water colour paper, 57x76 cm Tashi Mannox 2007.

One of the basic notions of Buddhism is that the ego of each individual is an illusion.
At the centre of the circle of script in this piece, repeats the words “cyclic existence”, Samsara, are three animals chasing each other’s tail; a hog, a cock and a snake.
Each of these animals represents the one driving forces which maintain the illusion of a separate and constant change.
The aspect of the ego portrayed here are first, delusion, which is signified by the hog; secondly, greed and attachment, which is signified by the cock; and thirdly, hate and aversion, which is signified by the snake.Each of these aspects of ego is seen as feeding on another, perpetually in the cycle of Samsara.

It is common to find both these two philosophies depicted in the 'Wheel of Life' Thanka scrolls',
the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination arranged around the outer Wheel and the hog, cock and a snake in the center.

སྲེད་སྲིད་མ་རིག་དབང་གིས་སྐྱེ་བོ་རྣམས། མི་དང་ལྷ་དང་ངན་སོང་རྣམ་གསུམ་པོ། འགྲོ་བ་ལྔ་པོ་དག་ཏུ་མི་མཁས་འཁོར། དཔེར་ན་རྫ་མཁན་འཁོར་ལོ་འཁོར་བ་བཞིན།

Because of craving, attachment and ignorance
Men, gods, animals, hungry ghosts and hell-beings
Foolishly go round,
Like the turning of a potter’s wheel.
Lalitavistara Sūtra

All images shown copyright Tashi Mannox.

Thursday 16 April 2009

Quality of sound.

A detail of a piece called 'Vibration' the movement of energy that causes sound, the word sgra translates as sound or noise in Tibetan, calligraphy in the Drutsa script on a disk of Silver leaf, Tashi Mannox 2005.

A Bija letter 'a' in the Japanese Siddham script. Being a key seed syllable of the vocalized expression of sound itself,  the letter 'a' is honorifically seated upon an open lotus, representing transformation with a back-rest of a sun disc representing purity.

The letter 'a' is the first letter of the Sanskrit alphabet, the last letter of the Tibetan alphabet. It is the root letter from where all quality of sound is born.

The first section of the Sanskrit alphabet is shown below in the Tibetan Uchen script, named by Tibetans as the 'ali kali' for its melodic rhythm as it is recited: om, a ah, i ih, u uh, ri rih, li lih, etc etc, normally chanted first thing in the morning as a blessing of speech.  

Clearly the 'a' is the root sound to which the vowel signs added; change the quality of sound.


 'a' in the Sanskrit Lanza script.

The seed syllable 'Ah' has a different spelling to the root letter 'a', in that a small 'a' is attached to the bottom of the main character, aspirating the sound:  'ah'  
The sound 'ah' is traditionally used the express the quality of speech, as one of the 'Three Gates' meaning 'body, speech and mind'.

om, white in colour, located at the head chakra, associated with the quality of body.

ah, red in colour, located at the throat chakra, associated with quality of speech.

hum, blue in colour, located at the heart chakra, associated with quality of mind.

Depicted here in a Tibetan Umeh script style for the 'Black on Black' series. Tashi Mannox 2009

The character 'Ah' shown in the Tibetan Uchen script.

"The innate great perfection of the uncontrived ah"
Tibetan Drusta script 2009

Friday 10 April 2009

The Sun and The Moon.

A seal design for the Stupa project of Samye Ling. As all Stupas, the very top above the 12 levels to enlightenment is the Sun and moon emblem.

The sun and the moon is perhaps one of the oldest of depicted images for all cultures around the world, indeed the use of symbols are known in the ancient world such as the Swastika, this in India is known as the sign for the sun and good luck.
Of course there is a wealth of meaning associated with sun and moon, however in this page i focus on the meaning of sun and moon and its symbolic use in Eastern Scripts and iconography. 

The powerful Kalachakra monogram, a combination character of the seven intertwined letters of the Kalachakra mantra: Ham Ksha Ma La Wa Ra Ya. The sun and moon crowns the emblem, either side are the Eh and Wam wartu Sanskrit letters. These are all seated on a lotus and moon seat, representing transformation and purity. image from Tashi Lhunpo monastery in Tibet.

Of the many forms of the Om character, from the Siddham script to Tibetan, Perhaps the most familiar is the Om Character in the Devanagari Sanskrit script as above. 

As with the Tibetan Om, the sun and moon is not just decorative but has a part to play in the pronunciation of the character, this is known as the 'mo' sound, which changes the 'Aa' into 'Om' sound.

for more examples of the Om Character in other scripts, Yoso has a very informative blog you may like to follow.

Here shows the Tibetan Hum character with the sun and moon 'Ma' sound at the top. © Tashi Mannox 2007.

A detail of another painting by Tashi, part of his "laughing in the face of death" collection 2008. shows the sun and moon at the top of the scull in gold and silver leaf, © Tashi Mannox.


The Sun and moon in this context is symbolic of Wisdom and compassion, the emblem of balance and harmony.

The meaning of the sun and moon seems to differ from East to Western cultures. In the West we tend to associate the sun being the masculine fire element, the moon being the female water element. Whereas in Eastern philosophy, it is quite the opposite: The sun being the female because of the association with the red nurturing element, the moon being male because of the association with the white seed (Tigli) essence of life element. 

The words for moon and sun shown here in the Tibetan drucha script which are arranged as roundels. silver and gold leaf on paper, art work 2004 © Tashi Mannox. 

Saturday 4 April 2009

Homage to Manjushri

dhi dhi dhi dhi dhi dhi dhi dhi dhi .....

The wisdom mantra of the Bodhisattva Manjushri is pronounced "om a ra pa tsa na dhi" is an essential part of the Yidam practice to Manjushri, believed to enhance wisdom and increase the ability to learn. The mantra is depicted above in the ancient Sanskrit Lantsha script.

Another depiction of the Manjushri mantra in the Tibetan Tsugtung script.
© Tashi Mannox.

For more original Tibetan calligraphy please visit

The root syllable of this mantra is 'dhi', as shown at the top of the page and here on the left,  are  depicted in the Tibetan Uchen script. 

The seed syllable of Manjushri can be chanted as a rapid and continuous flow, rolling off the tongue 108 times in one breath.

Tashi explains....

As a young monk, one of my first Yidam meditation practices was given to me by an age and wizened Tibetan, called Lama Thubten of Palpung. This practices was to recite and meditate on the deity Manjushri. I was told that this would enhance wisdom and help me learn quicker as a novice monk in the many tasks of study.

I remember that part of the Manjushri text explained that one of the signs of fruition, from diligently engaging in the meditation, was that one may dream of writing or even of drinking ink. This notion amused me to think of gulping down a pot of the jet black liquid.

Sure enough i developed a keen interest in the Tibetan language, which i was required to learn as a monk, as the many chanting from the manuscripts are in Tibetan. This sometimes demand 'speed reading', where the congregation of monks all chant together at great vigor and pace.

As i already had a training in the arts, it was a natural step to develop my Tibetan handwriting to a more refined standard. I was soon given the job of 'scribe' where i spent many years painstakingly copying ancient crumbling Tibetan manuscripts, for their preservation and daily use in the monastery. This in its self was a great discipline, which laid a steady foundation, allowing me to be more expressive and free with my current calligraphy art.

In 2008 i was propositioned to create a book of my calligraphy art works, which i am finding a seemingly long process.

One of the requirements of a book is to have a portrait of the author, so i collaborated with a wonderful portrait photographer Rebecca van Ommen.

I expressed to her that i wanted to depict the dream of drinking ink, which i thought was very fitting for a book on Tibetan calligraphy.

During the photo shoot; Rebecca had me jumping in the air to create the composition, she is also very skilled with photoshop, so to my direction she artfully placed letters of the Tibetan alphabet and my paint brushes, in a great swirl topped by a spilling pot of ink to my mouth.We finished the end of the photo shoot with a cut of tea.

"if all the world was paper
and all the sea was ink
and all the trees were bread and cheese,
What would we have to drink?"

As a child my sister used to sing to me this little rhyme.

Calligraphy artist Tashi Mannox. all images shown and not stated otherwise are created by the artist and the photographer. please respect the copyright. Thank you.