May - dharma arts round-up
Here’s some Dharma/Art things that I’ve been enjoying recently
Do leave a comment and let me know what gems you’ve found recently. Or join the red ladder studio facebook community and share them there.
Some of the dancers attending the retreat above told me that what we were doing reminded them of how the choreographer Deborah Hay works, so I’ve been checking her out. She’s doesn’t call herself a Buddhist though she's written a book called, ‘My body, the Buddhist’, great title.
Ellen Bromberg, who made this little documentary about her, says – The documentary also presents her unique process of embodied inquiry and her continued engagement in dance as a means of exploring consciousness and of posing unanswerable questions.
It seems like she is doing what Buddhists might call ‘direct pointing’ or ‘an insight inquiry’, where you are asked questions that have no ‘answer’ but that point you to look in a particular way and in a particular place.
Check out the documentary Deborah Hay, not as Deborah Hay
In the Buddhist tradition there is a book called the Bardo Thodol, or The Tibetan Book of the Dead. The idea is that you read passages from this book to the person that has died to help them to navigate the bardo (the state between one life and the next).
To paraphrase wildly, it says things like – ‘YOU ARE DEAD! You see two lights, go to the far light…’ and so on.
I have quite a strong fear that I might die suddenly and not realise that I am dead, so much so that I keep meaning to write a little card, to keep with my organ donation card, saying –
‘I practice Buddhism. If I have died and you have my body I would really appreciate it if you could tell me that I am dead. Please speak loudly and reassuringly. Please repeat a number of times over the coming hours.’
As you can tell, I’ve given the bardo some thought! So I loved reading George Saunders Lincoln in the Bardo.
If you’ve read his short stories then you'll know that even the ones about everyday life are quite strange, now his subject is ‘the bardo’. To begin with the book is just fascinating, as you try to orientate yourself in these different worlds (probably as it would be if you were in the bardo!). But then, in the end, it’s incredibly moving. It's all about life and death, love and letting go, oh and a lot about karma.
I don’t want to give anything away, in fact just buy the book, don’t even read the review!
And if you, too, are a little scared of the bardo, don’t read American Pergatorio by John Haskell although if you're feeling brave it's utterly brilliant.
I finally got round to watching ‘Jim and Andy’ a documentary about the making of ‘Man on the Moon’ where Jim Carrey is playing the comedian Andy Kaufman.
What’s fascinating is that he enters so fully into being Andy Kaufman that he is Andy. He experiences this as a relief, the relief of no longer being himself. One headline explains ‘Jim Carrey was Driven Psychotic by Playing Andy Kaufman’, but that’s not how he describes his experience.
In this little interview called ‘What it all Means’ he says he realised,
‘Well if it is so easy to lose Jim Carrey, then who the hell is Jim Carrey?’ He says, ‘I’m finding that ultimately the freedom from it is something people are longing for, they’re like, I don’t want to be me either, and I go, great, because you never have been.'
A year before losing himself in Andy Kaufman he was of course Truman, of ‘The Truman Show', where, unbeknown to him, his whole life was a reality show, unreal. If you remember, every now and again there was a ‘glitch in the matrix’, a hint that something wasn’t quite right.
Lastly, I’m really happy to see that Sahaja has started a little YouTube channel talking about his art. He calls his paintings Graffiti Buddhism. Here he is talking about Vajrasattva, a figure from the Buddhist pantheon, but perhaps in a way you’ve never heard him described before! - Vajrasattva in Yab-yum form.
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Hope the sun is shining for you, inside and out,
warm wishes Rachel aka Vajradarshini