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Buddhadharma : Summer 2019
BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 29 Reducing Dharma to Exotic Art Pamela D. Winfield NO MUSEUM CURATOR would ever dream of inviting Catholic priests to come in, stand before the museum’s collection of Renais sance altarpieces or devotional crucifixes, and perform a mass. Such an overtly religious rite, in which the priests’ blessings transubstanti ate the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, would naturally be considered out of place in the museum context. Yet since the late 1980s and the Free Tibet movement, curators have invited Tibetan monks into the secular space of their galler ies to construct sand mandalas, then deconstruct and distribute the colored sands among its gathered spectators. In doing so, they effec tively treat this powerful practice as performance art. In this context and setting, mandalas are markers of an exotic culture to be con sumed by outsider–spectators, not a transformative ritual for insider– practitioners or initiates. The monks’ blessings, which invoke reti nues of buddhas and bodhisattvas to transform the museum atrium