The Contest

Check out Ellen Sandbeck's papercuts of the Buddha on the Facebook page "A Buddha A Day." Choose your favorite image, then send a wonderful piece of your writing, one page or less, on any topic, to You may win the original papercut of your choice!

Winning entries will be posted on this page.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Live and Learn!

I have just begun reading "Gems of Wisdom from the Seventh Dalai Lama," translation and commentary by Glenn H. Mullin.  I was drawn to this book by this sentence in the forward, which was quoted in the book catalogue: "All of the vast and profound teachings of the Buddha, as well as of all earlier Buddhist masters of India and Tibet, are elucidated through similes and metaphors that employ such earthy images as smelly farts, body odor, wild horses, slimy monsters, mindless lunatics and so forth." How could anyone possibly resist such a book?

So far, I have not been disappointed. I have learned that there are six root delusions or afflicted emotions: anger, attachment, instinctual behavior, arrogance, jealousy, and complacence. I was very pleased when I read this list, because so far, I seem to be immune to one of these root delusions, jealousy. I have a bit of work to do to root out the other five delusions, however. Complacency may prove to be especially difficult to root out though, now that I have discovered that I am immune to one of the other five delusions.

The introduction to the book includes very short biographies of the first seven Dalai Lamas, and I decided to search for Buddha images from the monasteries that were founded by some of these early Dalai Lamas (the current Dalai Lama is the Fourteenth). When I looked up the monastery at Litang, which was established by the Third Dalai Lama in the mid-sixteenth century, I was astonished to find photos of the giant Buddha carved out of a mountain, which, over the course of this year of doing papercuts of the Buddha, I have already done several times. This 1,300 year old Buddha is 71 meters tall, and is by far the biggest in the world, which makes it very very famous and very frequently photographed, yet I did not recognize the name "Litang." There is a very good reason for this. This mountain of a Buddha, according to the official Chinese map, sits in western Sichuan Provence, in a town called "Leshan," but according to the Tibetans who have always lived there, they live in the small town of Litang in Kham Provence, Tibet.

Over the past year, I have seen hundreds of photos of this Buddha, all of them labeled, "Leshan, China."  It was not until I looked specifically for "Litang," that I learned that "Leshan" is actually part of occupied Tibet, and a particularly troublesome part of Tibet, at that. The Tibetan citizens of Litang have put up particularly strong resistance to the Chinese occupation of their land. In 1956, the Chinese People's Liberation Army bombed the Litang Monastery, destroying it, and there was an anti-Chinese riot at the horse racing festival in 2007. It is illegal to possess pictures of the Dalai Lama in Litang, and there is a strong Chinese police and military presence in the town.

Be skeptical of official governmental and/or industrial accounts. Approach all questions from every imaginable direction, and you may find that the object of your inquiry becomes virtually unrecognizable from your new vantage point.