Showing posts with label WIM2. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WIM2. Show all posts

Monday, July 31, 2023

India | Mongolia | Shambhala Thangka

When I first visited the Zanabazar Fine Arts Museum in 1996 I saw a large thangka depicting the Kingdom of Shambhala. It  was the first such thangka I had seen outside of depictions in books. Subsequently I would see dozens if not hundreds of thankgas and wall paintings depicting Shambhala in temples and museums around the world but the one in the Zanabazar Museum remains the best example I have ever seen. The last time I was in the Zanabazar Museum the thangka was no longer on display. A museum docent said simply that it was “in storage.”

Eventually I decided I wanted  a Shambhala thangka of my own. During the late 1990s and early 2000s I visited dozens of shops and galleries featuring Buddhist art in Mongolia, China, Tibet (Lhasa and Shigatse), India, Nepal, and elsewhere but was never able to locate one. People in the shops and galleries either protested ignorance or insisted that such thankgas were no longer made. A well-known lama and artist in Ulaanbaatar was familiar with the thangka but claimed that no one in Mongolia was capable of making one. I doubted this at the time and subsequently I would meet Mongolian artists who were certainly capable of creating a Shambhala thangka. The first lama-artist I had spoken to had disparaged my interest in Shambhala and was openly antagonistic to non-Mongolians, especially Americans. I had a feeling he simply did not want me to have a Shambhala thangka. 

In the meantime, I wandered by Darjeeling, India, where I made a pilgrimage to the grave of eccentric Hungarian wanderer-scholar Csoma de Koros (1784–1842), who had been instrumental in introducing the Shambhala Mythologem to the Occident. Of course I also wanted to sample the region’s justly famous teas (I will admit I was  then partial to Chinese Puerh Tea, but I was willing to give Darjeeling black teas a try). 

Tomb of Csoma de Koros

Csoma de Koros

Tea bushes on the outskirts of Darjeeling

Black tea for sale

The receptionist at the hotel where I was staying turned out to be a emigre from Tibet. I mentioned to him  that I was interested in Buddhist art, specifically thangkas. He suggested I visit a Tibetan artist of his acquaintance. I was directed to the studio of the artist, a man in his early forties named Dawa Bhutia, in a wooded area on the outskirts of Darjeeling. He had been born in Lhasa and later moved to India. In the course of our conversation about Buddhist art I mentioned that I had looked everywhere for a Shambhala thangka but had been unable to find one. Dawa Bhutia was familiar with Shambhala thangkas but had never made one himself. I asked if me could make me one. I could tell he was intrigued by the idea. He said he would first have to do a lot of research on the subject matter before doing the actual painting. The whole process would, he said, take to eight to ten months. We agreed on a price—half up front and the other half upon completion of the thangka—and subsequently kept in touch via email. I was back in Mongolia when I got word ten months later that the thangka was completed. It soon arrived via FedEx. After the usual hassles with getting it through customs—the officials did not know how to evaluate it and I pleaded total ignorance—I finally was able to display the thangka on the wall of my apartment. 

The complete thangka on display in my apartment (click on photos for enlargements)

The painted portion of the thangka

Buddha at upper left hand corner of thangka

Buddha at upper left hand corner of thangka

Kalachakra deity at upper right hand corner of thangka. Shown here in sexual union with his consort Vishvamata. The Kalachakra deity has four heads with three eyes in each head, and twenty-four arms. 

The Kingdom of Shambhala, with eight cities surrounding  the capital of Kalapa 

One of the eight cities of Shambhala

Residents of Shambhala

Kalapa, the capital of Shambhala, with the palace of the King of Shambhala in the middle

The King of Shambhala in his palace

The King of Shambhala

Below the Kingdom of Shambhala is depicted the Shambhala War with the La-Los, or Barbarians, described in some Mongolian sources as Muslims, although this remains a highly contentious issue.  Tibetan tradition asserts that the warrior on the blue horse is Rudra Chakra, the 25th Kalki King of Shambhala.  According to the Shambhala Mythologem, in 2424 Rudra Chakrin will initiate a war against the enemies of the Dharma and after their defeat usher in a new Golden Age when peace and prosperity will reign on the earth. Some Mongolian sources claim, however, that the figure on the blue horse is General Hanuman, the final incarnation of the Bogd Gegeens of Mongolia. In any case, General Hanuman is one of the leaders of the Shambhala Army. 

Rudra Chakrin, or perhaps General Hamuman

The Shambhala Army engaging the barbarians

Detail from above depictions. Not sure who this man is. 

Another officer in the Shambhala Army

Officers in the Shambhala Army leading war elephants and horse-drawn wagons carrying archers into battle

Soldiers in the Shambhala Army

Vanquished foes of Shambhala

Denisons of the realms outside of Shambhala

Detail of Denisons of the realms outside of Shambhala

An Asura?

I subsequently donated this thangka to the Lam Rim Temple, just outside of Gandan Monastery in Ulaanbaatar, where it can now be seen. 

In conclusion, it should be pointed out that as of 2023 Shambhala thankgas, including some supposedly made by Tibetan artists now living in Hong Kong, are available on eBay and other outlets on the internet.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

France | Paris | George Roerich In Love

George Roerich was born on August 16, 1902, in the village of Okulovka, located in the Russian province of Novgorod, where his father and mother were taking part in an archaeological expedition. Like his father, he was artistically inclined and began to draw at an early age. When he was six years old, in 1908, a show featuring works by the children of members of the World of Art Association, to which his father belonged, displayed his youthful efforts. “A significant number of drawings are related to military clashes, knightly tournaments, and warlike angels and saints”, we are told. ”According to his mother, “such an interest was not accidental . . . At the genetic level, Yuri Roerich preserved tribal memory; the ancestors laid the warrior magnetism in him.” As we have seen, his mother was the grandniece of General Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov, the commander-in-chief of the Russian army that defeated Napoleon in 1812. Yet another relative on his mother’s side claimed to be descended from Batu Khan, grandson of Chingis Khan and founder of the Golden Horde, and it was later claimed that he was an reincarnation of the fourteenth-century warlord Tamerlane. After the Russian Revolution, however, when the Roerichs were living in Finland, George’s interests took a more scholarly bent, and he began to study Eastern literature and languages. It was in these fields that he would excel. 
When the Roerichs moved to England in 1919 George enrolled in the Indo-Iranian Department of School of Oriental Languages at the University of London, where he   studied under famed linguist Edward Denison Ross, who could read in forty-nine languages and speak in thirty, including Tibetan. The first languages George studied were Persian and Sanskrit. He also organized the anti-Bolshevik group known as the Russian Youth Circle. Like his father, his views on Bolshevism would change by the time he arrived in Mongolia. It was in London, of course, that his mother first encountered Master Morya, who would put the Roerichs on the path to Inner Asia and Shambhala. To further prepare for this epic journey in the spring of 1920 George applied to Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In his application he stated that wanted to “‘continue and complete” his education in Eastern languages and philosophy. 
The Roerichs arrived in New York on October 3, 1920. On October 21 George began classes at Harvard, where he studied under acclaimed scholar Charles R. Lanman, founder of the “Harvard Oriental Series”, which featured English translations of Indian classics.  George took courses in Sanskrit, Pali, Greek, and Chinese and was soon recognized as a prodigy. He was able to get a degree in two years. He now set his sights on studying at the Sorbonne in Paris. 
In August of 1920, apparently just after the Roerich family’s stay on Monhegan Island, George proceeded to Paris and enrolled at the Sorbonne. He took up residence with the Chklaver family, headed by Gavriil Grigorievich Chklaver, who had been a successful businessman and banker back in Russia before the revolution. Nicholas and Elena had crossed paths with him several times and he was now happy to assist George. Gavriil Grigorievich’s own son George was also a student at the Sorbonne, and the two Georges became thick friends. In addition to his linguistic studies, which by now included the Tibetan and Mongolian languages, George took courses in military science, studying under the Russian ex-general N. N. Golovin, and jurisprudence. As we have seen, George had been obsessed by martial themes as a young boy.  But why we might ask was the scholar of languages interested once again in military science and also in jurisprudence? His biographer explains:
As an alleged descendent of the Scandinavian Vikings, Yuri [George] claimed that he sensed a militant spirit in his veins, and the fact was further confirmed by the Master [Morya] who revealed that he had been Tamerlane in one of his former lives and prophesied that he would again lead the Mongolian hordes in the future apocalyptic Shambhala War. So Yuri apparently wanted to prepare himself for the battles he would wage for the sake of the Messiah. As for jurisprudence, he might need it as a participant in the Roerichs’ mission or “spiritual embassy” to the ruler of Tibet.
Meanwhile George continued his language studies with the influential French Indologist Sylvain Lévi (1863–1935); Jacques Bacot (1871–1965), the leading Tibetologist in France at the time; Paul Jules Antoine Meillet (1866–1936) a pioneering French linguist; and renowned Sinologist Paul Eugène Pelliot (1878–1945). In the winter of 1923 he was elected to the prestigious Linguistic Society and the magazine “French Pages” began publishing his weekly column entitled “Literary and Political Views”. George’s career in Paris appeared to be a roaring success. Meanwhile back in New York his parents were putting in motion plans for their long awaited Khora around Inner Asia, in which George was to play a leading role. Then a monkey wrench was thrown into the whole works. George had fallen in love.  
Curiously enough—in light of later events—it was Nicholas Roerich who had instructed his son to look up the Manziarly family when he arrived in Paris. Stefan de Manziarly was of French-Italian descent but a citizen of Russia. Headquartered in Kharkov, in what is now Ukraine, he had made a fortune mining coal in the Donetsk Basin and was among the business elite in pre-Revolutionary Russia. The family had emigrated from Russia just before World War I and ended up in Paris. We hear little more about Stefan—he transmigrated in 1920—but his wife Irma made quite a splash. She was in communication with some of the leading intellectuals of the period, including the Russian philosopher, theologian, and Christian existentialist Nikolai Berdyaev (1874–1948), and was herself a formidable scholar who translated classical Indian texts, including the Upanishads, a part of the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, from Sanskrit into Russian. Irma was also a hard-core Theosophist who was active in the French section of the Theosophical Society and  who led a group which met to study Madame Blavatsky’s magnum opus The Secret Doctrine. She befriended Annie Besant, who had been named president of the Theosophical Society in 1907, and had made several trip to Adyar, the headquarters of the society in India. She soon became a patron of Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895–1986), whom Annie Besant had grandiosely declared was the World Teacher, the  Eastern successor to the Nazarene Messiah. 
Amid all this activity she also found time to have four children: three daughters—Marcelle, Iolanthe, Marseille—and a son, Alexander. The children were introduced into the Theosophical milieu and they along with their mother were soon taking vacations in Italy, France, and Switzerland with the World Teacher Krishnamurti. It was all very heady stuff for the young girls. Of the daughters, Marcelle, or Mara, as she known to her family and friends, was perhaps the most accomplished. Born on October 13, 1899, she would twenty-two when George turned up on the Manziarly’s doorstep on September 30, 1922. George, born on August 16, 1902, would have been just over twenty. Sina Lichtmann, however, repeated the Roerich line that, “She [Mara] is four or five years older than Yury, and the two of them [Mara and her mother] have completely beguiled the boy.” The claim that Mara was four or five years older than George is also made by various biographers. Despite her youth, Mara had already composed musical works that had been played to acclaim in France and Holland. Upon hearing her music, George declared that it expressed an ”occult something.” 
Also, both Mara and her mother were, like the Roerichs themselves, devotees of Master Morya, the Himalayan Mahatma. George noted in his diary:
6 November 1922. I am eagerly waiting for messages from M.M. [Master Morya] Here something miraculous is happening to us. We [George and Mara] write automatically, see visions, etc. Before the writing we often see how the atmosphere is getting filled with blue stars and spheres.
It was beginning to sound like love. Then came the kicker. Master Morya, speaking as Allal Ming, declared that in an earlier life, when George had been incarnated as Tamerlane, an earlier incarnation of Mara had been his wife. This inspired Mara to start work on a large orchestral poem to be called “Tamerlane”. Soon it was clear that George had gone head-over-heels for Mara. He had found his soulmate, or as he himself put it, somewhat infelicitously, “my own Ego dressed in [a] skirt.” In a letter to his parents he gushed: “I am so madly happy!!! . . . Not a trace is left of the Harvardian Roerich.” This was apparently George’s first foray onto the battlefield in the war between the sexes and it could be excused if he got a little carried away. In another letter he enthused:
I would like to tell you about Mara. She is a remarkable person in many ways. She is different from her sisters, being very profound, mystical and sensitive. A close friend of Krishnamurti, and what’s most important she is devoted to our cause and the Service. She is an excellent musician, and I am so happy that I will have music in my life. Today her “Trio” was played in concert and it had great success. On December 11 a Russian choir will chant her “Songs without words”. I have already heard them and they are wonderful. Soon her ballet will be staged; it is called “Nataraja”, a God who manifests himself through the world dance.
On November 17, 1922, six weeks after they had met, George proposed to Mara and she accepted. Mara’s mother Irma was all in. She had earlier opined that Nicholas was ““a prophet and saint”” and that Elena was ‘saint’s wife.’” Now her daughter was gaining entry into this illustrious family. The marriage was scheduled for January 19, 1923. Now all George had to do was inform his parents. “‘Today, on the 17th, I declared my feelings to Mara and it turned out that we both deeply love and feel for each other. In a word, I decided to marry and go to India as a married man,’”  he wrote to his parents. Furthermore, he declared that if permission to marry was not granted he would “go and sacrifice myself in some crazy expedition into Africa or Indo-China.”
Back in New York Nicholas and Elena were shell-shocked. Nicholas had sent George to the Manziarlys with the best intentions, thinking that Irma would help him set up a branch of Corona Mundi, his art association, in Paris, and provide them with access to the World Teacher Krishnamurti, whom they hoped to meet with when they arrived in India. Nicholas also envisioned opening a “Lodge of Morya” in Paris with the help of the Manziarlys. He had not foreseen George getting swept off his feet by Irma’s daughter. Elena had a conniption fit. If only he had hooked up with some inconsequential French tart of the kind young men are prone to the matter could have easily been dismissed and George set back on the straight and narrow. But Mara Manziarly was no fly-by-night floozy. She was a formidable competitor for George’s affections.
Suddenly the whole khora around Inner Asia was called into question. Master Morya had declared that the four Roerichs—Svetoslav was included in early plans—were to lead the Western Buddhist Mission. There was no place for a fifth wheel, assuming that Mara would ever agree to such a multi-year journey into the wilds of Inner Asia. Yet how could George leave a new bride behind? There was an added complication. When the Roerichs eventually arrived in India they hope, to meet with with Besant, then head of the Theosophical Society in Adyar, and the newly anointed World Teacher Krishnamurti. To seek the favor of the Theosophists in India Nicolas offered to dedicate a painting, “The Messenger”, to Helena Blavatsky, founder of the Theosophical Society. The problem was, in his various meetings with the Manziarly family Krishnamurti had come to the conclusion that Mara was destined for a spiritual life that included celibacy (whether he himself remained celibate is a matter for some dispute).  For Mara to enter into married life with George would be viewed by him as a betrayal. At the time it was still crucial to the Roerichs’ plans to remain in the good graces of Krishnamurti, but a married George and Mara would hardly be welcomed in Adyar by the new Messiah. George, however, showed no signs of acquiescing to his parents’ objections. Instead he announced that not getting married to Mara would result in “‘spiritual death.’” On December the Roerichs, with heavy hearts, sent George a wire saying that they accepted his decision to marry. 
Then Nicholas and Elena got some breathing room. It turned out that the still-wet-behind-the-ears George could not be married in France unless his parents were present or had provided written permission notarized by the French consul in New York.  Bureaucratic complications ensued— Nicholas and Elena may have dragged their feet—and various documents flew back and forth to no avail.  Meanwhile, Madame Chklaver, who was still hosting George in Paris, wrote to Elena claiming that the Manziarlys were an “immoral family” and that Irma and her daughter were scheming to entrap the obviously unworldly and naive George into marriage. What’s more, George was cutting his classes at the Sorbonne and he and Mara were frittering their time away at parks and other leisure spots. 
Master Morya seemed to concur with Madame Chklaver. Sina Lichtmann noted in her diary:
January 4, 1923 We visited the Roerichs and had a séance. E.I. [Elena] is alarmed by the events. The night before they had a very sad séance at which it was Said [by Master Morya, hence the capitalization]: “The son’s reputation, needful to Me, is perishing.” After the séance we had a talk about the current serious times and E.I. mentioned that they’re having significant difficulties with Yury [George], who is the target of Madame Manziarly’s matrimonial ambitions for her daughter. She is four or five years older [sic] than Yury, and the two of them have completely beguiled the boy.
Elena wrote to George informing him that according to his horoscope January was a bad time to get married. She also relayed numerous messages from Master Morya, including: ““Udraya [George] should take care to avoid hasty decisions,’” and “Udraya, learn to act your age.’” Master Morya had earlier told George that in previous lives he and Mara had been married and thus their love was preordained, but now the Mahatma had apparently changed his mind as far as marriage was concerned. Elena’s constant harping finally wore George down, and finally it was decided that since the Roerichs were planning on coming to France in the spring of 1923 while on their way to India the whole matter of marriage could be postponed until then. 
In the meantime, Irma Manziarly, who by now was viewed by the Roerichs as nothing less than the Wife of Potiphar herself, had turned up in New York City. It seemed that the Roerichs had earlier, when they were still trying to enlist the Manziarlys in their various schemes, invited Iolanthe Manziarly, Mara’s sister, to New York to teach a class in eurythmics at the Master Institute.  Iolanthe (Io  to her friends) had met with Elena earlier. On November 16, the day before George proposed marriage in Paris, Sina Lichtmann met with Elena, who told her about a disturbing dream she had had a few days before: 
She awoke at about 3:00 a.m., saw a blinding light; her head was filled with images of crazily spinning circles, and she felt a huge weight that was rolled all over her body. She said that she had a terrible feeling of fear for her body. She felt totally exhausted afterward.
The very next day Iolanthe Manziarly paid Elena a visit. Iolanthe intimated that all was not well in the Manziarly household. According to Sina:
She [Iolanthe] painted her mother in a completely different light than what E.I. [Elena] had imagined: as a woman who had abandoned her children and had lived only for the sake of others, while at the same time causing her children to suffer terribly. That story made a great impression on E.I. She told me that she understood: she too should not become so absorbed into herself and her own world that she forgets her children, and that she was quite close to that.
Irma Manziarly arrived in New York City in late January. According to Sina, Elena “was dreading the upcoming visit by Mme. Manziarly . . . and how hard it will be to have a conversation with her after all the trouble she caused with Yury in Paris.” The first meetings between the two matriarchs did not go well. According to Sina, Irma “had made quite a poor impression. It was difficult for E.I. to be around her; she suffered from headaches and other ailments for two days after her visit. Only one thing has made E.I. accept her: her loyalty to the Master [Morya] and submission to His will.”
Shortly after her first meeting with Irma Manziarly Elena wrote to George:
Are you ready to cross out all achievements and lose the access to the Teacher? Right now I see a star lighten up in front of me. This is the sign of communication with the Teacher. This is the sign of harmony. Yurik, my very own, find the strength to resist this early marriage—don’t kill yourself . . . Mara is only the fact of current time, but she can change your karma. Your karma is brilliant, it leads to us. You should go with us and be our heir.
On January 29 Sina reported:
Spent the evening at the Roerichs’. E.I. is going through a very difficult time; she has to see Madame Manziarly frequently, whom she apparently quite dislikes. She threatened E.I. [Elena] with the death of her son if she separates him from her daughter. E.I. recalled a recent dream in which she kept a small, gray snake on her hand under the glove, thinking that it would not bite her. And on her hand there was a small cut, and suddenly she felt the snake bite her directly into that cut. She had already realized that this snake was Manziarly. Of course, now she will be trying to harm the Roerichs at every opportunity. 
But that wasn’t all. Master Morya now declared that unlike the Roerichs, all of whom claimed to be reincarnations of illustrious figures dating back at least to the time of the now sunken continent of Atlantis, Irma Manziarly in a past life had been a “Frau Necht, a vegetable seller in the nineteenth century, most insignificant.” 
In late March Irma Manziarly further infuriated Elena by having a notice of the upcoming nuptials of George and Mara published in the London Theosophical magazine Herald of the Star. On March 20 Sina reported:
Incidentally, N.K. said that now the vision (or a dream, I don’t remember) of E.I. in which she was hiding a little snake in her glove, which suddenly bit her in the scratch on her hand, has become clear. That snake is Madame Manziarly, who bit them again in the already existing wound by announcing Yury’s engagement to her daughter in a theosophical magazine and not in a newspaper so that this news would spread in theosophical circles.
Krishnamurti was now aware that his disciple Mara was planning to marry George Roerich. It is not quite clear what his reaction was. Perhaps he had his mind on loftier matters. In any case, it was going to be awkward if the Roerichs met up with Krishnamurti in India.
The Roerichs—Nicholas, Elena, and Svetoslav—arrived at Cherbourg, France on May 14, 1923, and George, sans Mara, was there to greet them. The whole family was in Paris a few days later. Nicholas, Elena, and Svetoslav checked in at the Hôtel Lord Byron on rue Lord Byron while George remained with the Chklavers. Nicholas had a raft of activities involving the Great Plan lined up, but first and foremost the George and Mara matter had be resolved. Master Morya began bombarding Elena with messages which she relayed to George. On May 20 the Mahatma pronounced: “Urusvati [Elena] is right. Manziarly should be told about friendship only.” This enigmatic message may have meant that while the Master would countenance friendship between the two love birds marriage was out of the question. The next day Morya weighted in again: “We don’t see marriage . . . Udraya has disobeyed the Order, stirred up the waves of old karma . . . a good lesson for Tamerlane [George].” Since Sina Lichtmann, Elena’s mouthpiece, was not present we learn very little more of what actually transpired between George and his parents. 
We do know that on May 25 Louis and Nettie Horch arrived in Paris for an extended stay. Apparently they and the Roerichs had planned beforehand to make a grand tour of the continent. A few days later the Roerichs, including George, and the Horchs set out to see the sights in France and then proceeded on to Italy and Switzerland. Mara was not invited. George’s parents may have wanted to separate the two so they could talk some sense into him without her around. Meanwhile Mara showered George with letters. By August she had apparently realized that the marriage was not going to happen, at least anytime soon.  “I can’t imagine my path without you,” she wrote George. “In a few years, maybe in Russia, we shall live together.” 
Not much more is known about the relationship between George and Mara, except for the fact that by the time the Roerichs returned to Paris the marriage was definitely off. It may have been a sore subject, the less said about the better. Popular semi-hagiographical biographies of the Roerichs make no mention whatsoever of the Manziarlys, George’s infatuation with Mara, or their proposed marriage. It’s as if the whole episode never occurred. One thing is for sure. When the Roerich family departed from France for India on November 16, 1923, George was with them and Mara remained behind. Not long afterwards Irma and her daughters, including Mara, themselves departed for India. They proceeded to Adyar, where they hoped to met up with Krishnamurti. Adyar had been on the itinerary of the Roerichs but then they changed their minds and the two families did not cross paths. 
Mara probably never saw George again after their last meeting in Paris. While in India she threw herself into her work, composing music for piano and orchestra. She finally completed the symphonic poem “Tamerlane”, which George had inspired her to write, but by then it had become, in the words of George’s biographer, “a hymn to unfulfilled love.” She eventually returned to Paris, where she lived until the outbreak of World War II, when she decamped to the United States. She ended up the Theosophical enclave in Ojai, California, where Krishnamurti would also take refuge. Famous American composer Aaron Copland (1900–1990) dedicated a song  to her entitled "Heart, We Will Forget Him", apparently a reference to George Roerich. Krishnamurti, who decades before had marked Mara as his disciple, transmigrated at Ojai on February 17, 1986. Mara transmigrated at Ojai on May 11, 1989, just a few months shy of her ninetieth birthday.
Mara never married and the available short biographies of her life make no mention of any relationships after George. George apparently entered into some sort of long-term conjugal relationship with Lyudmila Bogdanova, the Russian woman the Roerichs had hired in Ulaanbaatar as a cook and who, along with her sister Iraida, went on to serve the Roerich family for thirty-some years. This may have qualified as a common-law marriage. In any case, George never had any children. George and Mara had sacrificed their love for the sake of the Masters and the Great Plan. Perhaps Master Morya will unite them again in another lifetime. 
George Roerich