Photo by Wendy Joan Biddlecombe
Ben Paljor Chatag, grandson of the late Gelek Rimpoche, uses his personal form of meditation—painting—to explore Buddhist philosophy and bring awareness to social and political issues in his native Tibet.By Wendy Joan Biddlecombe
Along an industrial stretch of Brooklyn’s Greenpoint Avenue, across the street from a car rental shop and the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, Ben Paljor Chatag’s red, green, and blue Buddhas look outward from Yashar Gallery.
Chatag, an artist who was born in Lhasa, Tibet, is currently showing a collection of paintings called “Suffering and Cessation.” A 2015 graduate of Marymount Manhattan College, he has participated in several alumni art shows in New York City, and hopes his paintings, which use bright and vibrant colors to depict Buddhist concepts such as enlightenment and the four noble truths, can instill Tibetan philosophy “during challenging global times.”
“I call this ‘Suffering and Cessation’ because I’m from Tibet; I’m a refugee. I wanted to bring awareness to the situation,” Chatag said.
Chatag moved to the United States about 10 years ago and is the grandson of the late Tibetan Buddhist lama and Jewel Heart International founder Gelek Rimpoche. Constantly exposed to the spiritual world while growing up in Tibet, Chatag recalled visiting temples and monasteries with his grandmother, experiences that continue to influence his work. Yet it was only after Chatag had moved to the United States that he developed an interest to learn traditional Tibetan thangka painting [which depicts a deity or mandala and are used for meditative practice] and traveled to Dharamsala, India, to train for several months.
“Honestly, I haven’t done meditation in a while,” Chatag confessed when asked about his practice. “For me, when you paint, you’re really focusing on the mind, and concentrating. Taking this time [to create the show] has been really positive, and helped create patience . . . My grandfather said that my art is my meditation.”