Monday, March 26, 2007

Where to now?

Now that the time for returning to Japan is near, some of you who have been reading this blog have asked - what have you learned from this two month visit to Nepal and the study of thangka?

Obviously, if you've been following the blog, you've seen that I've learned a few rudimentary drawing and painting skills, and in regard to these I have done better than I expected. Sitting daily for two three-hour sessions, I had a chance to let my mind settle and to practice patience and concentration. These qualities were also developed partly through daily mediation, a rediscovered practiced that blossomed alongside a reawakened interest in Buddhism.

So where does all this lead?

Practically speaking I've learned that it may take 2-3 years of regular practice to become a decent painter, after which I can spend the rest of my life refining my skills and learning more about the philosophy behind the iconography.

While it seems unlikely I'll ever make much money as a thangka painter, there are other rewards, including those that I've already mentioned - slowing down the mind, developing concentration and patience, and a deeper understanding of Buddhist philosophy and meditation practice. There is also the very real possibility of developing a whole new network of relationships with artists, many of whom work many years within the Buddhist community painting thangkas, statues, temples, and other artefacts associated with practice of Buddhism.

For the moment I think those are worthy aspirations. I'd like to continue to develop my art skills, but the question then becomes how to do that.

Ceiling painting from Pullahari Monastery

Among the ideas I've been mulling over is to take a leave of absence for the fall semester and return here to study for the period from Sept/Oct through to this time next year, March 2008. That would allow me to complete the core 1st year program at Shechen and establish a very solid base, after which time I could reevaluate my development and interest in continuing.

Another is to enter the arts program at Naropa, the only accredited Buddhist university in North America. Here I could study thangka and earn a certificate or another bachelor's. It appears, though, that the cost may be prohibitive.

Still another is to bring a teacher to me, rather than me running across the world to the teacher. If I can find a few people in the Fukuoka area interested in studying thangka, it may be possible to sponsor an artist to come and live in Japan.

It goes without saying that any decision will be made in consultation with Mutsumi, whom I've missed a great deal while I've been away. I think she's missed me, too, but I'll let her be the one to tell you that. It seems she's been quite busy with her own projects and has acquired some new confidence and interest in pursuing some of her own interests, which I'm hoping to learn more about on my return.

I feel now like the future holds great possibility for new directions for both Mutsumi and I. I'm looking forward to exploring those with her and, where appropriate, sharing them with you.

You might also be interested to know that in addition to all this, I've lost as well as gained - 3 kilos and 2 notches on my belt.



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