The All-Knowing Buddha: A Secret Guide

Exhibition at The Rubin Museum of Art
150 West 17th Street
New York, NY 10011
October 3, 2014 – April 13, 2015

The All-Knowing Buddha: A Secret Guide focuses on an exceptional set of paintings in the intimate format of album leaves from 18th-century China that illustrate the meditation practice of Sarvavid Vairochana, a primordial Buddha central to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. The album is one of only two of its kind in existence to depict visually a secret esoteric practice. The presentation at the Rubin is the first time that these important paintings are exhibited in the United States.

Leaf 17, Wangzimial Aokhan Banner, Inner Mongolia, late 18-19 century.

The 54 richly detailed paintings provide step-by-step guidance to visualization of the Buddha Sarvavid Vairochana and offer unique insight into the meditation and rituals of Tibetan Buddhism. These practices are normally not meant to be depicted and are usually restricted to oral transmission by a teacher to his initiated disciple. The album is displayed at the Rubin alongside an array of sculptures and paintings that provide an artistic, religious, and historical context for Buddhist practices related to Vairochana.

All knowing Buddha

On loan to the Rubin from the Museum aan de Stroom in Antwerp, Belgium, the album was first brought to the West in 1923 by a Christian missionary who acquired it from a Buddhist monastery in Jehol, Inner Mongolia. It is believed to have been commissioned by a Mongolian patron during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), whose rulers sponsored extensive artistic production and supported Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. Drawing together Tibetan Buddhist content with the aesthetic traditions of Qing-era Chinese art in Inner Mongolia, the album exemplifies the rich patterns of cross-cultural exchange that characterized the period and region.

All-Knowing-Buddha-Cultural-Context_AHP-460Click on the image above to explore the leaves in more detail,
as well as hear the instruments, on the Rubin Museum of Art website.

 Curated by Karl Debreczeny and Elena Pakhoutova

Image Credit: Sarvavid Vairochana Album Leaf (detail); China/Inner Mongolia; ca. 18th -19th c.; Pigments on paper; 26.3 x 27 cm; Museum aan de Stroom, Antwerp AE.1977.0026.043



Categories: Art, Buddhism, Encyclopedia, History, News & events, Tibetan, Tibetan Buddhism

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