Sounds of One Hand Clapping

The "Tibet and India Buddhist Traditions and Transformations" show at the Met has just closed. But the writing was or, if we thinking in terms of timelessness, is on the wall--literally. Here is a wonderful wall quote that introduced the show,

"Buddha argued that the past is a fiction based on imperfect memories shaped by one's ego, and subject to our delusional hopes and dreams and the future--a projection of time that does not exist."

You don't have to be a Buddhist to buy this line of thought and one can hear no disagreement from Bergson, Freud, Proust and other great Western canonistas. The show included works by two contemporary artists. The Tibetan Tenzing Rigdoi was born in Kathmandu. His "Pin drop silence: Eleven-headed Avalokitesvara" is described thusly,

"Avalokitesvara stands in a radical mandorala burning in the enlightenment of non-existence while the eleven heads comment on realms of knowledge and simultaneous enlightenment."

Gonkar Gyatso was born in Lhasa. His playful "Dissected Buddha" is described this way, "A mass of sticks and cut out collage forms the outline of the Buddha at the moment of enlightenment." "IPad, ISold, IConquered" and "Which way is heaven dear Lord Buddha leme win the jackpot" are two examples of the kind of funky inscription that infuses the artwork. Let's just say that the Buddha may have achieved enlightenment at Bodh Gaya, but that the seeker of enlightenment will find no easy categorization of him in the Mahayana, Vajrayana or any of the other off shoots of Buddhist thought that the exhibit elucidated.

"Dissected Buddha" by Gonkar Gyatso, Promised Gift of Margaret Scott and David Teplitsky to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, copyright Gonkar Gyatso

{This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture}