Leonardo 'Duccio' Ceglie - the personal artist of Lama Gangchen Rinpoche
My friends call me Duccio and I was born in Bari, Italy in 1954.
I first met Lama Gangchen in 1984 in Pomaia (Pisa, Italy) during his first visit to the Lama Tzong Khapa Institute. I belonged to the centre community since one year and had taken refuge owing to the great kindness of the resident lama, Venerable Geshe Jampa Gyatso. I helped in the kitchen in exchange for hospitality while I learned to meditate and practise Buddha’s teachings. One morning Pempa the monk, one of my new Tibetan friends, who knew my passion for painting, told me about the forthcoming visit of a most famous healer from the east: Lama Gangchen Rinpoche. Pempa suggested I try to paint a small Chenrezig, the “Buddha of Compassion” and gift it to him; he told me I should not miss this opportunity to know this Lama and receive his teachings. I was curious to meet Lama Gangchen and was fascinated by Tibetan art, so no sooner said than done, I began.
The day of Lama Gangchen’s arrival I was too moved to approach him, but the next morning I plucked up courage and presented him with my “gift”. He was in the office of the institute, very busy with a small group of Tibetan monks resolving a residence permit problem. I unrolled my small canvas and when he looked at me I asked him if he would accept my gift. Rinpoche smiled at me and both accepted my painting and at once commissioned me to paint another. He asked me to paint a blue Buddha for him, the Medicine Buddha. As he was talking to me in some odd English, he pointed to a tapestry on the office wall, it was a snow lion; he told me that size would be fine and that he would expect me in Gubbio (where he was the guest of one of his western disciples), for me to deliver the finished painting. It was almost lunch time and I rushed back to the kitchen filled with immense joy! In the afternoon I went to the library to get information about the blue Buddha “Sangye MenLa” in Tibetan. During his stay in Pomaia, Lama Gangchen gave the Open Eye Chenrezig, Lama Tsongkhapa and Vajrasattva initiations. I went back to him several times and understood that he would be my teacher. A few months later I travelled to Gubbio with the blue Buddha. Rinpoche displayed satisfaction when he saw the painting and asked me at once to make another much bigger. He wanted a giant sized blue Buddha! He explained to me how the landscape should be, about the offerings and the auspicious signs. I went back to Pomaia and started work on it immediately. When I returned to him with the giant Buddha, Rinpoche asked me to paint Buddha Shakyamuni (the historical Buddha) under the Bodhi tree; he told me the offerings had to seem transparent and explained that the nectar in the Buddha’s bowl had to be white and soft, slightly pink. So, I continued to paint and Rinpoche continued to commission me with tankhas of different deities.
After a few years he accepted my request to live with him (he had moved to Milan in the meantime), and during that time had asked me to paint the standing Buddha, under the tree of enlightenment, in the motion of blessing the world. As usual, he taught the details pertaining to the tankha and named it “World Peace Buddha”. I began to follow him in his frequent journeys and pilgrimages, taking with me canvasses and colours, making the most of every opportunity to deepen my knowledge of the sacred Tibetan art of painting. I often stayed to paint in monasteries in Tibet, Nepal, India and Mongolia, places where I could learn from other lamas and masters in art, as well as from the monks themselves who are remarkable artists, capable of realising beautiful works of art which they usually work on in a group during the preparations of traditional tantric rituals.
More journeys and painting in Europe, Russia, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Brazil… together with Rinpoche’s friends and disciples.
In 1993, Lama Gangchen began to teach NgalSo Tantric Self Healing. As I was working on the drawings for the NgalSo Tantric Self-Healing II book (published by Lama Gangchen Peace Publications), I began to think about teaching people how to paint the Buddha by using this method, which for us westerners makes the approach to Tibetan painting and tantra somewhat easier.
I have worked closely in all these years with Lama Gangchen following his direct instructions to realise his particular vision of the deities and their mandalas and according to Western Buddhism.
Since June 2000 I live on Lake Maggiore in Northern Italy, and collaborate in the development of the Albagnano Healing Meditation Centre.
Leonardo Duccio Ceglie
Medicine Buddha with the 4 dakinis and medicinal plants
Kurukulle, the lotus dakini from the personal collection of Lama Gangchen
The Five Great Mothers of the Elements according to the Making Peace with the Environment Practice of Lama Gangchen Rinpoche