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Buddhadharma : Winter 2009
25 winter 2 00 9 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly news Culture news Culture new Films Featuring dalai lama and tibet three notable films offering fresh looks at tibetan buddhist culture have recently been released. one garnering a lot of attention is Dalai Lama Renaissance, narrated by harrison ford. the film has won 12 awards and been chosen as an official selec- tion at more than 40 international film festivals. it tells the story of what happens when the dalai lama invites a group of innovative thinkers to india to discuss how to solve the world’s problems. instead of the peaceful dialogue one might expect, ego-ridden catfights break out. participants—who include author and physicist fred alan wolf and theoretical nuclear physicist amit goswami, who were both featured in the documentary What the Bleep Do We Know?, and nationally syndicated radio host thom hartmann—revolt against the facilitators’ attempts to create order, and they propose solutions that seem oddly off the mark. by the end of the weeklong conference, however, participants and facilitators alike are transformed by the dalai lama’s wisdom. his holiness also makes an appearance in Mustang: Journey of Transformation, narrated by richard gere. the film shows how monasteries in the kingdom of mustang in nepal are being restored and how, with every beam replaced and stupa repainted, hope is coming back to a society struggling to survive. the restoration will be signifi- cant to tibet supporters because mustang is culturally and ethnically tibetan but, being outside of chinese control, it could play a special role in preserving authentic tibetan tradition. the film premieres on pbs on november 18. gere also narrates Blessings: The Tsoknyi Nangchen Nuns of Tibet, which docu- ments tsoknyi rinpoche leading a group of mostly western women to nangchen, tibet, to meet the accomplished practitioners known as the tsoknyi nangchen nuns. it’s heartwarming to see the cultural exchange and how inspired the western women become when they experience the nuns’ devotion to practice. the most striking aspect of this film, however, is seeing how the tsoknyi nangchen nuns are thriving. against all odds, there are currently 3,000 of them in 35 nunneries. news Culture new york exhibits celebrate mandalas two exhibits featuring mandalas are showing in new york. Japanese Man- dalas: Emanations and Ava- tars is at the metropolitan museum, and Mandala: The Perfect Circle is at the rubin museum. the two shows give a taste of the diversity of this art form. mandalas are made from a broad range of materials, and can be either two- or three-dimensional. and, depending on the culture, they are executed in wildly different styles. a New York Times review described the met’s Japanese mandalas as “a tonal mist of white, black, and brown with scintillations of silver and gold,” whereas “their tibetan equivalents [at the rubin] are sharp and bold: the paintings jump with spicy colors, the gilded sculp- tures are sheer himalayan bling.” mandalas originated in india and arrived in Japan from china in the early ninth century, along with the introduction of Vajrayana buddhism. in Japan, several sects of esoteric buddhism developed and, collectively, these sects are called Mikkyo, or the secret teachings. sinéad kehoe, assistant curator in the met’s department of asian art, explains that the chinese prototypes for the first Japanese mandalas have long since vanished and that the form of those prototypes “is carefully preserved in Japan alone. at the same time, Japanese mandalas evolved in entirely new directions ... often incorporating shinto elements.” the most celebrated mandalas at the met’s show are a pair of 13th-century hanging scrolls—The Womb World and The Diamond World—on loan from the brooklyn museum. they are meant to illustrate the core teachings of mikkyo buddhism—the former mandala representing reality in the realm of the conditioned and the latter representing reality in the buddha realm. according to mikkyo, enlightenment can be achieved in this life- time, and these two mandalas show the path and the fruition. the most famous mandala at the rubin’s show is on loan from musée guimet in paris. originally from dunhuang, china, it was probably painted in the eighth or ninth century when the area was controlled by tibet- ans. it depicts a crowd of deities, and is beautifully detailed, with fine faces on the figures and flowers on their clothes. but the rubin’s chief curator, martin brauen, says he’s personally fond of the computer- animated mandalas on display. Japanese Mandalas closes november 29. the perfect circle runs until January 11. For more on these and other stories visit: mahasanghanews.com (topleft):themetropolitanmuseumofart(topright):Johnsanday