Exhibit Information

American Museum of Natural History

Address Central Park West @79th Street
New York, NY 10024

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Phone Number 212-769-5100

Website http://www.amnh.org

BODY & SPIRIT: TIBETAN MEDICAL PAINTINGS

Opening: 25 JANUARY 2011 - Closing: 17 JULY 2011

BODY & SPIRIT: TIBETAN MEDICAL PAINTINGS

 

 

Medicine Buddha
Although the Fourth-Floor Audubon-Gallery of the American Museum of Natural History is a long, narrow chamber, it is just right for showing the 64 Tibetan-Tangkas that illustrate early Medical-Knowledge & Healing-Procedures in Tibet.

 

Tree of Diagnosis
Tibetan-Monks are also busily at work on the Second-Floor, creating a colorful Mandala. If you can get there before they ritually-destroy it, you will witness something remarkable: Religion in Action!

 

Human Embryology
Unlike Western Medical Practice, Tibetan Buddhist-Practitioners have long believed that Energy-Flows in the Human-Body control Wellness or Illness. When Flows are blocked at certain Pressure-Points, various ailments can manifest themselves. Unless the blockages are removed, the illness might prove Fatal.

 

Anatomy
Anticipating Mary Baker Eddy & Christian-Science by centuries, Buddhist-Healers have also understood that one’s State-of-Mind can manifest itself on the Body. We make ourselves Sick. We could, if we knew how, make ourselves well.

 

Fortunately, a number of the remarkable Tangkas in this exhibition show—on often amazing diagrams of the Human-Body or even its Skeleton—exactly where the Pressure-Points are for healing a wide variety of illnesses: both bodily & mentally

Anatomy-Vulnerable Points

 

The Tangkas at the AMNH are hand-painted reproductions of traditional Scroll-Paintings. The originals—long lost—were created in the late 1600s to illustrate The Blue Beryl, an important commentary on the classic Tibetan medical-text, The Four Tantras.

 

(photo7:left:120}The Blue Beryl was written by Sangye Gyatso, Regent to the Fifth Dalai-Lama, who commissioned the original paintings for use as Teaching-Aids in the Medical-School he founded in Lhasa, Tibet.

 

Medical Instruments
The Causes, Diagnostic-Techniques, & Treatments of Illness—as well as Human-Anatomy—are represented in nearly 8,000 extraordinarily-detailed images, painted on canvas using vegetable & mineral-dyes

 

Methods of Treatment
Each of the 64 medical paintings on display in Body & Spirit was painstakingly reproduced by hand in the late 1990s by Romio Shrestha, a Nepalese artist—with his students—who followed the Tibetan tradition of copying older paintings, basing their work on two published sets of Medical-Tangkas, likely painted in the early 1900s that were copies of the original set.

 

Examples of selections on display in Body & Spirit include: A tree-shaped diagram, offering color-coded-branches that illustrates ways to treat diseases caused by an Imbalance of Humors.

 

Treatment-Special Points
In Tibetan-Medicine, three Humors are said to flow through the body, determining Bodily-Functions: Phlegm is cold & associated with the element Water; Bile is hot & associated with Fire, & Wind is either cold or neutral & associated with Air.

 

Also on-view is a Tangka showing the Origin of Dreams & how they bring the Sleeper either to the Beautiful-Realm of the Gods, or to the Ugly-Realm of Tormented-Spirits.

 

There’s also a depiction of the Greater Elixir of Rejuvenation, which—according to the text on the painting—will give the Patient the Body of a 16-year-old, with the prowess of a Lion, strength of an Elephant, complexion of a Peacock, speed of a Trained-Horse, & the life-span of the Sun & Moon.

 

[The complexion of a Peacock?]

 

Minerals used in medicine & Tibetan Medical-Instruments from the early 1900s will also be on display.

 

While the form of Tibetan medical-instruments—lancets for opening blood-vessels, cases for carrying medicine or instruments—is practical, some of these artifacts feature fine design & ornamentation that convey the idea at the heart of traditional Tibetan-Medicine: Body & Spirit are one.

 

Artifacts on view will include a surgical-instrument case carried on a doctor’s belt, a medicine-spoon, & a Horn used in a ritual to exorcise a Disease-Causing-Demon.

 

Traditional Tibetan Therapy also uses a wide variety of medications derived from plants, animal-parts, & minerals. Minerals on display include Lapis-Lazuli, which is used to treat skin-disease, & Turquoise, used to cure fever.

 

The artist, Romio Shrestha, was born in Kathmandu, Nepal. When he was six years old, two Tibetan Buddhist-Monks arrived at his home to announce that Shrestha was the 17th-Reincarnation of the Master Tibetan Medical-Painter Arniko.

 

The Monks gave Shrestha a stock of valuable Art-Materials, explaining that he would one day form his own school of painting.

 

Shrestha’s father—who did not want his son to become a monk—sent him to a Roman-Catholic School.

 

Shrestha has said that this background of mixed-religious-influences endowed him with a spirituality that he wants to express in visual-form.
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