Buddhists believe being in the presence of an image or figure of the Buddha can remind us of our potential for compassion.
The spectacular, 16-foot long, gilded Buddha, reclining before us certainly got our attention at the recent opening for "The Vision and Art of Shinjo Ito” at the Westwood Art Forum near UCLA. Awe inspiring as the 100 sculptures and engravings are, some of us couldn’t help but feel a slight twinge of confusion over how this collection had attracted some fairly heavyweight supporters– Tara Lynda Guber, Meher McArthur and the ever-amiable Elizabeth Callender –who in turn got us here.
But just as mysteriously was how zen we all admittedly felt after managing to zone into one work after another at the rather jam-packed opening party–that counted contemporary arts scene maker Bettina Korek, performance artist-writer Ann Magnuson and KCRW's DnA host Frances Anderton. Following the opening fete, Elizabeth and company entertained a couple hundred of us at the Beverly Hills Hotel, complete with a sushi spread.
A sculptor and photographer, Ito incorporated his art into his religious practice, as well as creating busts and mini statues of friends and family. He gave up his job as an aircraft technician in 1936 and he and his wife, Tomoji Ito, founded the Shinnyo-en order of Buddhism, which now has an estimated 1 million followers worldwide. Meaning “borderless garden of truth,” the Shinnyo-en school is based on the Nirvana Sutra, the final teaching of the Buddha delivered on his deathbed, 2,500 years ago.
The grand, gilded Buddha depicts the "Great Parinirvana” at that moment, and is Shinnyo-en’s central devotional icon.
Ito died in 1989, and this show, which casts his works as art instead of in a religious context, is the last U.S. stop on a world tour that began two years ago in Japan on the centennial of Ito’s birth and drew 300,000 visitors during its 54-day run.
The Westwood program runs through June 29 and includes afternoons of lectures, guided meditation and something called symphonic yoga.
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