The pictures shown here, are particularly relevant to the "practitioners" of Tibetan Buddhism, particularly to those of the Nyingmapa and Kagyu lineage. Moreover, parts of the collection should be in accordance with the texts, and fundamental and essential to those studying tibetology.
My first contact to Tibetan Buddhism was a few years ago on a weekend with Sogyal Rinpoche in Munich. His "book of living and dying" had just been published, and was the central theme of teachings. Although I couldn`t always follow the essential meaning of many of the interpretations then, because many of the definitions that I have today were not available, I had an unknown feeling that could be described through the words "I have I arrived". This feeling has not left me even today, and I have become that which is called a practising Buddhist. For some years now I have been a student of C. R. Lama, and have received various transmissions from him.
Initially the foreign culture, the texts, and especially the visualisation seemed impenetrable and unfathomable to me. Although many Tibetan texts are translated into various European languages, often the original pictures, which illustrate the texts are not available. However, these texts are an indispensable component of the practice texts, as a visualisation aid. Old Tibetan texts often inluded pictures.
In a book by Detlev L. Lauf I first found references to so-called Tsaglis. These are small thangkas, pictures of the deity in question. The deitys concerned in the practise are depicted serially in greater or lesser detail. A zhi-thro text in Lauf`s book "secret teachings of Tibetan books of the dead" (Aurum Publishing House) supports this point.
I found my first series of photos in the fall of 1997 in Boudhanat/Nepal. Joscha, a Russian monk, who had spent some yeas in Indian and Nepali monasteries, used his good connections and brought me a bundle of negatives, which he had lent somewhere. It turned out, that these included a complete series of a zhi-thro practise from the lineage of Karma Lingpa and Pegyal Lingpa.
It was at that time, that I heard that there were also pictures in the rinchen terzod. No one knew exactly where, but I met several people who had heard, that these pictures could be bought in a Tibetan monastery. Several attempts to get a hold of them failed, until I travelled to the Nyingmapa monlam in Bodhgaya 1998, where I met Kunga Lody behind his picture stall.
Kunga Lody lives in the Tibetan colony Bir (about 4 hours east of from Dharamsala, India by bus) with his family, and has been taking pictures since his escape from Tibet. His brothers remained monks after their escape and today live in monasteries in the US and Switzerland. Kunga Lody married. He makes his living and that for his rather large family primarily through the sale of pictures. When I met him in 1988 I asked him about the rinchen terzod. It turned out, that he had, some time earlier received an inititation into the rinchen terzod, and had made photos of the photos the people had brought to the iniation. He had approximately 150 films, and was thinking about buying a computer and letting his elder sons scan them.
Thinking things over together
I have been working in various fields on the computer for the last years, and it quickly became clear, that the idea to digitalize the negatives was a good one, but not possible without the proper equipment and know how. The amount of data that would result from such a work would take up about 65GB. Although I couldn`t even guess how much time and money this would consume, I spontaneously offered him my help. Kunga Lody was not averse, though he wanted to consult his brothers before. We adjourned the project and made a date for the coming May in Bir.
Mid June `98 I returned to Germany with the 150 films. The plan was, to scan them all by October, and then return them to Kunga. But it turned out, that it took until December to scan all the pictures, before I was able to return them to him. Thank you for the trust.
In December of `98, I spent three weeks with Kunga looking at the scanned photos on a laptop. Fortunately he had made a catalogue of the pictures, so we were able to classify them. The catalogue, which was originally written in Ume, was translated into Ucen in Dharamsala, and Hilke translated it into the Wylie transcription.
Motivation and result
What I set out to do rather spontaneously two years ago, has in these last months come to a finish with this internet version. The catalogue is now available. It is complete in as far as, all available pictures are included in it. Yet the work cannot be seen as being a reliable scholarly source. Because I do not have sufficient mastery over Tibetan and English, I cannot guarantee, that the pictures are correctly catalogued, nor can I offer much information about their content. I would like to present this work, as a collection of material that offers some insight into the iconography of Tibetan Buddhism, rather than as a statement about it.
*** wz Summer 2000; translated into english by Anna Aly-Labana