UVa Library Press Releases 1997 - 1998
A Rare View of Buddhist Thought
LIBRARY EXHIBIT OPENS THE BOOK ON TIBETAN TRADITIONS
Contact: Kathryn Morgan at (804) 924-4965 or e-mail: email@example.com
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. Oct. 24 -- Discover the nuances of Tibetan culture from the pages of old woodblock printed books. Learn what Tibetan Lamas do when they meditate in isolation, and about the colorful rituals and artifacts that frame events relating to death and dying for Tibetans.
Actor Brad Pitt may have taken moviegoers to the edge of their seats in "Seven Years In Tibet," but the University of Virginia Alderman Library will take you on an enlightenment odyssey with a ground-breaking 19-week exhibition that appeals simultaneously to the intellect and spiritual senses.
A prayer wheel. A ritual scepter and bell. A magnificent ivory statue depicting Padmasambhava -- revered for subduing demons -- seated on a silver throne. A ritual dagger to conquer evil or negative emotions, a sacred altar and a bunting of prayer flags. These are just a few of the symbols of peaceful and wrathful deities in Tibetan iconography and scroll paintings that will be mounted as part of a comprehensive exhibition titled, The Tibetan Book of the Dead: Literature and Artwork on Prayer, Ritual, and Meditation from the Religious Traditions of Tibet, India and Nepal, which opens Nov. 3 and runs through March 14, 1998 in the Library's McGregor Room.
The show brings together more than a dozen ritual artwork items from the holdings of the University's Bayly Art Museum, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and from private collections. This is the most inclusive exposition in subject matter and scope ever displayed at Alderman, says Kathryn Morgan, associate director of special collections at the U.Va. library. Anyone willing to surrender to the serenity and harmony of the display will become attuned to how a culture that believes in past and future lives explores the process of death and rebirth.
"Tibetan Buddhism is known for its detailed descriptions of the psychological and physical processes of death," says Jeffrey Hopkins, a professor of Religious Studies at U.Va.
With a trove of more than 10,000 titles, U.Va. has the largest collection of Tibetan literary materials outside Tibet. More than 40 of the library's prized texts will be showcased, and a limited-edition catalogue of the exhibit will be issued. Curators of this exhibition are even scheduling lectures by professors of religious studies, including one by Tibetan Lama Tenzin Wangyel Rinpoche, who will open the lecture series with a discussion on "Facing Death With Hope and Without Fear."
Since artwork and ritual symbols are an integral part of the religious system for Tibetans, scroll paintings and statues depicting a dizzying array of deities help viewers gain familiarity with the dying process.
Tibet, often referred to as "the roof" of the world because it sits on a high plateau, is situated between China and India. Most of its 6 million inhabitants practice Buddhism, a religion not confined behind the region's high mountainous peaks. Interest in Tibetan Buddhism is growing in the United States, with practitioners totaling up to 100,000 according to a recent article in Time magazine.
Attention to things Tibetan is not expected to wane anytime soon. In addition to "Seven Years in Tibet," movie audiences can expect "Red Corner" next month, starring devout Buddhist Richard Gere. "Kundun," a Martin Scorsese film about the Dalai Lama, is set to be released on Christmas Day. It is in keeping with growing interest that U.Va. aspires to raise awareness of Tibet through its artistic and philosophical reading materials.
To signal the start of the exhibit, a large traditional cotton banner designed and crafted by Khedup Gyatso, a Tibetan residing in America, will hang outside Alderman Library. Accompanying the banner will be colorful traditional Tibetan prayer flags, which also will adorn the McGregor Room. The prayer flags are printed in black ink on blue, white, red, green and yellow panels of fabric. Each panel is printed with identical Tibetan text with a representation of the "Wind Horse," a symbol of good fortune bearing a blazing jewel at the center. Tibetan text on each flag includes various mantras and Tibetan prayers for averting obstacles, and for luck and prosperity. Such flags are traditionally placed at high mountain passes so that their prayers and good wishes will be carried on the wind.
"The Tibetan Book of the Dead" exhibit opens Nov. 3 and runs through March 14. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.
-- October 23, 1997
For additional information, contact Kathryn Morgan, associate director of special collections at the U.Va. Library, at (804) 924-3025. Television reporters should call our TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.