Painting Black Manjushri

Here is a video showing the process I used to arrive at the finished image of Black Manjushri.

This was a tough image to create, and I really struggled up until the last few days. One night it all came together and it was all down hill after that. I am glad that I pursued the image as I saw it in my mind, it was a difficult process but I learned a lot from it and I now feel much more confident as a landscape painter. I hope you also like the image.

If you would like access to a high resolution copy of this work, and my ongoing work, please consider supporting me on Patreon by clicking on the link below.

The practice of Black Manjushri, as it was passed on to me through the holy words of my Lama, is all about healing. Its a little like Medicine Buddha in that way. To those of you who are unwell physically or mentally, I send you my love and offer this image to help speed your recovery and send you swiftly on the path to enlightenment and the end of suffering.

With love,
Ben (Jampay Dorje)

Nectar and the Skull

In the Heart Sutra Lord Buddha spoke to us about the emptiness of the parts of a person. He said that “form is empty… the same is true of your feelings, and your ability to discriminate between things, and the other factors that make you up, and all the different kinds of awareness that you possess: all of them are empty”

In the practice of Highest Yoga Tantra we attempt to replace these five suffering parts of a person with a non-suffering, divine version of each. In the beginning we do so only in our imagination and then later, if we were to be successful, then the actual transformation would take place, perfectly and permanently.

Whether it is by imagination (the path to the goal) or actually (the result), it is the very same emptiness that Lord Buddha teaches in the Heart Sutra that makes this possible.

Here in this picture we see the syllable Hung, surrounded by four skull cups, all supported by a lotus and sun cushion. The Hung syllable and skull cups represent each of the five parts to a person that Lord Buddha mentioned in the Heart Sutra. The lotus represents the heart/mind state of the meditator.

The main story of this picture is represented by the skull cups, each contains the ambrosia of deathlessness. The metaphor of the skull cup and nectar is very complex and difficult to understand, but if it intrigues you please read on…

The outer appearance of the skull cup is of something revolting, of blood and brain and gore. It is hard to imagine how this could be something divine.

It is very common in Australia to find dead kangaroos on the road, I see this every time I travel from my retreat centre to town. The carcass rots in the hot Australian sun and I wind up the window as I drive carefully past to avoid the stench. Sometimes there are a whole host of birds feeding on the carcass, and maggots everywhere. I wonder how the birds and maggots could be enjoying something so disgusting to me.

I think of emptiness. The very same emptiness that Lord Buddha taught in the Heart Sutra. It doesn’t help, I still find it disgusting and feel that the birds and maggots must suffer horrible being forced to eat this putrid fare. But then I think in a different way… I accept that I find this disgusting but try a different approach… I accept that it isn’t pleasant, let alone divine, but I try to find this ‘lack of divinity’ within the rotting corps, as something inherent, or attached to it by its very nature. When I look this way I come up empty handed. I don’t see the corps as divine but I can’t say that it is disgusting by its nature… so where is the disgusting, where is the lack of divinity?

So the skull cups are like this, the only difference is that in this instance they represent the ‘skandas’, ‘heaps’ or ‘parts to a person’.

The rotting carcass is no different to the pain in my body, or the pain in my mind. It is amazing and beyond words!skandas

Jampay Dorje Art

Here is a short video showing some of the work I created during the period between 2008 and 2016. All work was completed using Photoshop with some help from Artrage, Blender and Poser. In general I create all my linework in Artrage and then move over to Photoshop for colouring and shading. Occasionally I will use Poser for help with the human figure, and in the past I used Blender 3D quite a lot for illustrating the subtle inner body. These days I try to move away from a computer generated look as much as I can, preferring to make my images look as traditional as I can.

In the video you can see a few of my thangkas as well as a couple of images illustrating the subtle body.

I hope you enjoy the video,

With love,
Ben (Jampay Dorje)

DTW 20 – Digital Restoration of a Thangka

I needed to create a skull necklace for the thangka I am currently working on. I found the best reference I could in an oldish thangka depicting Mahaka. I chose to copy the skulls directly from it. The original work is an absolute masterpiece and is available from the Himalayan Art Resource under the catalogue number 6500

It is undoubtably one of the greatest masterpieces of old Tibet, and an incredible example of both a  ‘black ground thangka’ and Panjarnata Mahakala.

Seeing as I needed to repaint the skulls I though it a wonderful opportunity to produce another tutorial on Digital Thangka Restoration. My other tutorial on this subject matter can be found here

I hope you enjoy the tutorial and the following images showing the before and the after…

Best wishes for your practice,
Ben (Jampay Dorje)


Thangka After Digital Restoration Thangka Before Digital Restoration

DTW 19 – Painting an Offering

Digital Thangka Workshop – In this tutorial I work on painting and shading a common form of offering depicted as a skull cup full of nectar. We do the usual shading techniques working on a file that will later be used as a smart object and then composited into our main work.

This vignette forms part of a larger image depicting Troma Nagmo from the Gelugpa Chod tradition.

I cant show the completed image, however I will add some other vignettes over the next two weeks as it reaches completion.

Wishing a happy Tsechu to all those secret yogis,
Those who hold that sweetest Dharma,
Of Emptiness and Bodhicitta in their mindstreams.
Combined as a single song,
May it be firm and continue to grow forever.

With love,
Ben (Jampay Dorje)

DTW 17 – Kalachakra Sahaja – Creating Light Rays

I have been asked to create a simple image of a rare form of Kalachakra. Know as Sahaja or Innate Kalachakra this form is much easier to visualise than the traditional form, yet retains the entire blessing of the original form. Being a rare form it is hard to find many works to reference. Infact in my research I was only able to find two images dedicated to this form and another two which depicted them as minor figures. I hope I can do them justice, there is quite a bit of pressure to get this right, since it is inevitable that this work will be used to reference this form in the future due to its rarity.


In this tutorial I work on creating some light ray effects to surround the central figures of Kalachakra Sahaja and Vishvamata. We create a custom brush then use the pen tool to stroke the line in Photoshop.

DTW 16 – Lake Born Vajra – Shading the Lotus

Digital Thangka Workshop – In this tutorial I work on shading the variegated lotus petals. I also do some work on the Hands, Feet and some quick shading on the jewelery.

DTW 15 – Lake Born Vajra – Adding Rainbow Elements

Digital Thangka Workshop – In this tutorial I work on the upper part of the thangka and attempt to add some rainbow effects surrounding the minor figures of Samantabhadra and Samantabhadri. I use the pen tool in Photoshop to create an outline, then create masks, add some colour, and then finally move over to Artrage for some finishing touches.


I hope you enjoy the tutorial.

With love,

Lake Born Vajra

I just finished another work and have added some small vignettes for you. I cant show the full image as it requires empowerment. If you know the Lake Born Vajra practice and have the empowerment, maybe send me an email and request the image.

Just as the meditator meets the mind of the Buddha,
and the scholar meets the speech of the Buddha,
The artist meets the body of the Buddha.

How wonderful then to meditate, study and paint!

I was thinking a little about the words of His Holiness the First Panchen Lama when he said that we live in a time where no one can say with genuine certainty that the Buddhas still walk amongst us. Its a powerful statement particularly delivered, as it was, during the peak of Tibetan Buddhism in the 1500’s. How much more degenerate the times have become, yet there is such a fight for goodness in the world today.

Generally you would say that, although we don’t live in a time when the Buddha still walks the earth, we can still reach an approximation of their Body, Speech and Mind in the following ways. When we read or listen to the Dharma we can make contact with the Buddha’s speech. This is why books are such holy objects. If we become a proficient meditator we can meet an aspect of the Buddha’s mind in the form of the Dharmakaya. The Body of a Buddha is revealed in two ways, “Body” can refer to two things; the actual Body of the Buddha, or the actions of the Buddha.

As artists I think we are particularly lucky to spend so much time with the Body of the Buddha, hours each day. It doesn’t matter if we are a good artist or not, I think anyone can learn to draw the shape of the Buddha. If that person were to consider that drawing to be a representation of the Buddha, then it would be a wonderful thing.

If you are interested enough to have read this far then maybe pick up some tracing paper one day and copy the outline of a Buddha, I guarantee you will feel something special.

With love,
Ben (Jampay Dorje)

Lake Born Vajra Lotus Lake Born Vajra Scarf Lake Born Vajra Tiger Lake Born Vajra Landscape Lake Born Vajra Hand Lake Born Vajra Rainbow

DTW 14 – Compositing a Photograph into a Thangka

In this video tutorial we look at some methods for compositing a landscape photograph into our work whilst still keeping it looking as though it were a painting. I talk a little about atmospheric perspective and we look at a work by the master thangka painter Robert Beer. I also talk a little about some ways to attempt to “paint” our meditative experience into our work.


Using a simple photograph I snapped on holiday, I take a crack at compositing it into my latest work. I am looking for something fairly subtle, a bit wrathful, but suggesting plenty of space element and the stillness of a pranic implosion and rebirth.