Sacred Objects: A Field Trip, with Shugen Sensei and Ikumi Kamanishi

Northeast USA  

May 31, 2014
10:00 amto4:00 pm

met field tripBDZen Center of New York City

Students of Buddhism are familiar with Buddhist altars and their various images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, real and symbolic figures of awakened wisdom and compassion. The images are made of wood, stone, clay, or metal; they are made by hand or cast in a form. Some are created with incredible skill, expressing subtle nuances of strength, kindness, and power. Yet how do these images derive their spiritual power and significance? Does it arise from the artistry and aesthetic of the form, or through the faith and openness of the student? As practitioners, we can develop a live and dynamic “relationship” with such images through our meditation and liturgy, as we make offerings of incense, and in our establishing an image on an altar in our home. Even people who aren’t Buddhist, and may not even be interested in Buddhism, can be drawn to have Buddha statues in their homes and gardens. While Buddhism has a rich history of depicting the Buddha and Bodhisattvas in sculpture, painting, and other art forms, for practitioners, this religious “art” is alive, sacred, and actively used — endowed with a spiritual power and fulfilling various practice-based purposes. At the same time, such images can easily become objects of attachment for practitioners and cause confusion if not understood well.

In this retreat, we’ll gather at the Temple in the morning and explore with Sensei the sacred living presence of Buddha images and the way these images work with our practice. After lunch, we’ll travel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to view various examples from the museum’s extensive collection of Buddhist art. Ikumi Kaminishi, with her depth of knowledge, experience, and good humor, will help us better understand the history and aesthetic of the images we see. Throughout the day, we will explore questions related to our understanding of Buddhist images. Why are images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas central to the liturgy and practice of Zen? How do we relate to a Buddha image? How have such images supported the spread of Buddhism? What brings an image to life? What are sacred objects and what is their role in practice? Is it valid for museums to display religious images?

We’ll better appreciate how these images can guide and inspire our own subtle inner yearnings of the spiritual path, and help us gain confidence and understanding in the ancient teaching that “this body and mind is the body and mind of the Buddha.”

About the Instructors: Shugen Sensei received dharma transmission from Daido Roshi in 1997. He is Head of the MRO and abbot of Zen Center of New York City. Shugen Sensei also manages the National Buddhist Prison Sangha. He has been in full-time residential training since 1986. His teachings have appeared in various Buddhist journals and in The Best Buddhist Writing 2009. His first book, a collection of memorial poems titled O, Beautiful End, was published in 2012. Ikumi Kaminishi received her PhD in Asian Art History from the University of Chicago in 1996, and has taught Asian, Japanese, and Buddhist art history at Tufts University since 1995.

Cost: $75 (MRO Students: $65)

For more information, or to register:
Sacred Objects: A Field Trip, with Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Sensei, and Ikumi Kamanishi
Zen Center of New York City
500 State Street
Brooklyn, NY 11217
(718) 875-8229 •