Exquisite Buddhist scroll won’t see light of day

A gold leaf and deer musk scroll created by an artist designated as a Korean “National Treasure” was recently sealed inside a statue of the Buddha during a special private ceremony at Claremont Lincoln University (CLU), a new, inter-religious graduate school.

While the scroll will never again see the light of day, the public is invited to see the statue, which was donated to CLU by the publisher of US Modern Buddhism Magazine, Hyung Keun Kim, to honor the university’s new model for the desegregation of religious higher education. The community is especially encouraged to visit CLU and the Buddha statue tomorrow, Sunday, May 6, during the university’s “Buddha Jayanti 2012” celebration, an event honoring the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha.

The Buddha Jayanti event will include numerous festivities, all free-of-charge, including a short film about Buddha, a presentation about his life and birthplace in Nepal, special Bhajans (devotional songs), cultural dances and other performances, prayers, an exhibit of Buddhist artifacts, ritual objects and books and a vegetarian dinner (also no cost).

It was in November 2011 that the Buddhist statue was donated to CLU by Mr. Hyung Keun Kim, an occasion that included a special ceremony hosted by the Korea Project of the Center for Process Studies. Following its donation, Mr. Kim then commissioned Kyeong Ho Kim of Seoul to create an intricate Buddhist scroll to be placed—and sealed—in the statue. The artist is an authorized scriber of Buddhist sacred writ and has been officially designated as a Korean national treasure for his brilliant artistry. The statue is the first piece of art that he has given to an American institution. 

On April 6, 2012, another ceremony was held, this time a small, private gathering for the scroll’s insertion into the statue, an act performed by the artist himself who came from Seoul for the momentous occasion.

The scroll text, which begins “Most Merciful Bodhisattva,” was written on a narrow, 4.5-meter rice-paper scroll with a hand-made metal pen holding an ink mixture of gold leaf and dear musk. The work must be performed in a very hot room—95 degrees Fahrenheit—to prevent the ink from drying too rapidly. It took the master scribe 3 months to complete the scroll.

After carefully showing guests the scroll, the artist then re-rolled it, placed it in the base of the statue and sealed it inside with plaster. It is in the spirit of the Buddhist teaching of non-attachment that such an intricate, masterful piece of art that took months of detailed work to create will never again be seen.

Claremont Lincoln University’s affiliation with Buddhism travels down other paths as well, including their recent collaborative agreement with University of the West (UWest), which was founded at Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights in 1991 as Hsi Lai University.  UWest’s campus is now in Rosemead, and its collaboration with CLU means that, beginning this fall, each institution’s graduate students will take courses at either university for academic credit.

“At the heart of Claremont Lincoln’s mission lies the idea of building bridges of understanding for the purposes of improving and repairing our shared society, environment and the world,” said CLU President Jerry Campbell.

“The University of the West is equally excited about the agreement,” said UWest President C.S. Wu. “Our mission is to provide a whole-person education in a context informed by Buddhist values such as compassion, interdependence and liberation from suffering, and to facilitate cultural understanding and appreciation between East and West. We see our relationship with Claremont Lincoln as a unique opportunity to enhance and extend that global and inclusive mission.”

For more information about this partnership, visit www.uwest.edu.

And, for more information about the Buddha Jayanti event taking place tomorrow, May 6, from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Mudd Theater at Claremont Lincoln University, 1325 N. College Ave., contact the Shree Pashupatinath Foundation, USA, which is presenting the event in association with CLU and other organizations: 562-259-7275, www.pashupatinathfoundation.org. The public is welcome.

—Brenda Bolinger




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