aka Mannox T
Today, I was given a window, a chance to know Tashi Mannox
and his sacred art through the vast archives of the internet. It was good
opportunity for me to start my day, connecting with someone whom I
may not meet in person, yet it remains a precious moment that inspired me
to put effort. And so here, I share with you the simple joy of hearing
Tashi Mannox and what he’s got to share to all of us.
BEING AN artist myself, I got drawn with charm. The ancient practices of calligraphy and sacred art have roused my interest in recent years — a curiosity influenced by my need to connect consciously which is also triggered by a compelling drive to see life as a fresh canvas. Thus I asked then: What is it about being an artist that drives one to create? Is it by inspiration alone? Is it about sharing and expressing one’s self? In life, how does one keep the balance between enforced obligations and intrinsic desires?
I think artists and musicians have the responsibility to lift humanity up; to cheer people up. To get more inside. That is our responsibility, really, as an artist.— Mannox T
Mannox T and Sacred Art
“I am an artist, and this is what I do best,” says Mannox T in his video-documentary, Tashi Mannox: Tibetan Calligrapher. He shares the roots of his knowledge: “When I was a monk, one of the jobs I had was to work copying ancient texts, page by page and the standard of the calligraphy had to be good from the very beginning to the very end of the text. And sometimes the texts will take a year to complete. And I noticed that if I had any emotion inside, this would reflect in the writing. Because of this, it measured my state of mind, my emotion. And these days when I am executing large pieces of calligraphy, I need the same source of clear mind — no distraction.
People want a quick fix and they need to do something right away. It takes time, and it takes commitment, to get something valuable. People are scared of commitment and there’s a general misunderstanding in committing to something; that it’s like chaining into something when actually it’s commitment that gives you freedom. It’s knowing something inside out; such that, one has to be relaxed to be more free. A classic example is like trying to sew with a two-pointed needle: it doesn’t go through the cloth. It has to be one-point to the back of something.”
I write this at a time when individuals have become very much outspoken about their frustration with socio-political ills and also about personal injustice. I observed that (citi)-netizens are influenced in some manner to be expressive, though at times without mindfulness, thus are unconscious of the impact of such. On the other hand, it has become evident that language is an important tool. And perhaps, to become a master of it is akin to becoming the master-author of one’s fate — or karma as Tashi Mannox puts it.
The calligraphy artist tells: “Sanskrit in Tibet are considered sacred languages. And the forms of the letters weren’t just made up. They were created from enlightened beings with enlightened minds. Hearing a mantra by seeing a mantra through sacred word is another contact point, another opportunity for us, unenlightened people, to be touched by what is ultimate, of which is sacred.
With my artwork, I don’t want to be too obviously a preacher of Buddhist things. I don’t want that. I don’t believe it’s going to preach but for sure it does give a window, an opportunity for people to see something cares. It is based on Buddhist philosophy, so it’s Buddhist philosophical art; religious art; spiritual art, you know. It is humanistic art because it is addressing us as human beings. And I think artists and musicians have the responsibility to lift humanity up, to cheer people up; to get more inside. That is our responsibility, really, as an artist.”
On Life and Humanity
“Life is very precious; very hard to get and very easy to lose,” says Mannox. His artpiece Seed of Life speaks about precious human existence depicted within the strokes resembling smoke flowing skyward. “It is growing upwards,” Mannox explains, as he points out at the swirl of black ink. “It is aspiring upwards to what is more ultimate.” Philosophy flows as the artist speaks. Reflective and articulate, his thoughts on human life are simple inspite of the daunting struggles of our world.
Aside from the aspirations for change and saintly patience, I believe that some of us are well aware of our unstoppable evolution. Thus, this unfolding towards something omnipotent — the need to be wiser than who-what we are today. However, where are we? Who are we? Something provokes me to ask. Mannox shows another artwork. It’s another calligraphy art, of course. This time, he mentions “mitakpa” which he inscribed aesthetically on paper. “Mitakpa means impermanence. Everything changes all the time,” Mannox explains. “And if you look very, very carefully, the bases of the letters are in decay. They are actually little dancing skeletons. Like everything that is impermanent, my seal is slapped in half.”
Mitakpa — a Tibetan word which alludes to the teachings of Impermanence, reveals that “which all existing things are divided.” The Great Ideas of Buddhism philosophically imparts by asking: Could our world or the objects and people in it who make us angry ever have been created without a cause? “It is completely illogical and impossible for a changing thing not to have been created by a cause,” it answers.
* * *
What came next are two other artworks of Tashi Mannox: “This is Karma,” he introduces. “And piled above the word karma is like a brain — a big heap of cause and effect; a big heap of karma,” Mannox further explains while moving on to another artwork of his called the Wheel of Life: The Cyclic Existence. “This portrays one’s Ego. First is delusion, second are greed and attachment; and third are hate and aversion. Each of these aspects of the ego seems to be feeding on each other.”
Karma calligraphy art by Tashi Mannox
The reasons that we are no different: we are all completely the same in wanting happiness, and completely the same in wanting to avoid suffering. Given that we
are completely the same, there is no logic to working to achieve only my own
happiness and to avoid only my own suffering. The honey consists of all the attractive sense objects of this realm; the razor is the fact that they cannot satisfy us,
no matter how much we consume them, and ultimately they lead us to negative
deeds that cause more of the circle of suffering.
— The Great Ideas of Buddhism
* * *
Beyond the Buddhist teachings, Tashi Mannox had genuinely taught that the way of the artist is an interesting path of mastery and lifelong learning. And these stories are most often expressed in sharing the products of creativity and commitment. In putting things together which are valuable — from lessons learned from ancient history to our own personal contribution in this collective vision of freedom and humanistic duties, is an act of devotion made manifest with humility and authentic generosity. Tashi Mannox expressed that “Artists and musicians have the responsibility to lift humanity up.” A lifelong commitment it truly is to inspire and motivate ourselves in others; for in truth, there is no separation even in impermanence. Mannox concludes his story by saying, “I want to keep learning all the time. I want to keep going and keep learning. It would just keep on improving. I hope so. I’d like to go more pure and simple. It’s just pure calligraphy where it touches something. I would like to get to that point. You are lucky if you get that as an eight-year old master of calligraphy or older.”
* * *
“What is effort? It is joy in doing good.”
— The Great Ideas of Buddhism
There is no end to creativity like the infinite inkwell where Tashi Mannox dips his brushes. And since life is precious yet fragile and easy to lose, it helps in significant measures to understand the commitment the artist emulates in his humanistic art; that quality of commitment he claims should be practiced — that kind that rewards us freedom and liberation. It is given, whether it be that sense of fulfillment or mental affliction, they can be manifest, or else they can exist as a potential, waiting to happen. The choice is ours to commit to learning more and more to improve ourselves in what we can do to uplift humanity, and find delight in our pure state of being. — MTL
Tashi Mannox was born in England and for the past 35 years he has studied an eclectic range of artistic disciplines within both the Eastern and Western traditions in his journey as a painter and calligrapher. Since laying down his monastic robes in 2000, Tashi has built on his disciplined training and meditative awareness, formed through years of practicing the Tibetan Buddhist Tantras and philosophy to produce a collection of iconographic masterpieces that reveal powerful, spiritual themes through the majestic images of Tibetan Buddhist calligraphy and iconography. He is currently providing Tibetan calligraphy art courses.
Images used in this article were sourced from the short film
Tashi Mannox: Tibetan Calligrapher by Guy Reed.
Photos are by Guy Reed and Steve Kennedy and are used with
permission from Tashi Mannox.