Karmapa Inspects the Tormas

The Karmapa made a surprise visit to the Bhutanese Temple on November 28 to inspect the progress of the torma artists.

The following tormas are in various stages of completion:

Gyu Gon torma made by torma master, Lama Sangye
Ekajati torma made by Lama Sangye
Gakyil Gyens

Buddha descending from Tushita Heaven, torma by Karma Wangchuk
Milarepa Torma

A pretty flower gyen

Shalze Gyens
Karmapa leaving the torma-making site.

Connecting with other filmmakers in Bodhgaya

(from left to right) Christof Freitas, Anahita Moghaddam and Guy Reid

One always meets the most interesting and stimulating people around His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa and this year is no exception. Guy Reid, Christof Freitas, and Steve Kennedy are the very talented filmmakers of Planetary Collective who were in Bodhgaya to interview the Karmapa for their new documentary film Continuum, due to be released in September 2013. Continuum will address the root cause of the environmental and social crises facing the planet today. A few days ago I got to view their 18-minute short called Overview, set to premiere at Harvard University in December, 2012. It was really fantastic, a stunning and thought-provoking piece of visual poetry. For more information check out their website: (www.planetarycollective.com).


Lama Sangye, Torma Master Working in Bodhgaya, November 2012

Lama Sangye is hard at work on a Mahakala torma.

I’m in Bodhgaya now and yesterday I went to check on the progress of the torma artists. The first person I saw was Lama Sangye and he is hard at work on two tormas, a Mahakala torma called Jugon and an Ekajati torma. He is a master sculptor who trained extensively in meditation (he completed a three-year-retreat at Pullahari in Nepal). In Bhutan, as a youth, Lama Sangye learned statue making from the two pre-eminent Bhutanese sculptors at that time. He is also highly skilled in mask-making. It is thrilling to watch Lama Sangye’s hands work their magic; plus the room where he works is quiet and radiates peace. I hope to follow his progress closely in the coming days and weeks.

Early stages of the Ekajati torma.

They started working on the Kagyu Monlam tormas around Nov. 16th. They’ve already made the shalzes and mixed the colorful wax butter.

A row of naked shalzes.
Bowls of colorful wax butter were already made when I got there.
Wax butter cones of color are standing by.

Torma Artists are Gathering in Bodhgaya to Create New Kagyu Monlam Tormas

Months have passed and the time has rolled around again for the torma artists to gather in Bodhgaya and create their magic. Last year’s tormas are still inside Tergar Monastery. It’s interesting to see how well these fragile artworks have survived the elements here in India, including a very hot season followed by pounding monsoon rains with the attendant humidity that creeps into every crack and crevice. Still these beautiful images made of butter and wax have for the most part remained intact.