Tobi Wilkinson: Mindful Practice - Art Collector

Tobi Wilkinson, The Journey Ahead. Courtesy: the aritst

When the Buddha emerged from the forest fully realised, he wandered the Indian countryside giving talks on enlightenment and this new religion called Buddhism. As more people flocked to hear him, it became increasingly difficult to move about with large numbers in tow. The Indian summer was also the monsoon season which was not only difficult to travel in for his sangha, or spiritual community, but Buddha also worried about the large numbers of people potentially stepping on the insects forced to the surface because of the rains. When one wealthy prince offered him a large parcel of his land to settle on, Buddha decided to build a monastic retreat where the monks could deepen their practices while sheltering from the rains for the duration of the wet season.

This retreat became a fixture on the Buddhist calendar and is a ritual still practiced by the Gyuto Monks some 2,500 years on. Known as their Summer Retreat or Yarney, the monks spend 45 days within the monastery where they undergo intensive learning in all aspects of their spiritual life.

Tobi Wilkinson has spent months immersed in life at the monastery over the course of the last eight years. Each time brings a new experience as she is drawn to the authenticity of the monks' practices.

During the Retreat, the monks spend their time learning over 2000 lines of Buddhist text by heart, the intricate hand movements (or mudras) to accompany their chanting, sculptures known as clay mandalas, playing their musical instruments and of course their harmonic chanting for which they are famous. They are also schooled in the art of debate and logical reasoning as well as studying English and Tibetan. The retreat period is a time when the monastic community deepens not only its understanding of its spiritual path and practices but also their community bonds. They emerge a more coherent body of monks when the retreat comes to an end.

Exhibition opens: Monday 11 April 2016
Exhibition closes: 24 April 2016
Location: Bondi Pavilion Art Gallery, Queen Elizabeth Drive, Bondi Beach NSW 2026
Contact: Tobi Wilkinson

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