04 December 2017

The Samantabhadri in Berlin


It has been a pleasure to revisit the Samantabhadri in a private commission to create a smaller 20 cm statue. She is the first to be completed in the new Buddhist Sculpture Workshop in Berlin.

Sketches for the commission

I visited four bronze foundries, all located within central Berlin, and was amazed by the history of bronze sculpture and casting in the city. It was a unique opportunity to begin to create Buddhist sculpture here, at a time when Buddhism is spreading throughout Europe and the West.


Unlike Asia, where it is commonplace for artists and foundries to create Buddhist works and artisans are familiar with the style and iconography of Buddhist art, I found in Berlin that I was in a position to introduce both Buddhist iconography and aesthetics to the artisans I spoke with. 

For this project, I selected a small family-run foundry Kunstgiesserei Krepp, located in the northern Berlin district of Pankow, in former East Berlin. 

Naturally, having only knowledge of the Buddha Shakyamuni, they were curious about why this statue was female. (To learn more about Samantabhadri, please visit the Buddhist Sculpture Workshop and earlier posts on this blog.) Their frame of reference are the bronzes of classical European sculpture or abstract and modernist works. 

Michael, Mr. Krep's daughter, creates the molds for the lost wax process.
Sample patinas are presented on miniature heads on a board of copper in the workshop.



Wax models must be repaired and refined before a mold is created to receive the bronze. 

I came into the foundry to work on the wax cast of the Samantabhadri. (You can see the clay original on the left.) Seams from taking the wax cast must be smoothed over, air bubbles filled, etc. so that the bronze is as close to the master as possible.

A peek at other pieces waiting to be refined after being cast in bronze.

Finishing involves hand-hammering, machine polishing, and other (rather noisy) techniques. 


 Together, everyone's skill, effort and micro-level decisions are reflected in the work of art. So naturally, I feel the result reflects a Buddhist tradition manifesting itself in Europe --as it has done uniquely on every continent touched by Buddhism in the history of Buddhist Art.

A first look at the bronze that emerges.




After gold-leafing the first cast of the small Samantabhadri in Berlin 










A special thank you to Kunstgiesserei Krepp and Yuko Ishida for working as part of the team on this project. 

If you would like to commission a cast of the Samantabhadri, 
please write to the BuddhistSculptureWorkshop (at) gmail.com. 

06 September 2017

Video: Early Buddhist Bronze Statues from China and Japan

A wonderful little introduction to early bronze Buddhist statuettes, talking about the iconography and movement of art across Asia from India to Japan. 



Asian Art specialist Tristan Bruck introduces a collection of Chinese and Korean Buddhist bronzes that tell the story of religious art in Asia across 600 years, from the 4th century to the 10th century AD. Produced by Christie's.

12 December 2016

The Samantabhadri


The Samantabhadri, white resin, approx. 14 in. high, 9 in. wide, and 7 in. deep. By Minette Mangahas
This are the completed bronze and white resin sculptures of Samantabhadri, based on the study of Tibetan thanka paintings and classical Indian texts on Buddhist sculpture.

The Samantabhadri, bronze, approx. 14 in. high, 9 in. wide, and 7 in. deep. By Minette Mangahas

The Samantabhadri (rear view), bronze, approx. 14 in. high, 9 in. wide, and 7 in. deep. By Minette Mangahas



"The basis of all female deities is Samantabhadri. 
...Samantabhadri is called the ground of emanation, [and] her emanation is the great mother of dharmakaya, the female buddha Prajnaparamita. ...On the nirmanakaya level Prajnaparamita's emanation is Arya Tara."

-- Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche
Excerpt from "Dakini Teachings: A Collection of Padmasambhava's Advice to Yeshe Tsogyal."



The Prajnaparamita, the Heart Sutra personified in female form, is often referred to as the origin of wisdom and thus is the Mother of all Buddhas.

In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, she takes the form of Samantabhadri (Tib. Kuntuzangmo).
She is traditionally portrayed as naked, white and luminous. Without ornament, she is seated on a moon disc and lotus. Most sculptures in existence portray her in union with her partner, Samantabhadra. She is central to practices of the Vajrayana and Mahayana traditions.

It is important to note as well that she is beyond all dualistic conceptions—including emotions that we have such as
desire, attachment, and love, which is inherently dualistic. (Ultimately there is no object to love, nor subject that loves.) We speak of her and identify her as "she" and "female" because of the convenience of language--which is all we have.

Ultimately, Samantabhadri represents the very possibility of being, itself.


The Samantabhadri (rear view), white resin, approx. 14 in. high, 9 in. wide, and 7 in. deep. By Minette Mangahas



Read about of the process of creating the statue from an earlier post:

"Samantabhadri: Perfect from All Sides"



To purchase the Samantabhadri or commission a statue, visit The Buddhist Sculpture Workshop.

29 November 2016

The Restoration of Jahanabad Buddha in Swat Valley, Pakistan

I would like to re-post an article first published on Lionsroar.com, 'Destroyed by Taliban nine years ago, iconic “Jahanabad Buddha” is reborn'.

Left: Rubble at the base of the damaged Jahanabad Buddha, September 2007. Right: The destroyed face of the Buddha, September 2007. Photos courtesy of DOAM.

I am always moved when I hear of valiant efforts by archeologists, art historians, and conservators to restore historical landmarks, sacred sites, damaged by terrorists. Of course, we can never undo what has been done. But these efforts themselves bring so much merit. And perhaps, add even more value to the standing artwork as an inspiration to what the Buddha achieved--but also as a testament of human nobility. Regardless of whether one is Buddhist, it is undeniable that the value of such artworks lie equally in their intrinsic historical worth as in their indelible effect on individuals.


3D imaging equipment was provided free by the University of Padua, Italy. Photo by Fazal Khaliq, via dawn.com



Truth, dharma, beauty themselves cannot be destroyed by defacing statues. So long as people have the skill and knowledge to create the art and literature that are crucial supports on the path, love will prevail.  

08 November 2016

06 June 2016

The Gaze of the Guru

"This looks like me. ...Now, it is the same as me."  
- Guru Rinpoche upon seeing the portrait of him commission by King Trisong Deutsen of Tibet in the 7-8th CE.


The next project for AKSHA is a small statue based on the Guru Ngadrama. (As far as I have seen in my research, the word ngadrama, I believe is used to refer to sculptural portraits from life, as opposed to idealized representations.)

Known as Guru Rinpoche's "Looks Like Me" statue, the Guru Ngadrama is one of the most historically significant and sacred works of art in the Tibetan Buddhist world. Created in the 8th CE and installed in the earliest days of Samye Monastery, it is said that it was seen and blessed by Padmasambhava himself as he undertook the task of establishing Buddhism in Tibet. 

It stood slightly larger than life size* for 1200 years at Samye, surviving at least one devastating fire, until it was destroyed during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

Only one original photograph of the statue is known to be in existence. It was taken in the 1930's by the King of Sikkim. (See the black and white photo.) It has since been digitally enhanced and colored, and reproduced innumerable times as it has been distributed throughout the world.

For this project, I studied both the original and the later digitally manipulated version. Here is a video that juxtaposes both images on a grid. https://vimeo.com/166306545

In the end, what is important for us is to represent, as intimately as possible, the gaze and presence of the guru, so wonderfully captured by the original sculptor. It is a gaze that is both powerful and soft, piercing and peaceful.

This gaze and presence comes thru not just in the facial features, but also in the slight tilt of the head and shoulders. It is a graceful posture, representative of the finest Indian influences of the time. Orgyen Topgyal Rinpoche believes that the original sculptor came from Nepal and the statue was in the Indian style. Indeed, there is a good probability that many of the finest artists of sacred art of the time studied the manuscripts and methods of Indian Art. 

So to reproduce the statue, we must begin from the inside out, and take the journey of the original sculptors as well.