Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Very Buddha Day

We started out the day with a non-Buddha expedition to story time at the Amon Carter Museum for the second week in a row (it's fun to be at the stage of the summer where our planned activities are over, and we can just play!). Afterwards, we went to the Kimbell Museum for their newest exhibit, Butchers, Dragons, Gods, and Skeletons. Sounds really appropriate for children, huh?! But my mom had gone the week before and thought the girls would like at least one of the video installations.

It is a very cool exhibit. Each video installation focuses on an art piece, bringing it to life on the screen. We saw Arhat Taming the Dragon (the link has a snippet of video and photos):
Arhat Taming the Dragon is vertical in format like the scroll that was its inspiration, and projected on a screen inside the same wooden shrine that appears in the film. We first see a diminutive Buddhist monk fishing in a river, which in his fantasy becomes the churning, stylized river in the scroll. He is indeed the artist engaged in painting the work. Returning to reality, he finds a shuttle (a wooden tool for holding yarn in weaving) and takes it with him. It turns out to be a magic shuttle that can move and transform itself. Walking home with his catch, through a world alive with the imagery of Chinese art, the little monk comes upon a pavilion in which a boy is playing with a toy, then the shrine, where he joins a pair of larger monks reciting an evening prayer. We see him finishing work on his painting, dotting in the eyes of a dragon––the moment of giving life. The mischievous shuttle sneaks under the scroll and becomes the dragon, clawing its way out into the real world. While making an offering to the scroll, now installed in the shrine, the little monk goes into a dream that is his own act of transformative magic. Suddenly the whole scene in his painting
comes to life. He is a guardian king and one of his fellow monks is an arhat, a Buddhist saint of great wisdom and supernatural powers. The other monk also appears, holding the boy who was playing with the toy. A great wind rushes through the scene as the arhat strains to will the dragon into his alms bowl, a symbol of triumph over the hostile forces of nature. The wind subsides and calm is restored.

We saw the scroll before watching the video, and the girls were mesmerized to see the characters from the scroll come to life to act out the scene from the scroll. We actually watched it twice, and then had lunch at the museum so we could see it again!

After lunch we poked through the gift shop, always a dangerous exercise! I was showing admirable restraint until we came upon this stuffed Buddha! Who would have expected that such a thing even exists!

The girls were delighted. Zoe has long had an interest in Buddha (probably living next door to a Buddhist temple when we were in Xiamen!), and while reading about him on the Internet (she's discovered Google. Be afraid, be very afraid!), she found that his mother was Queen Maya, so now Maya is also hooked on Buddha.

The Buddha is part of a series of dolls called "Little Thinkers." Too cute! They have Shakespeare and Freud and Jesus and Nietzsche and Van Gogh and Socrates and too many others to name. I love the idea, and couldn't resist the girls' entreaties to buy it. And I love that on the tag, the contact address is the Unemployed Philosophers Guild!

I highly recommend the Kimbell exhibit if you live in the Fort Worth area -- it's free, and it's a great way to give a dollop of culture, both Chinese culture and high art!


bukimom said...

Malinda, even as I found myself agreeing with your latest post on being honest with your kids about adoption, I have to say I think we should also be honest with them about religion. Do your kids know what Buddha taught and why you do or do not agree with it? If they're old enough to google, they are old enough to talk about it.

malinda said...

Yes, indeed, Bukimom, we talk a lot about a variety of religions, including how they are like Christianity and how they are different from Christianity. My values don't require me to shelter my children from other religions!

bukimom said...

Malinda, it's hard to tell from your answer where you really stand on the issue of faith, even though you use Christianity as a jumping off point for comparison purposes.

It just seems to me that a lot of people, usually highly educated ones, take the approach today that we should expose our kids to all kidns of belief systems and then ultimately let them choose for themselves. But even as you yourself said in a previous post, we as parents do play an active role in passing on our values to our children. I just think that some of the most important ones would have to do with our faith.

I mean, it's one thing to encourage discussion, and quite another to purchase for your child a stuffed Buddha doll. It just kind of seems like an endorsement.

malinda said...

We're Catholic, and the Catholic Church takes the position that there is truth in all religions, though Christ is the ultimate Truth. The Church is fairly comfortable with Buddhism.

If buying the doll is endorsement, then I don't have a problem with that! There is nothing evil in the teachings of the Buddha, and the fact that he is not Christian doesn't bother me in the least. I would as readily buy the Socrates doll, as his teachings also appeal to me, and he is no more Christian than Buddha.

I also don't have a problem with the attitude that "we should expose our kids to all kidns of belief systems and then ultimately let them choose for themselves." But I also agree with you that we get to put in our two cents! That's one of the reasons my kids go to Catholic school.

But just like with adoption, they will ultimately make up their own minds.

bukimom said...

I did a little googling of my own and found this interesting article on the Catholic church's view of Buddhism. You might want to check it out at

I noticed the article did state that a "ray of truth" could be found in many religions, but the church in no way endorsed the practice of those other religions. Actually, the two cannot both be true since the world views they espouse cannot coexist.

Personally, I see a lot wrong with exposing my kids to all kinds of world views (i.e. religions) for the puspose of letting them choose, as if any choice is a good one, or we can pick and choose what we like from each one. I think exposure to other world views should be for the purpose of contrast with what I believe is the right world view that I want them to believe. If something is basically false but contains "rays of truth," I would rather let them know the real truth, even if they ultimately have to decide for themselves.

malinda said...

Seems we'll have to agree to disagree, Bukimom!

And that link, btw, is to an extremely conservative Catholic publication, not at all mainstream. Just FYI.