“In the Land of Snow” at the Norton Simon Museum (Pasadena, CA)

 

Buddha and Adorants on the Cosmic Mountain, c. 700 India: Kashmir, 675-725 Bronze with silver and copper inlay. The Norton Simon Foundation

Buddha and Adorants on the Cosmic Mountain, c. 700
India: Kashmir, 675-725
Bronze with silver and copper inlay.
The Norton Simon Foundation

In the Land of Snow is the Museum’s first large-scale exhibition of Himalayan Buddhist art, bringing together exceptional Indian, Nepalese and Tibetan Buddhist sculptures along with significant thangka (flat field) paintings from throughout the Himalayan region. Almost all of the Museum’s thangkas are on display for this special occasion, in addition to a number of generous loans. A highlight of the exhibition is the display of a monumental thangka, measuring over 20 feet in height, depicting the Buddha of the Future, Maitreya, flanked by the Eighth Dalai Lama, Jamphel Gyatso, and his tutor, Yongtsin Yeshe Gyaltsen. Painted on silk and presented on an elaborate embroidered mounting, the thangka was commissioned by the Eighth Dalai Lama for the benefit of his tutor and for the posterity of the Buddhist faith. This is only the second time that this extraordinary painting has been on view at the Museum.

In the Land of Snow explores many facets of Himalayan Buddhist art, including the transmission of Vajrayana Buddhism—from its place of origin in India to its eventual sites of practice in Nepal and Tibet—through the examination of iconic sculptures of the Buddha and of Buddhist deities. Although it is not known when Vajrayana Buddhism first developed, by the seventh century it had become firmly established in India and was taught in the major Buddhist centers and universities. Also known as the “diamond vehicle” because it promised the expedience of enlightenment within a single lifetime, Vajrayana Buddhism appealed to Buddhist rulers and practitioners throughout Asia. Monks from Nepal and Tibet traveled to Buddhist universities in eastern India, such as Nalanda. It was at such monastic universities that Vajrayana techniques and practices were taught and art was made and seen. Monks returned with their new knowledge, influencing the teachings, iconography and aesthetics of Buddhism and Buddhist art at home.

Such scholar-monks, also known as great adepts (mahasiddha), were very important to the spread and longevity of Vajrayana Buddhism. Unlike other Buddhist traditions, Vajrayana places great emphasis on the pupil–guru relationship. Highly secretive esoteric rituals and complex meditative yogic exercises cannot be learned from texts alone. They require the aid of a skilled and knowledgeable teacher. Famous teachers were immortalized in art and worshiped alongside images of Buddhist deities and the various Buddhas within the Vajrayana pantheon. Accordingly, the exhibition includes paintings and sculptures of important teachers, Buddhist deities and Buddhas in the history of Vajrayana Buddhism. Great adepts such as Padmasambhava, along with such fierce and benign Buddhist deities as Mahakala and Green Tara, respectively, will be on display.

By the thirteenth century, Buddhism had ceased to be a major religion in India; new centers of Vajrayana Buddhism became established in Nepal and Tibet. The eighth-century Chakrasamvara Tantra (Circle of Bliss), of which the Museum has a fine seventeenth-century Nepalese example, was once understood to be embedded in the landscape of India; however, after the fall of Buddhism there, the Nepalese and Tibetans transferred Chakrasamvara pilgrimage sites to their own terrains. The Chakrasamvara Mandala and others like it were painted on thangkas as “flat field” paintings to aid practitioners in their meditative practice. Skillful practitioners are able to imagine such two-dimensional renderings as complex metaphysical visualizations. By meditating on the mandala, understood as a cosmic diagram of the universe, adepts are able to visualize themselves in a “pure land” and attain Buddhahood. In addition to mandala paintings, ritual implements that aid practitioners in their quest for enlightenment are also displayed.

In the Land of Snow affords visitors the opportunity to examine works normally not on view at the Norton Simon Museum, while also learning more about the Buddhist arts and cultures of the Himalayas. The exhibition is on view in the Museum’s special exhibitions gallery on the lower level from March 28 through August 25.

http://www.nortonsimon.org/in-the-land-of-snow-buddhist-art-of-the-himalayas#

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Shamar Rinpoche at Vroman’s Bookstore March 6th 7:00 pm

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Photo Album of Shamar Rinpoche (Shamarpa)

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Dharma Road Trip

Image detail from the Penguin Classics Edition, Dharma Bums. Illustration by Jason.

Image detail from the Penguin Classics Edition, Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac. Illustration by Jason.

Yup, that’s what we called it even though it took less than two hours to get there. Cesar picked me up by 9 am and we happily set off in anticipation at seeing Khenchen Rinpoche and his trusty attendant, Lama Phurba. They live in Cochecton, New York at the Center of Gyaltrul Rinpoche and were in the west to visit friends and to enjoy a bit of warmer winter weather.

Khenchen Rinpoche has a very impressive bio but when you meet him, he seems like a simple monk, warm and welcoming, speaking only Tibetan. He had no translator so he would not be giving us a formal teaching. We were going to practice Chenrezig with him at the Santa Barbara Center with some other folks both local and from as far as San Luis Obispo.

We arrived 15 minutes early and had a chance to greet friends, with whom it is always wonderful to reconnect. We stood as Rinpoche entered right on time. Without any fanfare, we began. The idea was that we would recite a section of the ritual in English and then Rinpoche would do it in Tibetan. Tibetan “pujas” are usually sung. Theoretically we could sing along with him as we have the phonetics in our ritual texts. But could we?

That was the best part for me. Rinpoche is near eighty if not more and the melodies that he sings are for us quite slippery to our western ears and different from anything we have ever heard. We tried our level best to follow him but could never ever manage to be on the same note. We sounded so awful that it was cause for some discreet hilarity. It was strangely delightful to be held in the suspension of not ever being able to find the same note as Rinpoche (or each other) but of trying to sing something. And all the while Rinpoche was totally relaxed and doing his practice as if we were not all caterwauling. After gathering for a group photo, Rinpoche and I somehow got our feet tangled up and caught each other before we fell into the flower bed. Lama Phurba gave me some special Tibetan tea. I hope to find a recipe for Tibetan butter tea for the next Duchen celebration.

Some of us walked up the street to The Daily Grind, a sandwich shop where we could sit outside and enjoy the company of good Dharma friends. Then Cesar and I stopped in Carpenteria for an extra bonus of visiting our buddy Deidre who used to belong to Pasadena Bodhi Path, but relocated to be near her mother in Santa Barbara. She has a lovely apartment and served us tea, dates and tangerines from the Farmer’s Market. We missed viewing the baby seals up the beach, but it was getting late and we needed to get back “on the road again” toward home.

~ Khedrub

Kenchen Rinpoche at Santa Barbara Bodhi Path

Khenchen Rinpoche at Santa Barbara Bodhi Path

May confusion dawn as wisdom

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There is a special prayer by one of the forefathers of the Kagyü lineage called The Four Dharmas of Gampopa, that goes something like this:

Grant your blessings so that my mind may be one with the Dharma
Grant your blessings so that Dharma may progress along the path
Grant your blessings so that the path may clarify confusion
Grant your blessings so that confusion may dawn as wisdom

And in the words of my teacher and spiritual friend, “It was a delightful weekend complete with disturbing, uncomfortable and then transforming to ease and appreciation.”

I couldn’t of said it any better.

Members of the Pasadena Bodhi Path sangha attended a benefit production for the Yokoji Zen Mountain Center this past Sunday at the Echo Theater Company in Atwater Village. All proceeds for the theater production went to assist in repairs that the Zen Center was in need of after fire and mudslides damaged the land last year. Our center held a 5 day retreat at the center a few years ago so we felt a connection and wanted to help. None of us had much of an idea of what the play was going to be about. I was able to find a brief review but was not quite prepared for what transpired. The play was about a teenage boy who is seduced by the high school secretary. I’ll leave it at that if there are those of you who find this post and don’t want any spoilers. The actors were wonderful. The play, for some of the audience, was not so pleasing. There were scenes of sexual nature as well as an assault.

At the intermission, there was quite a stir amongst our group as well as some of the other audience members as was noticeable by some of the empty seats when the play resumed. We had some friends who were not inclined to return after the intermission. A few of us did return and finished the show. The second half of the production was not as jolting as the first part. Overall, I think those of us who stayed thought it was an enjoyable production.

For me, it was a very interesting experience. They say that art is supposed to shake you up. Bring up some emotion. Not always pleasing. Make you a little uncomfortable. That sounds like dharma practice to me! This is how I dealt with the situation. It was something that I didn’t expect. And that is how life happens sometimes. I was in a situation that made me a little uncomfortable. Shook me up a little. And I worked with it. Life happens in the most unpredictable, uncomfortable, and unexpected ways. But this, for me, was an opportunity to put into practice, equanimity. Unmoving, unshakeable, and un-located. It was a situation that brought up the emotions. But the situation was theater. Yet we felt all the emotionality that would occur were it an actual event. So I felt quite grateful for the opportunity to practice. And these are wonderful opportunities because we can see just how easily caught up we can get, even when it’s just theater.

I don’t mean to say that we should all take in theater, movies, or other entertainment that makes us uncomfortable. We know ourselves better than anyone. So we can decide what it is that we need most to be able to benefit all beings. I must admit that I enjoy horror movies myself and would cringe at the most gruesome scenes, even closing my eyes! But I thought of using the situation as a practice. If you wish to know what practice, maybe that will be a future post!

Our friends who decided not to return for the second half stayed close by and waited for the end of the play to join us for dinner. We all had a wonderful time at a nearby restaurant that our teacher had found, Canelé. The food was excellent and the company was marvelous! A complete transformation to ease and appreciation.

May confusion dawn as wisdom,
cesar

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Shamar Rinpoche in Los Angeles March 6th & March 12th

PTA

Dear friends,

Shamar Rinpoche will be doing readings, book signings, and question and answer sessions at the following locations in March.

Thursday March 6th at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena CA.

http://vromansbookstore.com/shamar-rinpoche2014

Wednesday March 12th at The Milken Institute in Santa Monica CA.  (Time TBA)

Rinpoche will also be giving Chenrezig Empowerment and a book signing in San Luis Obispo:

Sunday March 9th at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel San Luis Obispo CA.

Empowerment: 1-3pm; Book signing 4-5pm

The book signing event in Miami on February 27th will be streaming live. So don’t forget to tune in!

http://new.livestream.com/uainmedia/Shamar-Rinpoche

For more info check out the Path to Awakening page:

http://thepathtoawakening.org/tour.html

Hope to see many of you at these events!

The Hidden Lamp Book Signing in Santa Monica

The Hidden Lamp

The Hidden Lamp

Join Sue Moon and Florence Caplow, editors of the The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women and contributors Diana Winston, Caitriona Reed for an evening book reading, meditation, book signing, and discussion of women in Buddhism hosted by Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society in Santa Monica.

The Hidden Lamp is a collection of one hundred koans and stories of Buddhist women from the time of the Buddha to the present day. This revolutionary book brings together many teaching stories that were hidden for centuries, unknown until this volume. These stories are extraordinary expressions of freedom and fearlessness, relevant for men and women of any time or place.

No registration necessary, this is a drop-in event. Books will be available for purchase.

This event will be held at 1001 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica.  Click on the address for info on parking around the Santa Monica Center.

Monday Feb 10  7:30-9:00pm  Santa Monica

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