Sunday, May 10, 2009
The Dragon's Gift: The Sacred Arts of Bhutan
Today my husband and I went to see the Buddhist art and religious objects from Bhutan at the Asian Art Museum, since the exhibit was closing today. Many jewel-toned thangkas illustrated scenes from the Buddha's life; others featured bodhisattvas and other deities and Buddhist teachers, saints, and abbots. Video screens showed ritual dance that is the means of transformation of wrathful deities into benevolent beings. My favorite deity is Avalokiteshvara, the Compassionate One, whose head split into eleven pieces because he gazed upon so much human suffering. Amitabha, the Bright One, helped him create eleven new heads out of the pieces, and one thousand arms with an eye on each palm, so that he became stronger. In a thangka in the exhibit, Avalokiteshvara is depicted with a piece of fruit in each of his one thousand hands, which swarm around his head like a thousand juggling balls. I was also glad to see the fierce, warrior deities like blue Vajrabhairava (see above). Perhaps they are responsible for protecting the culture and religion of Bhutan from vanishing. I feel grateful that we could see this artwork and glimpse the spiritual expression of this remote culture.