Tenacity of Buddhism evidenced in ancient, modern exhibitions

by Michael Huebner, The Birmingham News, June 5, 2005

Birmingham, Alabama (USA) -- Battling political oppression and near cultural annihilation, Buddhism has displayed remarkable longevity. Two exhibitions showing in Birmingham affirm the tenacity of this 2,500-year-old religion, one from ancient Sri Lanka and China, the other from modern China.

Next Sunday, "An Exercise in Meditation: Two Bodhisattvas" goes on display at the Birmingham Museum of Art in the form of the Buddha of compassion, Avalokitesvara. Often portrayed in paintings and tapestries as a handsome prince with 1,000 arms, Avalokitesvara is thought to rescue from harm and danger anyone who utters the mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum (Hail to the Jewel in the Lotus flower). Some, however, see Avalokitesvara as female because of the deity's approachability and caring ways.

Two bronze sculptures from the museum's collection show remarkable similarity, despite being eight centuries and thousands of miles removed. Headdresses, seating and leg positions, even facial expressions, are nearly matched in the works. The display runs through Sept. 11. Call 254-2565 for more information.