|THE RIVERSIDE MUSEUM COLLECTION OF TIBETAN ART
For Vajrasattva, Teacher of Teachers
Turn; (turn; inside out).
DRUP-PAR GYUR-CHIK (Let it be performed.)
Reaction to this art is immediate. Great whirlpools of air stir in a room with these objects and inevitably begin to draw people in. This will happen with or without a previous knowledge of what this art is or where it came from. It places the works immediately into an area of operating objects. As such, these things are an experience to be entered. They reach out to touch the visitor with familiarity, for they are very personal in their structures, echoing a relationship with our human systems.
Tibetan art should be used. Its aesthetic factors are only a part of its make-up, although important and operative. They function for definite reasons far removed from anything that is inaccessible to understanding. Each object has a definite application and is no more mystical than a drill press or a grinding wheel. Being genuine, they are a source of power and as tools of power these paintings are unique. They are yantras (mental machines) that operate on the matter of consciousness and its flow. They work as transformers of energies through us. This will allow in many instances any person to gain an advantage, whether they are Buddhists or not. They are primarily elements for the manipulations of reality.
As visual arts they are strange, for they operate in a field of sound. The place of this sound is "in" the mind, where it is always bouncing. There, heard and unheard, is a constant talking turmoil which man seldom governs: those waking dreams known as thoughts. These subtle paintings operate on a reflector basis. They plug into a nervous system and allow their organized circuits to operate, giving a sequential control over the following thoughts. Specific reactions arrive in the observer. It is not an art of circumstances which demands a mood, a time, or a proper environment. It creates all of these, destroying previous conditions of looking, hinging only on the presence of a person. If he looks, he is absorbed.
One basic idea of Tibetan art refers to an entity whose main tone of mind is bliss. Seeing something as it really is will bring delight and overcome all theories of sorrow. So whatever is seen -- come to it calmly with a feeling of comfort and pleasure. It should come as easily as exhaling and inhaling. Allowing the art a chance, it will do this work. It is as easy as one, two, three! (Gzug, zung, rtse!) Body, pair, summit!
The starting point of all these words must be the Tibetan collection of the Riverside Museum of Art.* Originally it was gathered from the monasteries of Tibet by an expedition sent in 1926-27 by the Master Institute of United Arts. All of this was made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Louis Horch. Its material presence speaks to people as a fact and its aesthetic presence makes them act in a relationship that begins and grows stronger. When one sees this collection, many things happen. He believes it without explanation. He wrestles with it and its reasons. The results thunder down about his head.
The best thing to do is to leave all aggregates of knowledge outside while this art is pursued inside. Those elements are no help in the penetration necessary here. For instance, without the environmental mis-education of a puritan tradition, the seemingly sexual paintings will be better understood. Without a pre-fixed idea, everything known as the world is revealed cracking open -- into a thousand fragments, into dark suns penetrating immeasurable thunderclouds. These are pierced by the substance of a million falling bolts of lightning. The notion of the world (massive tons of rock) becomes suspended in mid-air to be scorched by the sun. It will vanish in the blink of the eye of the mind. And yet É it is as if all were under an overhanging ledge of silence, constantly shaking from an unheard -- but felt -- avalanche, somewhere approaching.
This is where this art takes us.
*This fine collection has recently been acquired by Tibet House from Brandeis University, which had been storing the Riverside collection since the early 70s.