Tibetan Buddhist Meditational Art of Buryatia

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Independent Study ProjectTitle: An aesthetic journey into the Tibetan Buddhist Meditational Art of BuryatiaBy Carmen Cochior - Plescanu BA Religious Studies and Tibetan Department of Languages and Cultures of China and Inner Asia, 221618 Word count: 10.000Under the Direction of Dr. Nathan W. HillTable of contentsAbstract I. Introduction1.1 Buryatia - the birth of an ethnos , the atmosphere of the art of the steppeII. The introduction of Tibetan Buddhist art to Buryatia2.1 Buryatia

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Independent Study Project

Title: An aesthetic journey into the Tibetan Buddhist Meditational Art of Buryatia

By Carmen Cochior - Plescanu BA Religious Studies and Tibetan Department of Languages and Cultures of China and Inner Asia, 221618 Word count: 10.000

Under the Direction of Dr. Nathan W. Hill

Table of contents

Abstract I. Introduction1.1 Buryatia - the birth of an ethnos , the atmosphere of the art of the steppe

II. The introduction of Tibetan Buddhist art to Buryatia2.1 Buryatia - the vision of Buddhist Art

2.2Account of schools and stylistic interpretation III. The accomplishment of Tibetan aesthetic grammar in the Buryat cultural milieu 1718th centuries IV. Decomposition and regeneration of Buddhist Art and its revival throughout the 19th century 4.1 The survival of Buddhist Art during the Russian Protectorate V. The Great Revival - the reaffirmation of Buddhist aesthetics in Buryatia 19th to 20 th century VI. Afterword and acknowledgements 6.1 Tibetan-styled thangkas, tsakli, illuminations and dedications from the Matvei Nikolaevich Khangalov History Museum of Buryatia List of Figures i iiiii

iv vvi vii viii

ixx

The Tree of Diagnosis, Atlas of Tibetan Medicine, History Museum of Buryatia Kalakuta or Halahaha, poison incarnate, Atlas of Tibetan Medicine, History Museum of Buryatia The Palace of the Healing Buddha, detail, Museum of Buryatia. The Tree of Diagnosis, detail, Atlas of Tibetan Medicine, History Museum of Buryatia Ritual Preparation of Rejuvenation Elixirs, Atlas of Tibetan Medicine, of Buryatia A set of four tsakli depicting Garuda, Gubilha, Kurukulla and Vajravarahi, Buryatia, 19th century Guandi - Geser, Painting on cotton, Buryatia, late 18th century Lhamo - Painting on cotton 18-19th century Vaishravana also known as Vaishravana and the Eight Horsemen Painting on cotton, Buryatia, 18th century kyamuni Buddha - Painting on cotton, late 18th - early 19th century

VII. Bibliography2

Abstract

The influence of Tibetan Buddhist aesthetics upon the Buryat artistry consists of an extraordinary array of remarkable sculptures in stone, wood and terracotta, cast bronzes with inlaid stones, gilding and pigment and the beautifully detailed religious, ritualistic paintings - maalas (Tibetan: ; Wylie: dkyil 'khor) and images of gods and goddesses, bodhisattvas, spiritual masters, lamas and other prominent spiritual figures, cosmograms along with representations of various eschatological myths. The organization of the aesthetic adventure into the Tibetan artistic influence in Buryatia is envisioned, at the risk of being simplistic, following the exhibition narrative: the material has been divided in two broad historical and cultural zones with emphasis on the distinct aesthetic cohesiveness, whereas Tibetan influence should be of particular interest. Our knowledge of historicity of Buryat Buddhism is primarily based on very few comprehensive books and articles that provide data for the monastic chronology and for the special artistic motifs which distinguish within the tradition. The growing recognition of the importance of Tibetan patronage in Buryatia is shown in Buyandalai Doorambas chorography bearing the title Buriyad yajar-un burqan-u

sasin ker delgeregsen kiged sasin bariyici kedun blam-a-nar-un cadig tobci tedui ogulegsen selte orosiba,1 (Lubos Belka, 2008) which is a valuable source of basic knowledge on Buryat Buddhism including detailed explanations on the context Tibetan monastic art has taken shape in Buryatia. Noteworthy is the aspect of tentative ideas dealing with the chorography of the artistic movements, in the lack of any official empirical case studies in situ or veritable inventory of Tibetan Buddhism in Buryatia.1

Translated as How the Teaching of Buddha spread in the Buryat land, together with a brief account of some of the lamas who upheld the teaching; the Romanized text in written Mongolian was published by Professor Rincen in 1959, Origin and Spread of Buddhism in Buryatia - A text of Buyandalai Dooramba, Zsuzsa Majer and Krisztina Teleki, Eotvos Lorand University, Department of Inner Asian Studies, Published in Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum, Hung. Volume 61 (4), p. 447-497, 2008 3

Since the history of Buryat Buddhism has been given insufficient attention specifically and paradoxically equally by the representatives of the Western and Buryat Buddhological schools2, the disparate resources will however attempt an unprejudiced reconstruction of the diachronic evolve of Buddhist art within the Buryat mosaic of cultures. In emphasizing the distinctive features and styles of the works created most likely to fulfil the spiritual requirements of the Buddhist religion with an unerring sense of beauty, there will be presented an assemblage of few emblematic masterpieces, namely from Ukhtomskys collection at State Hermitage Museum St. Petersburg, Zanabazar Fine Arts Museum, Choijin Lama Temple Museum, Buryat Historical Museum, Bogd Khaan Palace Museum in Ulaanbaatar. The purpose of their visual exploration accompanied by their dedicatory inscriptions is to enhance and bring more insight into the contextual and spiritual significance of Tibetan art within the great monastic establishments of the Buryat culture. While the subject matter of the Buryat Buddhist artwork is primarily represented by the classical personalities of the Buddhist pantheon, the essay will additionally provide commentaries which

correspond with the ability of the Buryat artist to manipulate those features that are unique to the nature of the particular Tibetan Buddhist medium and to integrate them in the ethnic-cultural patterns.

I. Introduction2

The most significant papers of the Buryat Buddhological school are: K.M. Gerasimova, Lamaism natsional no-kolonial naia politika tsarizma v Zabaikal e v XIX i nachale XX vekov (Ulan-Ude, 1957); idem Obnovlencheskoe dvizhenie buriatskogo lamaistskogo dukhovenstva (1917-1930) (Ulan Ude, 1964); Lamaizm v Buriatii XVIII- nachala XX vv. Struktura I sotsial naia rol kul tovoi sistemy (Novosibirsk, 1983); L.L. Abaeva, Kult gor i buddizm v Buriatii (evoliutsiia verovanii i kultov selenginskikh buriat, Moscow, 1992); Buddizm i traditsionnye verovaniia narodov Tsentral noi Azii (Novosibirsk, 1981); Buddizm i srednevekovaia kul tura narodov Tsentral noi Azii (Novosibirsk, 1980), Buddhism I kulturno-psikhologicheskie traditsii narodov Vostoka (Novosibirsk, 1990); Buddizm i literaturno-khudozhestvennoe tvorchestvo narodov Tsentral noi Azii (Novosibirsk, 1985), Psikhologicheskie aspekty buddizma (Novosibirska, 1991), Filosofskie voprosy buddizma (Novosibirsk, 1984), N.L. Zhukovskaia, The Revival of Buddhism in Buryatia, English translation from the Russian text by M.E. Sharpe, Anthropology and Archaeology of Eurasia, vol. 39, no.4, Spring 2000-01, p. 24 4

Four thousand years ago a remarkable culture, that of the pastoral nomads, emerged in the Eurasian steppes north of the Great Wall of China, in the vast expanse of grasslands that stretches from Siberia into Central Europe. By the first millennium B.C., material prosperity among the nomads had brought about a flowering of creativity and the evolution of a new artistic vocabulary. The pastoral peoples left no written record but the legacy of their art that remained extant provide a key to understanding their culture and beliefs. Beautifully crafted, highly sophisticated and abstract in design, primarily embellished with animal motifs, these objects are the visual representation of the natural and supernatural worlds that guided their lives. The figures that populate the extant artefacts epitomize the animal style that would remain a significant source of inspiration in the decorative arts of the Eurasian continent for years to come. This overview chronicles the legacy of the Buryat primitive art, traditionally relegated to the periphery of art history, in order to prepare the aesthetic interaction between the Eastern part of Eurasian steppes, Buryatia and Tibetan civilization.

1.1. Buryatia - the birth of an ethnos, the atmosphere of the art of the steppe

For the ancient Buryats, the birth of life and art has its origin in the natural and life cycles, considered to be the matrix of conceptualization. Buryat people believe that human being is connected with mother-nature by their navel and worshipping its five elements, the softness of wood, the earths expanse, irons strength, fires heat and5

waters purity was the supreme reflection of the knot of vitality in which life, birth and death are considered to be a natural phenomenon. According to ethnographic studies on the Buryat culture3, the soul4 before taking refuge in the mothers womb, resides in trees, in animals, therefore becoming totems, in stars, in the Sun and the Moon, respected as life-givers.5 The tree revered and worshiped as the souldepositary in the Buryat tradition, is the obligatory element in the material and aesthetic setting of the life-cycle rituals, the wedding ceremonies, funeral rites and most importantly accompanies the conception and birth, acting as a medium for the embryonic life-force to arise.6 The Buryats sacred gnosis pertains to so such a distant historical reference that we must probably interpret these archaic traditional culture claims as example of the mythological thinking. A human of mythological

consciousness, asserts V. V. Fetiskin, doesnt strive for objective knowledge, but his main tendency is the subjectivism which gives rise to anthropomorphism, according to which everything in the world is assimilated to him, is considered in his own image and likeness.7 Therefore, within the Buryat primitive conceptualization of life-forces, humans psychophysical forces are envisioned as the propensity of the natural forces. The idea of the natures sacral substance that nourishes the human beings (Mong.

3

S. Zhimbeeva, The concept of vitality and its interrelations with nature in Buryat traditional culture, . , . , Russian Federation, 2008, translation in English provided by the author, p.4-6 4 Noteworthy is the ontological concept of the soul among Mongolian peoples. What is customarily translated as soul by the Western scholars, in both Mongolian and Buryat languages sulde represents the protective spirit embodied in the standard which has been worshipped since immemorial times. The assimilation of the concept of sulde(r) (indwelling spirit; in Written Mongolian and in the modern Mongolian languages and dialects, the form of the word is without final r) to that of the individual 'soul' (Mong. siir, siinesun, siir siinesun) is a much later development, see Igor de Rachewiltz ,The secret history of the Mongols: a Mongolian epic chronicle of the thirteenth century, Volume 1, Brill, 2004, p.330 5 S. Zhimbeeva, The concept of vitality and its interrelations with nature in Buryat traditional culture, . , . , Russian Federation, 2008, translation in English provided by the author, p.8 6 Gerasimova K. M. Concept of human vitality in Tibetan texts on medical magic, Culture of Central Asia: written sources. Issue 2. Ulan-Ude 1998, p. 11 7 S. Zhimbeeva, The concept of vitality and its interrelations with nature in Buryat traditional culture, . , . , Russian Federation, 2008, translation in English provided by the author, p.9 6

sulde)8 is interestingly paralleled to the Tibetan embryology by Scrynnikova to Dandar Dashievs commentary on the Atlas of Indo-Tibetan Medicine. According to the author, the first organ to emerge within the embryo, the vital vessel (Tib. srog-rtsa), has its origin in the nature and particularly in the sacral substance of the solar nature.9 The mystical scenario in the paintings and carvings pertaining to Palaeolithic proto-Buryat time echoes the archetypal imagery of paramount importance in the quest of gaining a deep understanding of Buryat primitive culture. Named Bo Murgel or Bo shazan 10, the Buryat shamanic spiritual system was defined around its distinctive cults of Huhe Munhe Tengeri (Eternal Blue Sky) and Tengeriin (Sky Dwelling Gods), whose energy dimension was appeased, attracted, controlled and harmonized into the human disposition, through the male Bo or the female Utgan shamans. Essentially solitary, the primeval shaman developed empathy towards a highly abstract and symbolic imagination and towards sublimities which he communicated through powerful pictographic zoomorphic and anthropomorphic metaphors. Having attained those impressions of a mythical reality through a visionary entasis resembling to a numinous experience, the shaman artist becomes, paralleling the Hindu etymology, a manifestation of prakti, the primordial matter and the nature itself.11 The shaman attempted to do this by constructing the imago naturae, the archetypal image, in the most archaic form of aesthetic expressions, such as the totemic petrogliphyc art, the circular gold plated burial mounds (Mong. kurgany) or the standing stone idols (Mong. kameny baba). Skkrynniakova in her savant work On sacral and vital by Mongolian

8

In old Mongolian astrological books the term sulde sometimes is used to translate the Tibetan rlung-rta, usually interpreted as kei morin, wind horse. 9 Gerasimova K. M. Concept of human vitality in Tibetan texts on medical magic, Culture of Central Asia: written sources. Issue 2. Ulan-Ude 1998, p.7-8 10 There is no real semantic difference between murgel and shazhan and their use is similar to Tib. bon and Tib. Chos. Murgel remained closely tied with Bo religion while shazan is nowadays used to designate the Buryatian adaptation of Tibetan Buddhism, see Dmitry Ermakov, Bo and Bon, Ancient shamanic traditions of Siberia and Tibet in their relation to the teachings of a Central Asian Buddha, Vajra Publications, Kathmandu, Nepal, 2010, p.31 11 Michael Ripinsky-Naxon, The nature of shamanism: substance and function of religious metaphor, State University of New York Press, 1993 7

people12 emphasized that petroglyphs all over Buryatia are marked by an antenna on the vertex in the form of a pictogram which denotes the absolute life potency concealed in the subtle spiritual substance of the soul.13

Representations of nomadic art forms denominated as the Central Asia Animal Style reveal connotations to the elementary basis of the body and spirit as they stylistically narrate the interrelations of the inner and the outer, Cosmic and Mundane. The petroglyphic imagery of the sheep and bull speak of the birth, life and death within the Buryat culture. Putting their bones in the burial place was connected with the worshipping of the sacral substance and with the ritual of granting the future return of the soul: The sheeps bone, being a repository of the soul acts as a phallic symbol and expresses the relation with the solar light, while the bulls14

cannon-bone was

used during the ritual of activating the force of the fore-fathers, embo...

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