12 March 2013

Making the Path Over the Hot Wax Sea

Buddhadasa Indapanno Archives

Pi Noi enjoying her ring, Luminous Space, from AKSHA.

Today was exciting. We had an important meeting to officially launch the planning phase for the exhibition at BIA. Dr. Banchar, Director of the Buddhadasa Indapanno Archives, attended with volunteers and staff Paco, Mike, Pi Muay, Pi Noi, and myself.  (Ven. Manjusri, Ajahns Pei and Duang from Pohchang could not join due to various circumstances, but will join later.)

This is one of my personal inspirations for the site-specific installation. It is a really beautiful lullaby from Southern Thailand, first sung to me by Phon (apologies, I am probaby mispelling her name). The Nalikea tree, is a coconut tree whose name is probably related to the Pali nalikera or King Coconut so beloved to Sri Lanka. One such tree lives on an island in the middle of the lake in front of BIA.

"Dear little child, listen to me:
There was once a Nalikae coconut tree,
Alone it stood amidst the hot wax sea,
Neither by the rain was it shaken, nor by thunder.
One could possibly reach it,
If, to oneself, bad and good do not matter."

Phon interpreted it to mean we could only cross the hot wax if we stayed cool. A take which I love.

The revered and revolutionary teacher, Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, has used it in his dharma teachings. According to Dr. Banchar, Buddhadasa said that the hot wax sea is all our experience in our life, and advised us to build the island in our mind.

I would like to create an installation that symbolizes the "path" over this hot wax sea stretching from the sculpture garden through the open 1st floor, out the mouth of the building and across the lake to the island and the tree. This path would be composed of flags of prayers (of forgiveness, perhaps) contributed by the entire community.

We discussed this and other such ideas at our meeting, before Dr. Banchar invited us to a rare peek into the contents of the archive.

He introduced us to the enigmatic Edward M. Sherman, an American who left his job as a billboard painter, moved his family to Japan where he studied Zen and woodblock printing before coming to Thailand where he passed away while on retreat in a rural cave temple. Apparently, after his death the villagers collected his original blocks and prints, not understanding the English written on them or their significance, and donated them to Suan Mokh. Ajahn Buddhadasa never met Sherman, but immediately realized the significance of the works and their power as dharma teachings themselves.

We saw some of the original paper reproductions that Buddhadasa commissioned from original classical work of relief sculpture in India. These were created meticulously to scale and used in creating molds for the existing works at Suan Mokh and BIA.

It is refrigerated in here--and normally people other than the archivists are not allowed because bodies change the temperature.
An exhibition in collaboration with Pohchang is fortuitous, as many of Pohchang's most famous artists already have works in the archive. These were donated during the 100th Anniversary Celebration of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu 7 years ago.


Perhaps one of the most impressive facts I learned is just how organized Aj. Buddhadasa was during his lifetime. He kept every letter sent to him with his own hand-written and typed responses. There were even lists of articles he brought back from his trips to India. Amazing. I am inspired to try harder in my own life. 

Photo courtesy of P' Noi

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Thanks, appreciate the mindful comment! - Minette