63. Path to Enlightenment
Style: All-Color (tson-thang)

Shamatha meditation is a common Buddhist spiritual practice for the calming of the mind.The calming of the mind leads to capable concentration by the practitioner to realize higher insights and achieve wisdom, the quintessence of Buddhist spiritual cultivation (bhavana). Often the demonstration of Shamatha is highlighted as a wall painting on monastery walls and is a frequent Thangka topic. The design in the Thangka depicts the nine progressive phases of psychological growth, gained via the six powers of study, contemplation, memory, comprehension, diligence, and perfection. The nine intellectual progressive phases are repeated attention, close attention, placement of mind, continuous attention, tamed attention, pacified attention, fully pacified attention, single-pointed attention, and attention balance.

In the illustration, the elephant represents the mind, with its color changing from black to white. The black color of the elephant is representative of mental dullness. The monkey accompanying the elephant depicts disturbance or mental distress, with its black color depicting a strewn mind. In the depiction, the curved goad and lasso which the monk uses, depict apparent comprehension and attentive reminiscence. The flame, marking the way of the elephant, monk and monkey, shrinks as they proceed through the nine stages, depicting the decreasing number of attempts required to nurture insight. Moreover, the five senses, deemed to be the five physical foundations of disturbance, are also portrayed as a cloth depicting touch, fruit depicting taste, perfume depicting smell, cymbals depicting sound, and a mirror depicting sight. At the end of the path, the monk achieves thoughtful balance of clear understanding and mindfulness,andthe flaming sword is representative of this achievement. His voyage depicts his physical harmony and riding the elephant depicts his mental harmony. Holding the blazing sword, the monk can incise the two rainbows issuing forth from his heart and representing karmic obstructions and mental delusion.