An Exhibition at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
A rare collection of Tibetan thangkas depicting the Rigden Kings of Shambhala, originally exhibited by the Boston Museun of Fine Arts, are now housed on shambhal.org Click here to view the entire collection.
The 17th century thangkas were part of the museum’s “Seeking Shambhala” exhibition in 2012, for which they were were freshly conserved and re-hung in tradition brocade.
Meditators, led by Shastri Diana Evans, practiced in the museum at the exhibition’s opening. Museum Director Malcolm Rogers called it, “the first ever meditation session in the museum.” It not only made history, it made the news. It was the featured item of “Celebrity News” in the Boston Globe!
Twenty-two of the thirty-two Rigden Kings are displayed, including the first, Dawa Sangpo or “Suchandra,” who received the Kalachakra teachings from the Buddha. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche had the opportunity to have a private showing of the thangkas in 2005 when he was in Boston to run the marathon, and was given a personal tour by the Curator of the Asian collection. Please visit the short film of that visit posted on this page.
Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche made a special trip to view these thangkas in 1974; he considered this set of images to be of the highest quality, and wanted to include them in the Visual Dharma exhibit at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1975.
The museum has graciously given its permission for Shambhala to house this online display. The specialist photography was generously funded by The Shambhala Trust. These works are not allowed to leave the Museum of Fine Arts – a request of the donor – and are almost impossible for the public to view as they are not on permanent exhibit. Sadly there were not sufficient funds in the budget to produce an exhibition catalog, and the museum was more than willing to enable Shambhala to make them available on our website. Funds for this project were generously provided by the Shambhala Trust.
Click here for more information about the exhibition, including a visual tour.
In 1906, the Museum acquired a set of 17th-century Tibetan paintings depicting the mythical Shambhala kings and the Buddha.
Seeking Shambhala: The Mythical Kings of Shambhala
In 1906, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts acquired a set of 17th-century Tibetan paintings depicting the mythical Shambhala kings. The exhibition featured newly-conserved thangka paintings of the Rigden (or Kalki) Kings of Shambhala. The Museum has generously agreed to let Shambhala display these important thangkas online, and we are delighted to present them here.
Deep within central Asia – according to ancient Tibetan Buddhist texts – hidden by mist and a ring of snow-covered peaks lies a fabulous kingdom called Shambhala. It’s a mystical, visionary place ruled by a lineage of thirty-two kings. Their charge: to uphold the Kalachakra Tantra, a sacred teaching passed from the Buddha to Shambhala’s first king. Emphasizing transformation and enlightenment, it also tells of a world descended into chaos and war and of one king who will emerge from Shambhala to restore order and prosperity.
Only the worthy can find Shambhala and enter. This exhibition examines that search through artworkds that invoke the spirit of the journey and the place itself. In thiis gallery, early objects join recent works by Tibetan Gonkar Gyatso and Japan’s Tadanori Yokoo to explore Shambhala across time and place. At the heart of the exhibition are twenty-two paintings of Shambhala’s kings, part of an incomplete set from the 17th century acquired by the MFA in 11906. They are shown here newly-conserved and restored for the first time to their traditional formats as thangkas or hanging scrolls.
Long associated in Western culture with Shangri-la, the utopia where peace reigns, wealth abounds and there is no illness. Shambhala has fascinated, inspired, even obsessed individuals for centuries. Contemporary society is no exception. The journey to understand Shambhala – and to arrive there – continues today.
Twenty-two of the thirty-two Rigden Kings are displayed, including the first, Dawa Sangpo or “Suchandra,” who received the Kalachakra teachings from the Buddha.