AWAKENING THE BUDDHA
Awakening the Buddha is a social practice/teaching artist/museum intervention, to reinvigorate the living Dharma into Buddhas sitting dormant in western museums and missing their intended discourse with Buddhist communities. This intervention also dispels the sense of erasure Buddhists feel when viewing their material culture in aestheticized display, rather than in the temple.
Thus far, this intervention has taken place at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, at its reopening in February 2020, with a standing marble Buddha from Northern Qi to Sui dynasties (550-618). This intervention was conducted with Rev. Katsuya Kusunoki of the Seattle Betsuin Buddhist Temple and its sangha.
Museum visitors made crepe paper flowers, and learned to offer their flowers to the Buddha. Three times over a four-hour period, we held service with the Buddha by chanting sutras with museum visitors and listening to Kusunoki-sensei give brief Dharma talks, explaining our interaction within the framework of the Three Treasures, in which this statue is the visuality of the Buddha’s guidance, the sutras are the written form, and the Sanghas — those chanting and offering flowers to the statue — are showing gratitude for this guidance, not only for this one statue, but to express appreciation to all the statues in the museum.