Sunday, May 21, 2006

Genesis of Buddha Abides

Seven or so years ago I was meditating at a Tibetan Buddhist Retreat. During that weekend I had three inspirations, first, to create a dance-theater production telling the life of Buddha up to his enlightenment. After a year of exploring, writing, creating and choreographing with seven performers, the show manifested in 1999 and 2000 as Shakyamuni: The Life of Buddha at Center Stage Theater in Santa Barbara, California.

The second idea was to create a Buddhism course for children. This has manifested in an unexpected way. For years now I have been presenting an Exploration of Japanese Tea Ceremony to children both at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and at various public schools throughout the city. Originally developed by the 16th century Zen Buddhist monk, Sen Rikyu, the practice cultivates harmony and respect between people, purity of motivation, and tranquility of mind and heart.

The third impression was to produce an art show depicting Buddhist themes. It would be similar to Westmont College’s angel show, Un Ange Passe, which took place every Christmas for seven years. As at Westmont, all the art submitted would be by contemporary local artists. This show would be in the spring, as that is when Buddha’s birthday is celebrated. The name, Buddha Abides, came from playing off Westmont’s title and of course, Jeff Bridges, in the movie The Big Lebowski where he imperiously uttered that memorable phrase, “Hey man, the dude abides…”

My mother taught me the art of schmoozing. One night at a dinner party in the late nineties, I met Greg Fitch, owner of The Frameworks Gallery. Upon telling him my idea to do a Buddhist art show, he agreed to be the host.

On the day the show opened, Greg went into Hospice, as he was dying of AIDS. The day after the show closed, he died. I will always remember him as the one, who with generosity and delight agreed to open the way for Buddha Abides: A Contemporary Art Exhibition.

Lark Batteau Bailey
May 21, 2006