A Radical Realist View of Tibetan Buddhism at the Rubin — New York Review of Books

Read more at The New York Review of Books

Faith and Empire: Art and Politics in Tibetan Buddhism, Rubin Museum of Art, New York — until July 15, 2019

— by Ian Johnson: One of the hallmarks of the past few decades has been the rise of religious-based nationalism in, for example, India, the United States, and the Middle East. And it has become routine in discussing these areas to make a link between politics and religion—be it Hinduism, Christianity, or Islam.

Buddhism, though, continues to flummox us. People are often shocked that it could be central to the violence of Sri Lanka or Myanmar, or the more than a hundred self-immolations that took place in Tibet in the early 2010s—self-inflicted acts of political violence that confounded both the Chinese government and many onlookers in the West. For many, Buddhism is “a religion of peace” and its adaptation for political purposes, even to inspire violence, feels flat-out wrong.

That makes the current exhibition at the Rubin Museum of Art, “Faith and Empire: Art and Politics in Tibetan Buddhism,” an especially welcome landmark, the first in-depth exploration of the topic. Tightly organized around some sixty items, the show is accompanied by a catalog of photos and essays by some of the leading scholars in the relatively new field of Tibetan studies…

Photo by Thierry Ollivier/RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource, NYKingdom of Shambhala and the Final Battle, Mongolia, nineteenth century

July 13, 2019

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