The Metropolitan Museum of Art has one of the finest Asian art collections that has enlightened and strengthened my understanding in my personal art experience. The Museum itself is an artistic architectural structure that graces the entire block on 82nd Street in Manhattan. Entering inside, I sensed myself going back into an era, into a past where people traded ideas and learned from each other. It is a past, where I still find their works of yesteryears vividly within my grasp, to be remembered and shared as if their reflections of works were cast for the modern devoted learner.
Walking into the Hall of the Buddhas, there was a sense of peace and guidance lingering inside me. The seated Bodhisattva, of the Northern Wei dynasty (386-534), CA.480, from the Yungang, Cave xv, Shani Province, made of sandstone, guarded the entrance. At first, I thought it was a time to be disciplined, but the transcending smile from the statue was a delicate fixed gesture that offered a feeling of welcome. It was not a place to confess your wrongdoings; neither was it a place for me to say, “Buddha I have sinned.” It was a room to purify the mind, the mind that we take for granted without giving it harmony. There was a large mural decorating the main wall called “The Paradise of Bhaishajyaguru”(916-1125). I sat down wandering if the artist of the portrait knew that his work would one day be shared on this side of the world, in my time. Much like Jesus Christ and his followers, the mural is a painting of healers and saviors. It was a large figure of the Buddha of medicine, (Bhaishajyaquru) surrounded by followers of Bodhisattvas, Avalokiteshvara, and Mahosthamaprapta with twelve guardian generals who have pledged to disseminate the Buddha’s teaching (Tradition of Liao 916-1125, Metropolitan Museum wall plaque).
On the other side, I noticed a standing statue called “Quan Yin” that I have often encountered. It was an Avalokiteshvara from the Sui dynasty (581-618) made of limestone (Metropolitan Museum Plaque). Unlike the Quan Yin statue at home or any of the ones I have seen, it was difficult to pinpoint the gender of this Saint. I often hear people ask if “Quan Yin” was really a female, but throughout my learning experience it was mainly worshipped by women and given the status as female. Perh...
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...tues being so near. From the Sui dynasty (581-618), the “Quan Yin” statue reminded me of the readings in class about Red Azalea. I have always thought that this was a female saint; however, after seeing and observing it, maybe I’m wrong. Another place in the museum that evoked my feelings was the Japanese collection. The Japanese Buddhas were mentally more lifelike, because of the details of the color in the eyes. One could mistake some of them for demons and evil beings. However, they are all doers of good for mankind. The Japanese exhibit felt like a place of court where people came in to be cleansed, forgiven and punished after their evil deeds. Overall, my learning experience has taken me to a higher level of understanding that diversity within the same beliefs in Buddhism are mainly different by the way they migrated and the way Buddha is represented in the features and looks in another culture. However, whatever the culture might be, the teachings of Buddha are all shared and learned the same way:
“To do no evil.”
“To cultivate all good.”
“To purify the mind.”
“And this is the teaching of the Buddha.”
(Shakyamuni Buddha, Grace Gratitude Buddhist temple, wallet card
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