Unique performance of Sri Lanka

Korea Times
Posted : 2017-06-12 18:10
By Choe Chong-dae

Buddhist contact between Korea and Sri Lanka can be traced back to the 13th century. In the modern era, Venerable Anagarika Dharmapala, a Ceylonese revivalist of Buddhism whose adopted name means “homeless,” visited Korea in 1913 and donated the Sacred Relics of the Buddha (sarira) to the Jogye Buddhist Order. Since my office in Seoul is near Joogyesa Temple where the Sacred Relics are enshrined in a seven-story stupa, I frequently pay respects to them and am reminded of Sri Lanka’s contribution to Korean Buddhist culture.

Sri Lanka is known to us as “the Pearl of the East” which shines brightly for its breathtaking natural beauty where refined jewels are produced. The country boasts centuries of arts and culture amidst the azure waters of the Indian Ocean. It has a rich artistic tradition, with distinctively creative forms that encompass music, dance, the visual arts and its seemingly endless tea plantations producing the world famous Ceylon tea. In Marco Polo’s autobiography, “The Travels of Marco Polo,” co-writer Rustichello da Pisa describes Sri Lanka as the most beautiful island in the world. Also, in the sixth voyage of “Sinbad the Sailor,” Serendib (the old Persian name for Sri Lanka) is known as “Treasure Island,” where “diamonds are in its rivers and pearls are in its valleys.” No wonder Korean tourists have increasingly been drawn to the allure of this ancient tropical paradise.

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Korea and Sri Lanka, the Embassy of Sri Lanka and Korea Foundation organized a special performance by choreographer and percussionist Ravibandhu Vidyapathy and a traditional Sri Lankan art troupe at the National Theater of Korea on May 19. Many figures from a variety of sectors of Korean and foreign society, including the Minister of Foreign Employment of Sri Lanka Thalatha Atukorale and Her Excellency Manisha Gunasekera, Ambassador of Sri Lanka, took delight in the wonderful display of moving art.

The unique performance under the title of “Sri Lanka ­ The Treasure Island of Dance and Music” featured a feast of traditional Sri Lankan drums and dances showcasing the history, religions, myths and art of Sri Lanka.

Ravibandhu Vidyapathy’s ensemble stage fascinated the viewers with a mysterious Kandyan and passionate performance of traditional Sri Lankan music, recitals and dance named Raksha, Vannam, Krishna and Salu Paliya.

Vidyapathy, renowned as an outstanding percussionist, excels at playing various drums of Southeast Asia, traditional drums of northern India and common percussion instruments in Hindustani music such as “Pakkawaj,” “Tabla” and “Kandyan” drums. Drawing on his extensive musical knowledge, he has created new percussion instruments to reflect his eclectic musical style.

Of all the 10 distinctive stages titled Swasthi, Naga Raksha, Gajaga, GetaBera, Krishna, Thelme, Macbeth, SaluPaliya, Mayura and Bheri Nada, my favorite was the Swasthi. I was captivated by the harmony found in its intense drum sounds, music from various traditional instruments, swift dance moves, female dancers’ colorful costumes and graceful gestures. Swasthi’s initial ritual drum sounds were followed by Kandayan dance that was originally performed at court banquets of the Kandy Dynasty.

Most recently, there have been an increasing number of people-to-people exchanges between Korea and Sri Lanka. Many Korean Buddhist organizations participate in social welfare activities benefiting Sri Lankans. For example, Jeong Heon-dae, Chairman of the Korean-Sri Lanka Buddhist Welfare Association in Gyeongju, has been providing financial assistance and charity since 2002 to support the health and education of children at Uda Walawe Kumara Primary School in southern Sri Lanka and other schools in the northeastern Trincomallee region.

This longstanding Buddhist connection between Sri Lanka and Korea is the drum that will lead the beat as the two countries expand their political, economic and cultural ties.

Choe Chong-dae is a guest columnist of The Korea Times. He is president of Dae-kwang International Co. and Director of the Korean-Swedish Association. He can be reached at choecd@naver.com.

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Mandala maker handles life’s shifting sands with art and kung fu

BY Ayala Or-el | PUBLISHED Jun 14, 2017
Jewish Journal

Not much had changed since Rafael “Rafi” Anteby was a little boy who played in the sand.

Sometimes his immaculate apartment looks like a big sandbox with dozens of bowls filled with colorful sands, which he collects from around the world: purple from Big Sur and Idaho, black and green from Hawaii, red and yellow from Israel, golden brown from Myanmar.

Anteby, 52, who was born in Israel, is a Los Angeles artist who uses sand of different colors to make Hindu and Buddhist ritual symbols known as mandalas. It’s an ancient art form that represents the universe. Some of Anteby’s involve symmetrical designs, while others have featured figures such as a tiger or peacocks. Monks in Tibet work on their mandalas for months at a time, only to discard each one once it’s finished, spilling it into the water.

“It’s their way of letting it go back to nature. Part of the meditation is the practice of letting go,” Anteby said.

His first exhibition of mandalas in Los Angeles is on display Thursdays through Saturdays through July 1 at 929 E. Second St. in the Arts District.

Anteby’s process is different, creating his mandalas using dozens of sand colors, minerals, gold, diamonds and semiprecious stones from the Himalayas and gluing the sand into a canvas so it remains in place. Like the monks, he uses authentic artisanal tools over hundreds of hours to perfect the tedious process of funneling the sand through a metal flute.

His discipline to the practice drew the attention of the Tibetan Lama Adzom Rinpoche, an avid mandala-maker himself. The lama came all the way from Tibet for the exhibition reception on June 4. A portion of sale proceeds are being donated to the lama’s Buddhist institute that educates hundreds of children from remote villages of the Himalayas.

Anteby was drawn to the Far East at first through his fascination with kung fu. He was introduced to martial arts at 14 in Haifa.

“I was a small kid and was often bullied by the boys; even the girls beat me up,” he said. “As a result, I got involved with the bad crowd in town, a group of kids who were troublemakers and everyone feared them. It wasn’t that I was a bad kid, but I felt safer with them. One day, a kung fu teacher came to our school and talked to us about it, and I knew that this is what I want to do.”

Days after he finished his military duty in the Israeli army, he flew to Hong Kong to study with his kung fu master for two years. “I studied in a monastery-style school, 10 hours a day. I also led a life of a monk during that time — no women, no alcohol. I hardly left the place.”

After his two years in Hong Kong, he moved to South Africa and joined a friend, Lance Von Erich, a former American professional wrestler, who had opened a gym. He asked Anteby to help him.

“I was a martial arts instructor at his facility and ended up staying there for eight years,” Anteby said. “During that time, I won the South African championship in kung fu as well as the Shaolin world tournament for kung fu in China.”

Back in the United States, Anteby was diagnosed in 2000 with macular degeneration. He was told that he had one year before he would become legally blind. Anteby refused to accept the verdict. “I told my doctor, ‘No way, not in my book; it’s never going to happen,’ and he answered, ‘I appreciate your positive attitude, but I still encourage you to start thinking about what it’s like being blind, because it is going to happen.’ ”

Anteby found the name of an expert in Chinese medicine in Arkansas, flew to see him and stayed for two weeks, undergoing intensive acupuncture treatment. “After that, I went to see my teacher in Peking, who sent me to a 104-year-old teacher of qigong meditation, which I practiced for six months at the Wudang monastery,” Anteby said. “Only then I went back to see the doctor who diagnosed me. He examined me and was shocked to find out that the disease had disappeared.” Continue reading

A rare chance to see Buddhist art in San Antonio

“Amida Buddha with Attending Bodhisattvas” is a late 18th century wood sculpture adorned with gold, pigment and metal. It is one of the works in “Heaven & Hell: Salvation and Retribution in Pure Land Buddhism,” an exhibit at the San Antonio Museum of Art. Photo: Courtesy Of The San Antonio Museum Of Art /Courtesy Of The San Antonio Museum Of Art / Contact San Antonio Museum of Art, Registrar’s Office
Photo: Courtesy Of The San Antonio Museum Of Art /Courtesy Of The San Antonio Museum Of Art

By Elda Silva
June 16, 2017 Updated: June 16, 2017 5:39pm
San Antonio Express-News

When it comes to hell, Buddhists are at something of an advantage.

While torment may await those who stray from the path of righteousness, it needn’t be eternal.

“The wonderful thing about Buddhist hell is — unlike Christian hell — it doesn’t last forever,” said Emily Sano. “You can get out.”

Sano, the former director of the the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco who joined the staff of the San Antonio Museum of Art last year as the Coates-Cowden-Brown Senior Advisor for Asian Art, is the curator of “Heaven and Hell: Salvation and Retribution in Pure Land Buddhism.”

Featuring about 70 works, including paintings, sculpture and decorative objects, the exhibit, which is now on view, is touted as the first in the United States to explore Pure Land Buddhism, the most popular form of the religion in Asia.

Pure Land Buddhism began in West Asia in the early years of the Common Era, then spread across Central Asia to China and into Tibet, Korea, Japan and Taiwan. A branch of Mahayana Buddhism, it focuses on Amitabha, a Buddha who promises salvation — or rebirth into Sukhavati, a heavenly Pure Land of bliss — to anyone who calls his name.

Sano began working on “Heaven and Hell” two years ago, after Katie Luber, director of the museum, invited her to curate a show on the subject of her choice.

Very few exhibitions of Buddhist art have been done in Texas, Sano said, “so I thought it was just important to expose the audience in and around San Antonio to the material. I particularly loved the Pure Land theme because the message is quite simple and the works of art are so beautiful.”

“From the time I was a graduate student I was so impressed by the paintings and the sculptures that this religion inspired,” she added. “So it’s just been a favorite topic of mine.”

To put the exhibition together, Sano drew on the permanent collection of the San Antonio museum, as well as those of institutions and private collections around the country — 20 in all, including the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

“For me — why I was attracted to the idea — is that it was a chance to look at a very living tradition that has a 2,500 year old history,” Luber said. “And then we did have these works in our own collection. Emily, when she came on with us, started thinking about it right away. So I take my lead from the brilliance of the curators, always.”

Visitors to the exhibit are immediately greeted by a pair of carved wood Nio guardians, such as those placed at the entrance of many Buddhist temples in East Asia. The figures are imposing, with fierce expressions and bulging muscles. The protective deities traveled with the historical Buddha, acting as bodyguards. Offering reassurance, a polished gray limestone hand of Buddha is mounted on a pedestal, thumb and ring finger lightly touching. At more than two feet in height, the piece from Tang dynasty Chicna was once part of a monumental work. Continue reading

Buddha carving partially destroyed by militants restored in Pakistan

KYODO NEWS By Takuya Hatakeyama, KYODO NEWS – Jun 5, 2017 – 10:12 | Arts, World, All

A Buddha carved on a rock in the Swat district of Pakistan’s northwest has been restored after militants attempted to destroy it in 2007, spurring hopes that tourists will come back to see a sculpture that has watched over the scenic valley for over 1,000 years.

Once disfigured by drilling and a blast, the face of the 6-meter-tall sculpture in Jahanabad, known as the “Jahanabad Buddha,” has now been patched up, the result of repair work that began in 2012 and continued until last fall as part of a project financed through a Pakistani-Italian debt swap agreement.

In September 2007, the militant group Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan partially destroyed the rock-carving with explosives, claiming that Buddhist structures go against Islamic teaching that bans worshiping idols.

At that time, the militant group was expanding its area of control from the neighboring Tribal Area, a semi-autonomous area near the border with Afghanistan. After the Pakistani army ended a major offensive against the group in July 2009, many of the more than 2 million people who were displaced have returned. Continue reading

Lost temple discovered after 1,000 years in Chengdu

Workers at a temple site that disappeared for nearly a millennium in downtown Chengdu. [Photo: Xinhua]

Workers at a temple site that disappeared for nearly a millennium in downtown Chengdu. [Photo: Xinhua]

Xinhua, June 4, 2017

Archaeologists have spent months excavating a lost temple that disappeared for nearly a millennium in downtown Chengdu, capital of southwest China’s Sichuan Province.

The Fugan Temple was a famous temple that lasted from the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420) to the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279).

Daoxuan, a famous Tang Dynasty (618-907) monk, once wrote that an official rite to pray for rain to end a persistent drought was held in front of the temple, and it rained as if the prayers had been heard in heaven.

The story was the record of how the temple got its name, Fugan, which means “perceive the blessing.”

Famous Tang Dynasty poet Liu Yuxi left a poem to commemorate the temple’s renovation, describing its heavenly appearance. The poem further noted the temple’s important role at that time.

However, the building was worn down during the later period of the Tang and Song dynasties, with all traces of the temple disappearing during wars.

Archaeologists unearthed more than 1,000 tablets inscribed with Buddhist scriptures and over 500 pieces of stone sculpture as well as glazed tiles with inscriptions.

“We have only excavated a part of the temple’s area, but already have a glimpse of its past glory,” said Yi Li, who led the excavation project.

He said they have found the temple’s foundation, ruins of surrounding buildings, wells, roads and ditches.

During the excavation, archaeologists found some 80 ancient tombs scattered near the temple, dating back to Shang and Zhou dynasties (1600-256 BC). In the temple’s surroundings, they have unearthed large amounts of household tools and utensils and building materials dating back to various periods from the Song to Ming dynasties.

Chengdu became an economic and cultural center in western China during the Sui and Tang dynasties. The temple’s discovery could greatly contribute to the study of the spread of Buddhism in China during that time, said Wang Yi, director of the Chengdu Cultural Relic Research Institute.

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Kashmir’s lone museum opens for public

Outlook, 11 JUNE 2017

“There are many unique and rare collections in the museum For instance, the Gilgit manuscripts with painted covers of the seventh century regarding Buddhism, a rare bilingual birch bark document in Shardha and Persian of the 16th century relating to the purchase of land and a copy of Shahanama Firdausi (world’s longest epic poem written by a single poet),” he said

Srinagar, Jun 11 Kashmir’s lone Shri Pratap Singh museum is a treasure trove for art lovers, history enthusiasts and curious minds as it houses rare artifacts and items of historical significance, showcasing the rich cultural heritage of the state.

Situated on the banks of river Jhelum in Lal Mandi area of the summer capital here, the museum was established in 1898 AD by then Dogra ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, Maharaja Pratap Singh, in his summer guest house, largely based on collections transferred from the state ‘Toshkhana’ (palace treasury).

A century later, the museum got a new building – adjacent to the old one.

Though it has not been completed yet, the museum was thrown open for public recently owing to widespread demands from different quarters.

The foundation stone of the new building was laid in 2008 by then chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and the construction project was handed over to the Police Housing Corporation (PHC), which was scheduled to complete it in two years’ time.
Continue reading

Zen Writers’ Retreat – June 24, 2017 at Atlanta Soto Zen Center

Zen Writers’ Retreat – June 24, 2017 at ASZC

Sit, walk, write, read, repeat. The silence of Zazen can unleash the thunder of creative ideas. During this one-day session, participants will intersperse zazen and kinhin practice with writing periods and readings/discussions of our raw creations developed through this process. Keisei Andrew Dietz will facilitate this sesshin/workshop. As a bonus feature, Taiun Michael Elliston Roshi will lead participants in at least one “set-breaking” exercise designed to unlock our habitual approach to words so that we can see and apply them with fresh perspective. Suggested donation to Zen Center for participation: $50 includes lunch and materials. While we are in the process of posting registration on the ASZC/Silent Thunder sites, please contact Keisei Andrew Dietz to express interest and “soft circle” your spot. andrew@creativegrowthgroup.com

Draft schedule:

8:30am – 9:00am Assemble/Welcome & Intro (purpose and approach)

Round 1
9:00am – 9:25am Sitting meditation
9:25am – 9:30am Walking meditation
9:30am – 9:55am Writing meditation (Mu prompt)
9:55am – 10:00am Walking meditation

Round 2
10:00am – 10:25am Sitting meditation
10:25am – 10:45am Walking meditation (outdoor)
10:40am – 11:00am Writing meditation (outdoor walk prompt)

Round 3
11:00am – 11:25am Sitting meditation
11:25am – 12:00pm Word Set-Breakers (Sensei led)

Discussion & Readings
12:00pm – 12:30pm Lunch/Discussion (Zen & creativity)
12:30pm – 1:30pm Reading selections (voluntary)

Round 4
1:30pm – 1:55pm Sitting meditation
1:55pm – 2:00pm Walking meditation
2:00pm – 2:25am Writing meditation (writer’s choice)
2:25am – 2:30pm Walking meditation

Round 4
2:30pm – 2:55pm Sitting meditation
2:55pm – 3:00pm Walking meditation
3:00pm – 3:25am Writing meditation (writer’s choice)
3:25am – 3:30pm Walking meditation

Wrap Up
3:30pm – 4:00pm Reading selections (voluntary)
4:00pm – 4:30pm Discussion/conclusion