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Meeting Dam Chooi Lama and Talking about Tibetan Mandala

posted Jun 29, 2010, 11:38 AM by Annalisa Ippolito   [ updated Jun 29, 2010, 1:19 PM ]
I met Dam Chhoi Lama during the workshop "How to Create a Tibetan Mandala" 
He is a Tibetan artist of Thanka and Mandala, Master of Art and Yoga, expert of Tibetan Medicine and Ayurveda Indian Medicin. In 1997 he founded the private school "Himalayan Painting Mandala School" in Nepal. 

It is a great honor for me to exchange with him some thoughts about his experience and the art of mandala.

Annalisa: Dam Chhoi could you tell me something about you? Where are you from?
Dam Chhoi: Well, I am from Nepal but my parents are from Tibet, the north border of Nepal. I made my schooling in mountain part of Nepal in Buddhists monastery of Ningmapa cult of Tibet for 10 years. In this period of my education I learnt the Tibetan alphabets to the using philosophy of Vajrayana Path.
Similarly I learnt the big techiques of Mandala Arts, the ways of Tibetan Therapy which is completely natural and spiritual. Meanwhile the practices of the Dharma in Monastery was obligatory to make a good Karma.Then again I practiced the Art in Monastery for another one decade,meantime I open one Mandala Art School in Kathmandu Nepal. And then I started to travel the world teaching various skills of art mandala, yoga, mudra and mantra to the people. In this course I have visited Honkong, Taiwan, Singapore, Makau, china, Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, Barma, Cambodia, Indonesia in Asia and Germany, Austria, France and Italy in Europe. When I came to Italy, then I became too busy here and I stayed here for long time. But in very near future I have planned to visit United states and Canada because the people and my friends have invited me there for long time.
A: Let's talk about the school you founded in Nepal. What was your purpose in creating a new school?
DC: Hmmmm ok , I opened the Art Mandala School in 1987. I opened this school because it was a unique type of school in Nepal at that time. When I came out of the Monastery, I found the present young generation was going beyond the spirituality. I was worried for their future that if they did not practice the Dharma in time, how would they be a good and healthy person in their future? So I decided to create a school which is spiritual in nature and which teach the present generation about the Dharma , Art and the Natural Therapy so that they in the future would be able to make country peaceful and lovely.
A: Do you remember the first mandala you made? Can you describe it and your memories about the experience of making it?
DC: Yes, of course I remember it. The frist Mandala which I made is Central Static Art mandala of Sambhogakaya mandala. When I finished this art at the frist time, I felt too joy in my heart. It takes three days to complete it for me. There was my master(Lama) to guide me but I alone painted it in Tanpoche Monastery the mountainous part of Nepal.
A: You are a "public monk", what it is exactly the meaning of this expression? What actually does a public monk, and what are the characteristics of this status?
DC: Yes, I am a public monk. This means a monk for public in short. Traditionally monks are for the monasteries and they just practice art and therapy for themselves. But according to the Mahayana Tradition and my schooling, our Guru instructs us to use all the techniques and ways of art , yoga and therapy whatever we learnt in monastery for the welfare of  public. We think that if we do not use whatever we have learnt for the benefit of public, then there is no use of the knowledge. So that I am public and my job is to change the life of people who have lost their path of life. I try to teach yoga, mudra and therapy to the people and tell them the importance of Buddha and his teachings so that they feel peace and grace in their life.

A: When and Why did you choose to live in Italy?
DC: I started to live in Italy since 2002 AD. I chose this country because I found the proper respect and the understanding of art and culture in this country. Italian people are more interested in art and therapy which paved the way to me here. 
A: When did you start to study mandala, and why you was attracted by this discipline?
DC: I started to study and create the Mandala when I was in the Monastery. I am  attracted by this discipline because this is my life. We, in mountain in Nepal and Tibet, have to do this always for our life and good health.  
A: What represents a mandala for you?
DC: Mandala represents the harmony of the rythem of mind, body and speech. This is the representation of the human psychology with the thoughts and creativity of our heart. Therefore, mandala is not a simple art to describe like a mathematical triangle or rectangle, this is the representation of whole universe.
A: Could you explain the meaning of the expression "Power of Mandala"?
DC: First of all there are five colors in the mandala and that five colors are the source of the power of it. One who meditates and concentrates in the mandala, he or she will feel the power of mandala. So I would like to clarify that the power of Mandala  is like the power of whole universe from where one can attract the energy.
A: How did you decide to share with other people the benefits that mandala gives?
DC: I already told you that I am a public monk so that it is my decision when I was in monastery. Moreover, the mandala art and culture is not a private thing. This is in fact public and the every person has right to be benefitted from this.
A: How many types of mandala do you know?
DC: There are three types of Mandala. Dharmakaya mandala , Shambhogakaya Mandala and Nimanakaya Mandala are basically the main branches of mandala till now. Dharmakaya  mandala represents the whole ritual activities or the good works in our life and this is done by Bodhichitta. Shambhogakaya Mandala represents the birth and rebirth process of beings and this is in the centre of the Mandala. Bajrasattava is the main guru of this mandala. Nirmanakaya mandala speakes about the creation of the things and this earth and the Samantavadra is the guru of this type of Mandala. 
A: How can "normal" people create and use traditional mandala?
DC: Normal people who have not used it before should consult the good Mandala teacher first because the use of mandala without learning with teacher is just like winking a girl in the darkness. So the good teacher when starts to give you lesson about mandala, on the spot one can know how to use it.
A: You always said to me that mandala has three different levels. Could you say something in general about this concept and the difference between levels? Just some basic information to raise the curiosity of readers about these concept, and make them interested to deepen these issues.
DC: Yes, I told you the three types or level  of mandala in your above mentioned question and I have replied you about the general differences between them. But if you have more curiosity about this, there is one book THE EXCELLENT PATH  TO ENLIGHTENMENT  by DILGO KHYENTSE RINPOCHE which is very useful to understand the concept.
A: What are the projects you are working on at the moment?
DC: Now I am  working in a show of Tibetan items in Castel St. Angelo in Rome and constantly working for my school in Nepal. I am even hoping to go to Nepal in September of 2010.

To contact Dam Chhoi Lama: mandalaart_2008@hotmail.com