A message of peaceful living

A message of peaceful living

Sporting a heavy beard, a big nose, knitted brow and suspicious eyes are the peculiar features of Buddhist monk Bodhidharma that catch one’s attention at the ‘1 L0tus 8’ (read as 108 or 1 Lotus 8) exhibition on display at the National Museum. Depicting the major influence of India’s Buddhist way of life on the Zen/Seon/Chan philosophy of Korea are the 44 artworks of different Korean artists and 32 works by a Japanese artist. Focussing on “emptiness and the deeper meaning of life” or the Seon philosophy,  the paintings, drawings, calligraphy works and sculptures depict the “historical ties that India and Korea” share with respect to Buddhist philosophy.

Assistant curator, Jagadeesh Reddy mentions, “The Bodhidharma, which is shortened to just Dharma in Korea, was the legendary founder of the Seon/Zen/Chan tradition of meditative Buddhism. And while the Bodhidharma wasn’t Korean, he had a heavy and wide-sweeping influence on Korean Buddhism, especially Seon Buddhism. He first travelled to China, from southern India, in the early sixth century. He came to China to help enlighten people through meditation.

Started alongside the recently held two day international conference on ‘Acharya Bodhidharma and Efflorescence of Zen Culture in East Asia’ organised by Buddhist Cultural Foundation (Korea and India), the exhibition depicts various aspects of monkhood practice based on Bodhidharma’s life. They have also displayed a copy of the first printable travelogue written by Buddhist monk Hyecho who travelled from Korea to India in the years 723-728 CE.

“It is a prominent piece of collection because  it is the first known overseas travelogue written by a Korean and contains information about the political, cultural and economic customs of India and central Asia at that time,” elucidates Reddy. 

On the unique title of the exhibit, Reddy mentions, “It is taken from the Zen philosophical proverb which states that ‘may we exist in muddy water with purity, like a lotus’, indicating lotus to be a symbol of purity of mind, speech and body. Also, 108 is considered to be an auspicious number in Buddhist texts.”

The artworks also depict how Bodhidharma used to meditate, silently preach and live in the wilderness. “There is a specific pose of a person where the head has been erased. This work by renowned Korean artist Kim Ho Suk symbolises the power of meditation and a mind which is without thought and is at peace,” Reddy tells Metrolife. 

Ambassador of Republic of Korea, Cho Hyun says, “The main aim of the show is to emphasise on the bilateral cultural ties between the two countries while also highlighting the necessity to promote the message of peace and peaceful living.”