Nothing too deep here today — I am pretty burnt-out with all my studies on Dogen and my translating the Dhammapada. However, I wanted to make note of an outreach idea that came to me the other day. This city has a lot of graffiti artists, and I got to witness a bunch of them yesterday working on a city-sponsored mural on a wall outside of town. It was pretty cool — they wound up doing a modern tag version of Where the Wild Things Are.
At the same time, my local sangha had been kicking around some ideas on outreach — I cringe at the word a bit since it brings back connotations of Christian evangelism, but I understand that when these Buddhists are using the word they are not even aware of the bad meanings it brings up in some of our Westerner’s heads. Anyway, the point is that I figured that maybe the sangha could hold some kind of event as well centered around graffiti.
The first, and most basic, concept would be to hold a contest and have local artists submit sketches of their proposed graffiti to the sangha. The piece would have to follow a theme — like Buddha or Buddhism, and each would be voted on. The winner would then win some kind of a prize, get his materials paid for, and then paint the mural on the wall. Second and thrid-place winners would get some-kind of prizes as well. If I had it my way though we would turn the painting-day into an event and have food, fliers, music, and maybe even an outside dharma talk, an introduction to meditation, and a meditation time — although all happening in the building and not mandatory for those people who are just there to enjoy the other aspects of the event. It speaks higher of you all not to have anything “religious” mandatory, but there is nothing wrong with letting them know that it is offered — especially for those just curious to know what it is that you do there. People though will always wonder what the “catch” is so I strongly recommend never having one — that speaks volumes.
Another idea though that is similar to this, would be to tie-in modern-day art (such as graffiti, but any art would do) with the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of the Sand Mandala. This is taken from Wikipedia,
The sand mandala is a Tibetan Buddhist tradition involving the creation and destruction of mandalas made from colored sand. A sand mandala is ritualistically destroyed once it has been completed and its accompanying ceremonies and viewing are finished to symbolize the Buddhist doctrinal belief in the transitory nature of material life.
In a perfect world I would have some Monks there making a sand mandala at the same time as some modern-artists were making graffiti, paintings, sculptures…
Then we have a celebration to enjoy the beautiful things and the day; then we have a dharma talk on the transitory nature of life and/or meditation; then we ceremoniously destroy them all. This could be something as simple as painting back over the walls that were just graffitied or something to that effect.
This idea could work well for people who did not have a space where they could perminately display a wall of graffiti, or the idea could be tweaked into different forms of art that were even easier to “let go of” when the event is nearing it’s end.
I suppose the event could also work without the sand mandala, but without the juxtaposition we wold have to take more time explaining how the event is “like” the mandala in our fliers, literature, and in the dharma talk given.
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