Wisdom Embodied: Chinese Buddhist and Daoist Sculpture

Wisdom Embodied: Chinese Buddhist and Daoist Sculpture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Wisdom Embodied: Chinese Buddhist and Daoist Sculpture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum’s collection of Chinese Buddhist and Daoist sculpture is the largest in the western world. In this lavish, comprehensive volume, archaeological discoveries and scientific testing and analysis serve as the basis for a reassessment of 120 works ranging in date from the fourth to the twentieth century, many of them previously unpublished and all of them newly and beautifully photographed. An introductory essay provides an indispensable overview of Buddhist practices and iconography—acquainting us with the panoply of past, present, and future Buddhas, bodhisattvas, monks and arhats, guardians and adepts, pilgrims and immortals—and explores the fascinating dialogue between Indian and Chinese culture that underlies the transmission of Buddhism into China.
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Dependent Origination, by Dalai Lama

The Dalai LamaShort talk by the Dalai Lama on the ‘law of causality and dependent origination’. About 25 minutes.

Toward Nirvana and From Nirvana, by Professor Masahiro Shimoda

Twofold Depictions of the Buddha

Part 0ne

Beach leaves.Very rarely do people contemplating some wide-scale reality recognise that its origin is often to be traced back to an event too tiny to be seen with the naked eye, like a minute island far away in the vast expanse of the ocean. Over a period of some 2,500 years Buddhism has spread throughout the world, but its long-ago origin lay in the experience of a single person, an experience which, as unanimously corroborated by Buddhist sources, was at first impossible even to put into words.

The process whereby Buddhism—which first began as the deeply internal experience of just one ascetic practitioner—has over time borne fruit within vastly different races, climates, cultures and histories, might be likened to the way volcanic magma breaks through the earth’s crust and gushes heavenwards then flows down in every direction, descending slopes, changing course, swallowing rocks, trees and water currents in its path, sometimes redoubling in force, sometimes widening to a gentle flow until eventually it cools and coagulates. Overnight the path traced by the magma appears as a great mountain nobody has ever seen before. The invisible terrestrial heat has changed into a dignified, visible landscape. Continue reading

Purpose and the Search for Happiness, by John Aske

Two hundred and fifty years ago, Doctor Johnson wrote a story about Rasselas, a prince of Abyssinia, who lived in a Happy Valley supplied with everything the heart could desire. But after a while, the pleasures and distractions that had pleased him at the beginning, began to feel hollow and unsatisfying, and he became more and more thoughtful, and spent more time by himself. He began to ask his friend, the poet Imlac who had travelled out into the wide world, what there was to be found there and how people lived, and what happiness they found.

Scene of Temptation from the Sutra of Cause and Effect (Kako genzai e-ingakyo), late 13th century Kamakura period, Japan. © Metropolitan Museum of ArtImlac answered the prince as well as he could, but it soon became clear that he would have to leave the Happy Valley and explore the possibilities of the world beyond for himself. But the emperor, the prince’s father, had locked the valley with an iron gate to prevent the prince and his brothers and sisters leaving.

The parallels with the story of the young Prince Siddhartha 2500 years earlier are clear. As childhood with its certainties (if we are lucky) and its securities, moves into adolescence and then maturity, we are all confronted with the opportunity of opening up to the world (and ourselves) and exploring it, or turning away from it and trying to restore the gilded cage we once lived in. Continue reading

Try to have a Permanent Emotion, by Ajahn Sumedho

Standing Buddha, Southern Cambodia, mid-7th century. © The Metropolitan Museum of ArtMy parents died many years ago, but I remember going to see them in America when I was fifty-five years old. To them of course I wasn’t Ajahn Sumedho or anything like that, but just their little boy. Pretty soon the old ways of relating to each other started up again, and I found it really strange; it really affected me. Try to notice those kinds of relationships, the assumptions that go with father-son, mother-son, mother-daughter and so forth, just the assumptions and habit-tendencies that we have personally and emotionally. You could say that your parents shouldn’t treat you the way they do, that they should accept you as an equal adult. But that would be a should of life; it would be an ideal. The way it actually is, is ‘like this’. By allowing experiences to be consciously accepted, you realize that even if your parents can’t change, at least you can; you can change your attitude and not get caught up in adolescent resentments that arise ― when you are fifty-five years old! Continue reading

Misunderstanding, by Trevor Leggett

Yoga Narasimha, Vishnu's Man-Lion Incarnation, India (Tamil Nadu), Chola period (880–1279). © Metropolitan Museum of ArtA teenage disciple asked the advice of a senior in the Yoga group he had joined. ‘My parents don’t understand me at all – we are always having rows. Why shouldn’t I have pictures of nudes on the walls of my room, like my friends do? I wanted to put one up in the hall too, but they raised hell over that. Why should I have to listen to them? I think I’m a natural rebel, and I won’t just meekly conform.’

The senior said: ‘Do you really get that much pleasure from these pictures?’

The teenager considered. Then he said: ‘Well, as a matter of fact, no. I think that clothes are like the sauce with a meal; they increase the pleasure. I don’t care much for bare meat. But all my friends have them up, so I do too.’ Continue reading


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