Today Inge and I went to the Blanton Museum to see the special exhibit "Into the Sacred City: Tibetan Buddhist Deities from the Theos Bernard Collection." It explores the art and religion of this region through five mandalas and three thangkas dating from the fifteenth to twentieth centuries. The project is led by ten Buddhist monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery in Atlanta.
In 1937, after spending a year in India studying yoga and the Tibetan language, Theos Bernard was among the first westerners given permission to enter the city of Lhasa in central Tibet. He was granted access to study Tibetan culture and beliefs firsthand and became the first American ever initiated into the rites of Tibetan Buddhism. He documented his journey through film and photographs, some of which are part of this exhibition.
Thangkas were originally used to explain Buddhist teachings to early nomadic Tibetans. They are meticulously detailed hanging scroll paintings on silk that also serve as meditation aids in Buddhist ritual practice. The works in this presentation feature deities such as Mahakala, a protector of monasteries, and Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion.
Mandalas are elaborate, intricate circular diagrams reflecting a sacred, idealized universe. They are created as a spiritual exercise and are used in meditation to guide individuals along the path to enlightenment.
We watched as four Buddhist monks created a sand mandala. It was amazing. The design was very elaborate and intricate. They have been working on it for several days already. It is only about two feet square, if even that large.
Across the street from the Blanton Museum -- in front of the Texas State History Museum -- there was a Jack Ingram (country music artist) crew with their horses filming an H-E-B commercial to be aired during the Super Bowl.