The White Tara is a symbol of love, compassion and beauty, and Saptalochani as a work of art reminds the viewer to appreciate that, and to be humble, grateful and compassionate ourselves — to be mindful of the pain and sorrow of those around us.
But understanding just the meaning of the word, or only asking what we can do to be more compassionate do not make us better persons. We must also implement our understanding and findings into actions to help another being overcome their miseries without expecting anything in return. Shrestha communicates the essence of compassion through his art.
The ancient teachings and paintings of the White Tara are strict on iconography, and we can find perfect depictions of the deity in paubha, thangka, idols, temples and monasteries in Nepal. Iconography is the visual language through which a spiritual art is communicated.
However, as with all works of art, there is a question of how one can pass down the knowledge of this language from one generation to the next, retaining the same level of intensity, emotion and faith.
Jeevan Rajopadhyay’s Untitled, Rajan Shakya
The answer perhaps can be found in Shrestha’s style and creation. His detailed knowledge of the White Tara is prominent in the painting’s simplicity, subtlety and beauty. In these qualities he has poured his emotions and love, expecting nothing in return.
Many artists paint for money, but Shrestha takes it a step further in communicating what is important and what might be lost as we grapple with modern lifestyles. He shows us how to express and understand the impermanence of beauty.
Viewing Shrestha’s work makes it clear that the key to a peaceful life can be found in creating art, sharing it, and then letting it go. While a masterpiece may relate to individuals in personal ways, looking at it through the artist’s eyes helps us identify with the artist rather than just relating it to our own life experiences.
This helps us develop compassion for the artist’s craft and style, something we are often tempted to overlook. Art styles can emerge from an infinite number of sources, and continuously transform. There are many external forces that bring about such changes such as war, famine, disaster, which may be easily recognised.
N A R Ì by Mukti Singh Thapa, Rajan Sakya