Wednesday, February 17, 2010
the following is a brief explanation of this exhibition...
The King of Glorious Sutras, The Sublime Golden Light
sanskrit: The Suvarnaprabhasa sutra
(note: This famous, ancient sutra of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition manifested
as a drum in a Bodhisattva's dream. From the drum came verses of aspiration
and dedication, which were called Sublime Golden Light.)
In chapter eighteen of this ancient and epic collection is a fable about the
historical Buddha, the Tathagata Shakyamuni (Sidhartha Gautama), telling his
disciples a story of his former life as a Prince. In this story within the story, the
Prince, while wandering in a great forest, makes the ultimate sacrifice by feeding
himself to a starving Tigress and her cubs. Just as he does so, he attains the
transcendent state of enlightenment. The Buddha goes on to explain that his
disciples were in fact those very tiger cubs.
The story also tells of the Prince's brothers as they search for their beloved
sibling in the forest, and then takes us through a dramatic journey with his
grief-stricken parents, the king and queen.
These scrolls, with quotes scripted in the original Sanskrit, attempt to
bring some light to the age-old, complex, and often misunderstood ideals
of spiritual renunciation and self-sacrifice in a time and place that is far
from their inception. The subject of extreme measures of generosity, such
as giving one's very body and life for the benefit of others, is relevant to a
culture that embraces bolder, more courageous methods of spirituality but
that, at the same time, often breeds discontentment through an emphasis
on personal profit and fulfilling base desires.
The main purpose of the story, it seems, was to provide a metaphor for
unbounded generosity and its unfathomable benefits—and that the limits of
our potential for giving are merely an illusion; that they can extend beyond
the life of the body.
The story also highlights a millenia-old adage: "you reap what you sow."
In giving one's life to relieve another's suffering, life comes back to us
(an even better life, apparently—one without any suffering, according to the
These depictions seek to illustrate in a way that both preserves the integrity
of the story and its time, but detaches us from any inherent religiosity
or aesthetics that interfear with its ultimate understanding.
For a complete translation of the sutra in english, go to: