Buddhist Visual Literacy Series: The Wheel of Life - Nalandabodhi Seattle
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Buddhist Visual Literacy Series: The Wheel of Life


Stephanie Johnston leads a nine-week Saturday series unlocking the power of Buddhist iconography, focusing on the Wheel of Life. Classes begin Feb. 20.

“Literacy” is the ability to interpret and create meaning from symbols in the form of letters and words. “Visual” extends the meaning beyond the printed word and is based on the notion that pictures can be “read.”  “Buddhist” visual literacy goes one step further.  It uses classic Buddhist teachings on perception and conception to unlock the power of Buddhist iconography and teaches us how to use this newfound literacy to connect with the Buddhist path.

This nine-week series alternates between illustrated presentations and “exploratoriums,” hands-on virtual studio time. Stephanie Johnston, a senior student of Ponlop Rinpoche and a teacher at Nitartha Institute, will unpack the imagery that conveys the essence of the Wheel of Life: the first teaching thangka.

How is meaning conveyed by symbols? How is the iconography relevant to the choices we make? How are the bodhisattva qualities of wisdom, compassion and power evoked? Do these potent symbols resonate with us personally?

As we approach this visual depiction of the paths of confusion and wisdom with fresh eyes and mind, we’ll have an opportunity to experience it in a new and creative way, revealing its relevance to lived experience.

Everyone is welcome.

There is an option to sign up for just the illustrated presentations, without the “exploratorium” workshops.  You need not be an artist to enjoy the “exploratoriums”.

  • Feb. 20                Presentation
  • Feb. 27                Workshop “Exploratorium”
  • March 6               Presentation
  • March 13            Workshop “Exploratorium”
  • March 20            Presentation
  • March 27            Workshop “Exploratorium”
  • April 3                 Presentation
  • April 10               Workshop “Exploratorium”
  • April 17               Presentation
Stephanie Johnston

Stephanie Johnston, a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner since 1985 and student of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche’s since 1996, is a Nitartha Institute faculty member and developed its Science of Creativity and the Arts courses. As a graphic designer and avid practitioner, she trains and supports practice instructors for Nalandabodhi. An alumna of Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and certified in museum studies, Renaissance art techniques, and graphic design, she loves digging into the symbolic and its applied meaning in art and everyday life.


Julia Linder is an artisan of many mediums. She has studied fine arts at Langara College, as well as studying under Stephanie Johnston and RD Salga, a renowned master of the Karma Gadri tradition of thangka painting. She aspires to further study thangka painting with RD Salga, which she has done irregularly for four years. Julia has also worked with Stephanie at Nitartha Summer Institute as her studio assistant, as well as facilitating a class on the basics of thangka painting.

She feels that studying thangka painting will facilitate her desire to be an artist, while preserving the ancient technique of thangka painting, and to incorporate it into the modern world, authentically as well as in her own creative visions.

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