Power down, unplug, and join a voyage into the visionary art of Tibetan Buddhism. The journey from clamor to contemplation unfolds as you progress through a series of immersive spaces, engaging with spectacular art along the way. Nearly 100 objects, both historical and contemporary, are drawn largely from two of the country’s most extraordinary collections of Himalayan art: the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.
Visitors are given the opportunity not only to view spectacular Buddhist art from the 9th century to as recent as 2016, but also to take part in the narrative it presents of a quest for enlightenment. For participants and viewers alike, the exhibition offers a pause from the ordinary noise of daily living and a chance to contemplate and reflect.
Beginning with a multimedia display that emphasizes the relentless distractions of daily life, the exhibition asks a basic question: are we really awake and fully aware? Or do the clamor and fragmentation of ordinary experience lull us into a kind of waking sleep and doom us to running in endless, unfulfilling circles?
The exhibition then progresses through a series of stages along a journey toward waking from that slumber. Visitors learn some of Buddhism’s essential teachings and encounter artworks that serve as guides, allies wise and fierce, and equipment for the journey. They will also receive a map—a painting called a mandala—of the visionary expedition ahead. They must overcome trials, face fears, and eventually confront the ultimate ordeal, death itself. The payoff is a glimpse into reality’s true nature and a culminating vision of clarity as powerful as the confusion with which the journey began.
.Each of the exhibition’s galleries, immersive spaces filled with world-class Tibetan Buddhist art, corresponds to one of these stages along a journey toward awakening:
- The Quandary
- A Way Out
- The Buddhist Teachings
- Preparing for the Journey
- Approaching the Mandala
- Entering the Mandala
- Inside the Celestial Palace
- The Central Chamber
- Awakening I: Nonduality
- Awakening II: Being a Buddha