Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dharma Series - The Joy of Being Alive

For this piece I wanted to create something based on the more traditional look of Thangka paintings. Thangka paintings are classic depictions of various Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and mandalas rich in symbolic representations of Buddhist teachings. 

The figures in these pieces will have their hands in various placements which are called mudras. Each mudra has a symbolic meaning, such as the warrior spirit of the compassionate being or the balance of an awakened mind.

My favourite mudra is the ground touching or Bhumisparsa Mudra. The story of this mudra is that when Gautama Buddha reached enlightenment he was first challenged by the god Mara. As Gautama sat in meditation beneath the Bodhi tree, Mara threw all manner of temptation and difficulty at him.  He insulted him, summoned his daemon daughters to tempt his lust, threatened him with fire and spears and finally, at the very end he challenged his commitment.

Mara asked, "What difference does it make, all this sitting in meditation. There is no proof of your commitment or understanding. You have no followers, no witness to your pointless task."

Is is said that Gautama reached one hand down and touched the Earth, as if to declare that the Earth was his witness. The Earth was his solid support in all he did and the ground beneath him was all he needed for him to see the truth of the world around him free of attachment, lust, desire, anger, hatred, and longing. 

The words I chose speak to this presence of mind free from fixation. There is joy to be found in the very act of being alive.

When we view the world with the wonder and fascination of a child it's pretty awesome.

To watch a sun rise or see a flower bloom or see the fine shapes of a thousand snowflakes or think that we have the ability to communicate with people on the other side of the planet in a matter of second or that we can send living beings into zero gravity - it's all pretty damn impressive and wondrous.

And beyond that, even when life is at its most challenging, when we are facing a seemingly unbearable difficulty, we have the capacity, as sentient beings, to work with our minds. We can use these experiences to wake up, to see that we were never only one way to begin with and that life is never black and white but an infinite rich spectrum of emotions and experiences. 

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