Practising calligraphy art is a skilful means to see the nature of the mind, the ultimate goal of all Buddhist teachings, according to a renowned calligrapher Jamyang Dorjee Chakrishar, 71, from Sikkim, India. 

Jamyang Dorjee’s calligraphy art exhibition stood out at the ongoing fourth international conference on Vajrayana Buddhism at Centre for Bhutan and GNH Studies (CBS).  

Jamyang, who holds the world’s longest calligraphy scroll (165m long) record, said that calligraphy was the best tool to express one’s mind in the form of arts and practice mindfulness.  

Calligraphy for him also means both preservation of tradition and moving towards modernity, an innovative Vajrayana. 

What stands out is Jamyang Dorjee’s own creative work in experimenting with Tibetan calligraphy by creating beautiful art as a form of offering to God. His unique art is using his calligraphy skill to create various arts in the form of God and goddess through mantras.  

“I feel happy by creating this as a form of my offering where I create various god and goddess arts through its mantras and I recite at the same time,” he said. “The process of these arts, from conceiving an idea to the final expression on paper is a meditative process.” 

His exhibits consist of miniature calligraphy formed into various arts like Lord Buddha, 21 Taras, and different mantras, including a portrait of His Majesty The King created from calligraphy on the national anthem. One needs a magnifying glass to view the details of his art. 

Explaining further the nature of the mind to the visual form on the paper, he said, the artist will have to first sit down in a state of calmness trying to look within the mind’s nature and bring it to his physical body, and evokes the letter energy on his ‘tsa’ (རྩ) or the wind energy or the ‘lung’ (རླུང). “Then the artist takes the letter on ‘tsa’ and converts it into a letter, calligraphy.” 

He served as a teacher and later joined the government of Sikkim and also served as a director of Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts. He retired to meditate and practice Buddhism. 

“I realised I’m capable of something and I realized that I was capable of calligraphy because I had good handwriting and I wanted to take advantage of this talent. That was when I learned about calligraphy especially writing with a brush and later turning it into an art.” 

Bhutanese artists can go beyond 

Jamyang said that there are two kinds of people: a good Lhadrip (a good painter) and a good calligrapher. Many of these have remained confined in their particular work meaning lhadrips are meant to only paint and a calligrapher should only calligraph the words. 

“But there is a space called art, in between these two, where both can take advantage. This is what is missing right now,” he said.  

He said that a painter paints beautiful thangkas but there is no acknowledgement of any of his work because he is within that traditional painting and no space for him to be creative.

 “If he had a space to be creative, he would have created something different and he would have gained an identity for himself,” he said.  

That is how, according to Jamyang, an artist gains confidence and their own name for creating something different from normal art. 

“This can be done without losing the actual traditional art. With the background of his thangka, a painter can do much wonderful modern art,” he said.   

Jamyang stressed it is important for society at large to inspire, encourage and create space else the artists can never go beyond what they are confined to. 

“My Tibetan calligraphy work was recognised only after six months of writing meditation, taking the risk to be creative and winning the world record,” he said.   

Contributed by 

Yangchen C Rinzin

Research Fellow

Centre for Bhutan and GNH Studies