In the following article, Curator of the Rubin Museum of Art (RMA), Martin Brauen, discusses how the museum has become a “magnet for seekers of all sorts” by raising, through its exhibitions, questions about “the place of worldly matters in the spiritual life, the notion of mindfulness, or the cultivation of inner peace”. The popularity of this New York City museum in its first five years is demonstrative of how such questions are migrating from the borders of Western culture(s) and finding new places for themselves within the mainstream. Moreover, it is indicative of the fact that Western audiences (and indeed audiences from a variety of cultures) are coming to be deeply interested in the actual lived experiences of those they perceive as ‘other’.

In order to begin to understand another’s experience, the understanding of reality through which a person interprets and constructs their experience must also be approached. This is one of the reasons that Monks Without Borders is committed to creating and developing a dedicated Museum of World Religions in America, a permanent space in which visitors can come and learn about the lives, the cultures and the deeply held ideals and beliefs of billions of people throughout history. In addition to learning how different cultures have come to represent the universe and their own place within it in both a philosophical and spiritual sense, visitors to the Museum of World Religions will be invited to participate in important religious rituals such as Buddhist meditation, Sufi whirling or Hindu chanting. The popularity of the direction taken by the Rubin Museum of Art indicates that there are audiences hungry for the kind of expansion of intellectual and experiential horizons that occurs when contact is made with other cultures’ religious and spiritual ideas and practices. Further information about this important MWB initiative can be found at http://www.museumofworldreligions.com 

In the meantime, locals or visitors to the New York City area should not miss the opportunity to attend part of the “Cosmologies Series” currently on offer at the Rubin Museum of Art (see article below)

 

Buddhism, Spirituality, Mindfulness: NYC’s Rubin Museum

 

This article by Martin Brauen, Curator of the RMA, appeared in the Huffington Post on 29 July 2009. See: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/martin-brauen/buddhism-spirituality-min_b_247079.html

 

The Rubin Museum of Art is in an interesting position. As stewards of one of the world’s finest collections of Tibetan art, we’re devoted to subject matter than might appear esoteric compared to the preoccupations of mainstream Americans.

But because we interpret works of art that manifest the Buddhist faith, we engage an extraordinarily broad range of concerns. At any one time, through our programs, exhibitions, or publications RMA raises questions about the place of worldly matters in the spiritual life, the notion of mindfulness, or the cultivation of inner peace.

Perhaps it is this urgent connection to real life that has made the Rubin Museum of Art something of a magnet for seekers of all sorts. The museum is only five years old, yet we’re where New Yorkers come to hear the world-renowned Tibetan Buddhist teacher Sogyal Rinpoche discuss his latest book or the Bhutanese journalist Siok Sian Pek-Dorji his latest film. At the same time our friends know that we’re the place to hear Tom Wolfe discuss the nature of language or Paul Simon perform solo. Singles sip cocktails at our K2 Lounge, yoga practitioners gather at lunch, and once a year New York kids get to climb Mt. Everest (in actuality, the museum’s dramatic, central spiral staircase, designed by Andrée Putman for the former location of Barneys department store.)

Our next exhibition, opening Friday, August 14, is an example of how a seemingly esoteric subject in Himalayan Buddhism can open up wide vistas to secular New Yorkers. Mandala: The Perfect Circle surveys the history and meaning of the mandala, Himalayan Buddhism’s artistic representation of man and the universe. It will take visitors from the 8th to the 21st century, displaying some of the oldest known mandalas in the world, large paintings found in the Dunhuang caves in northwestern China, alongside virtual, computer-generated varieties created by designers at Cornell University and Zurich University.

Mandala: The Perfect Circle is in fact the first of four exhibitions in a series exploring how different cultures have visually represented the universe, from the solar system to the self. In September, we will open a major exhibition of Jain art through which Jain practitioners have created a complex version of the cosmos in the shape of a man. The third exhibition in The Cosmologies Series, opening in early October, promises to be something of an event, bringing into public view for the very first time a cultural touchstone–Carl Jung’s famous Red Book, the notebook in which he developed his principal theories of archetypes, the collective unconscious, and the process of individuation over the course of 16 years. And in December we unroll Visions of the Cosmos: From Milky Ocean to Black Hole, an exhibition for which I’ve arranged a series of loans, from a leaf from a medieval manuscript depicting man at the center of the universe to photographs of the galaxies taken from the Hubble telescope.

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