June 21, 2012

Wrathful Deities film excerpt by John Bush

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A unique aspect of Vajrayana Buddhism is how it actively works with darkness and negativity to transform them into luminous wisdom.

My first experience with Tibetan Buddhism’s wrathful deities was in Bodhgaya, India in 1971. After completing two months of intensive meditation with S. N. Goenka, I climbed to a legendary charnel ground outside of town used for sky burial. The monks there welcomed me into a very small temple with a large statue of Maha Kala, The Fierce Dark One.

Sitting in front of him, I began to meditate on his frightening visage which appeared to grow. As part of their puja, the monks played a huge drum and long trumpets at a deafening volume. I was overwhelmed first by fear and then a sudden surrender to the intensity of the experience. When it stopped I stumbled into the daylight, feeling my openness from the retreats now protected by a powerful guardian force.

This brief excerpt from my film Vajra Sky Over Tibet, endorsed by The Dalai Lama, is an attempt to share an aspect of this experience. Vajra Sky wishes to portray the richness of Tibetan culture, in part to inspire others to help save it. As many of the great thangkas (scroll paintings) were spirited out of Tibet to preserve them, I turned to the Rubin Museum’s astonishing collection to use in the film. Their brilliant curator Jeff Watt offered me permission to use these works and the film ultimately had its premiere there.

This excerpt is narrated by Tenzin L. Choegyal, the nephew of His Holiness.

—John Bush


The PBS broadcasts of the Journey Into Buddhism Trilogy are sponsored in part by Tricycle. Learn more about Vajra Sky Over Tibet here. Check out the Journey into Buddhism Facebook page here.

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