Meditating on a Sign

Last year, I blogged about the photo on the left. The second image I yanked from Danny Fisher’s blog, associated with Tricycle’sChange Your Mind Day.

The way we depict ourselves in abstractions tells worlds about how we see ourselves prototypically. When I think of a meditator, I would draw a stick figure one more like the one on the right. I wonder if those two images tell something about different ways that meditators relate to the simple act of sitting…

Poetry of the Killing Fields

Contra Costa Times writes about Buddhist monk Ly Van, who left behind two works of poetry noted for their stunning “lyricism, poignancy and richness” which have since been formatted for broad distribution.

In an immaculate Khmer calligraphy, the 90-year-old monk transcribed two long narrative poems he had written, one called “The Khmer Rouge Regime: A Personal Nightmare” and the other titled “The Unfortunate Love of Sophoan Chea,” a tragic tale also set in the time of the Khmer Rouge.

Feeling the Khmer-language poetry deserved a larger audience, educator Samkhann Khoeun meticulously translated the work and created a book and a Khmer-language CD titled “O! Maha Mount Dangrek: Poetry of Cambodian Refugee Experiences.” The title refers to the treacherous mountain many Cambodians had to traverse to escape their homeland and cross the border into Thailand and the refugee camps.

A national tour is giving public readings, and they’re now in Southern California. Check out the presentation tomorrow at the Mark Twain Library in Long Beach.

Ikuo Hirayama

Renowned artist and cultural conservationist Ikuo Hirayama (平山 郁夫) has died at age 79.

He is known for his efforts to preserve cultural treasures such as the Angkor Wat temples in Cambodia, China’s Mogao Caves and Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Buddhist monuments, which were dynamited in 2001 by the Taleban.

His goal was ‘to make people of all races and religions aware of the value of these human treasures, thus leading to mutual understanding and the promotion of world peace’, said the UN cultural organisation, which made him a goodwill ambassador in 1988.

You can see images of Hirayama’s own art here and here. To learn more about the Ikuo Hirayama Museum of Art, visit here or here.

Modern Art for An Ancient Tradition

Artist Emi Motokawa talks with LAist about the role Buddhism plays in her art.

Buddhism influences my work tremendously. My fascination is Buddhist concepts such as oneness, universality, compassion, and human nature. I try to take these old concepts and express through a pop, modern picture. By doing this, it helps me to deepen my own spirituality. It’s a very fun process for me and my drive is to become better at it. Right now, I am painting caricatures of different bodhisattvas that appear in Buddhist sutras.

You can buy some of her unique “Krokeshi” dolls from the Japanese American National Museum store.

American Buddhist Artists

Barry Briggs has been celebrating American Buddhist visual art on his blog this week, so I figured it would be fitting to celebrate this celebration in turn.

This week, Ox Herding will focus on American artists who are also Buddhist practitioners. This short survey makes no attempt to be exhaustive; rather, it’s quite personal. Either I have a direct connection with the artists or feel a strong affinity with their work.

He has so far introduced Jakusho Kwong RoshiAnita FengMayumi Odaand Brice Marden. The first three artists are also all Americans whose Buddhist practice plays a central role in their lives. Jakusho Kwong Roshi is the founder and abbot of Sonoma Mountain Zen Center. Anita Feng is a Golden Wind Zen Dharma Master and also a member of the Buddhist blogosphere. When not traveling to an art exhibition or speaking out to save the world, Mayumi Oda resides at Ginger Hill Farm and retreat center on the Big Island.

Images of Our Sitting Selves

Over on the One City Blog, Ethan Nichtern promotes the upcoming 24- hour Meditation Marathon in the window displays of ABC Carpet & Home.It is accompanied by the following picture, which first struck me as odd.

Why is the meditator sitting with her legs crossed like that? The graphic represents a beautiful symbolic ambiguity between either the lotus style or the agura style. This detail is small and for the most part insignificant, but the way we depict ourselves says a lot about our culture. Years ago I made a similar graphic, but with the meditator’s legs represented by a flat bar. I grew up learning to sit flat on the ground—“flat like a chair” as my brother describes it. “Flat” applies to the angle of your legs relative to your hips, regardless of whether you sit with both legs to the side, one leg in front of the other, one leg over the other, or both legs folded into padmasana. In contrast, our chair culture is much more conducive to people sitting in the X-style when they plop on the floor. I cannot understate how much I love the wonderful ambiguity in that design, and yet at the same time it leaves some of us out is something I couldn’t draw myself.