Being Tara

Recollections of dharma art with Chögyam Trungpa, a slideshow with Jack Niland

Chögyam Trungpa’s original artwork shown in this presentation is copyrighted material; © 2017 Diana J. Mukpo; presented here with her kind permission.
Drawings by Trungpa Rinpoche from Jack Niland’s collection. © 2017 Diana J. Mukpo; presented here with her kind permission.

In March 2007, Jack Niland presented a dharma art weekend at the New York Shambhala Center called Being Tara. The highlight of the weekend was a slideshow, which explored the unique and extraordinary instructions that Jack received from Trungpa Rinpoche. For the first time in a public talk, Jack drew from his collection of the Vidyadhara’s own sketches and diagrams to illuminate the visual dharma principles and training he received. Here—rendered as a web presentation—is Jack’s slideshow. We would like to express our gratitude to Jack for preserving this original artwork by Chögyam Trungpa, and for remembering and passing on the extraordinary teachings he received. We would also like to express our gratitude to Jeff Wigman for preparing this slide presentaion for the web with such care and precision.

  • In Section 1, Jack asks Rachel Martin to sing Tara songs to open the weekend.
  • In Sections 2 and 4 Jack tells the story how he met Chögyam Trungpa, and describes the circumstances of working with Rinpoche on art and design projects.
    Section 3 is missing because the recording didn’t work. Luckily Jeff Wigman followed up by interviewing Jack about what he said in Part 3. You can read the interview here.
  • Sections 5 through 11 are the body of the talk. Here, Jack delves into the depth and richness of the teachings he received. Using some familiar and some previously unseen diagrams, he illustrates the theoretical foundations of these teachings.
  • In Sections 12 through 14, Jack answers questions from participants, goes off on tangents, and describes real world applications for the principles of dharma art.
A technical note: This slideshow was designed and implemented by Jeff Wigman in 2008 using Flasha once prominent, now more-or-less obsolete system for crafting web presentations. Because Flash is not accessible by many modern devices, we have reassembled Jeff’s work as a video playlist.

Readers’ comments

28 January 08

Jack’s slideshow is a wonderful treasure!! Thank you Chronicle Project!! Thank you Jack!! It is such a pleasure to go back to the “early days” and feel the energy, vastness and brilliance of the Vidyadhara’s mind through Jack’s storytelling abilities.

Emily Danies, Tucson Arizona

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21 January 08

Spending the last two hours listening to Jack’s voice and studying these wonderful images has brought me back to the feeling of those early years – the uncertainty, the aliveness, the vastness of Rinpoche’s world. Thank you Jack for sharing these stories – you are a holder of wonderful teachings for us all. What boldness to actually corner Rinpoche and make him draw. You were the perfect person for the task!

Barbara Bash, Accord, NY

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Just wanting you to know that the Niland slide show is extraordinary and wonderful. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Vicki Giella, Vermont

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The Vidyadhara taught Jack Niland a new way to see, and helped him turn that vision into art, an art that has shaped the look of Vajradhatu and Shambhala, and marks the beginning of the lineage of Dharma Art and Shambhala Art. Being Tara tells this important story, interlaced with Jack’s own acid-laced oddyssey to the dharma. It leaves me most curious about the weekend that followed this introductory slide show.

Newcomb Greenleaf, Vermont

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17 January 08

WOW – and please pass my appreciation on to Jack for the slideshow.
Thanks for all your efforts,

Kathie Paul, Halifax

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8 January 08

Absolutely loved the Jack Niland show. Deeply informative, strange, inspiring, scary, penetrating, puzzling, and altogether enjoyable. Jack is the only possible vessel for this particular transmission. He knows how the eye works. Well done.

Barry Boyce, Halifax

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brillant stuff from Jack Niland – i’ve been taking notes – hope he can come to europe soon.

best for the new year, Rita Ashworth, UK

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3 January 08

Dear Jack,

Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed being regaled by you and the dharma art world that you know so well and helped to create for us all. It is a FABULOUS presentation. Our guru’s complete being shines through quite nicely. Seeing more of his doodles and sketches is just terrific. The way he characterized the Buddhist and Shambhala principles in terms of the mandala layout is brilliant and amazing. So many wonderful and simple insights, demonstrating quite nicely how ati can be too simple for so many of us, who tend to make everything so complicated. Please continue to present much more of this teaching. It is essential, powerful, transmissional, and fun. Thank you also to Jeff for putting together a very elegant and clear presentation. I hope our paths may cross again soon.

With all best wishes,
Larry Mermelstein, Halifax

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Jack Niland’s slideshow is very very captivating, beyond interesting, Being Tara.
-Alan Kelly, Quebec

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2 January 08

Every time I listen to a talk, or read an article from the Chronicles I feel closer to the world of CTR. I am left feeling more aware of why I continue down this very long, difficult, and sometimes delightful path. The Chronicles is my breakfast companion. It is the way I start my day, and I can’t think of a better way to go out into the world. Thank you for all your hard work, dedication to bringing the dharma into our homes. May this year bring you many blessings. Please double my donation.

Malone, Halifax

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Thank you so much for this mesmerizing presentation of Dharma Art by Jack as only he can manifest. It was so tantalizing. Would love to see and hear more. Jack’s experimental leap landed beautifully!

Hildy, New York

Jeff Wigman is an artist and designer who  first encountered the teachings of Chögyam Trungpa in 1996. Jeff worked closely with Jack on Being Tara. Thank you Jeff. Check out Jeff’s paintings at
Being Tara was made possible, in part, by a grant from Pamela Krasney. These funds were used to archive Jack’s collection of drawings by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. The scanning and archiving of the drawings was carried out by Therese Lahaie. Thank you to Pamela and Therese for their support for Jack Niland’s Being Tara.
Among the earliest of CTR's students in North America, Jack received a wealth of first-hand dharma art instructions and helped create many of the visual elements of Trungpa Rinpoche's presentation of dharma in the West. He taught visual dharma at Naropa from 1974 to 1989. In the 1970s and 80s, Jack and renowned model Sara Kapp applied dharma art principles to the world of fashion and modeling. Jack Niland is currently a freelance artist, designer, and raconteur living in NYC.