For the month of August, the Thursday evening sangha is not meeting at the First Parish Chapel. It’s a chance for us to not oblige the sexton of First Parish to wait for us to pack up at 9 pm. Instead, we met at sangha members’ home for two weeks, with unexpected benefits — one week included an indoor Japanese garden and the other featured a very sweet dog and social cat who meditated with us.
For the other week of August, we did something new and different — we attended a lecture at the Museum of Fine Arts on a particular sculpture of Guanyin, the Chinese Bodhisattva of Compassion. Sangha members are familiar with the Tibetan version of the bodhisattva, Avalokitesvara, who figures prominently in the Heart Sutra. Guanyin shifts and transcends genders, and both names roughly translate as “hearing the cries of the world”.
The talk was given by two of the principal experts involved in the conservation and renewal of the 12th century sculpture, which took two years. Equally fascinating was one of the scholar’s travels through the region of Shanxi from which the figure originated, comparing similar works in small temples. We also learned about the Song dynasty and its aesthetics. More about the impressive conservation effort: http://www.mfa.org/collections/conservation/feature_guanyin
Seeing the wooden sculpture up close was truly amazing. It is a “water moon” form — imagine the ephemeral depiction of the moon reflected in a body of water as a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of all things. After being removed from view in 1999, it is wonderful that this sculpture is back in a public gallery for all to enjoy.
For the final week of August, we’re on vacation, and looking forward to starting fresh in September, back in our Chapel home.