Saturday, August 29, 2009
I've been taking a break from the marathon texts. It's sorta nice to start and finish one in the same week. My knuckles don't know the difference, unfortunately, so I'm giving them the rest of the weekend off. They're very excited - throbbing with delight at the prospect of a vacation. I haven't the heart to tell them that they're not going anywhere. But they've been so good-natured that I might take them to the Met before the weekend is over.
The text drawing above is the Gayatri Mantra. It's one of the oldest Hindu mantras, and is thought to be one of the most powerful. To maximize its benefits, the Gayatri Mantra should be repeated in Sanskrit 108 times in one sitting, 3 times a day. Doing so will remove all obstacles from one's path, dispel darkness, and increase wisdom. It goes like this:
O God, Thou art the giver of life, the remover of pain and sorrow, the bestower of happiness; O creator of the universe, may we receive Thy supreme sin-destroying light; may Thou guide our intellect in the right direction.
I cut the letters from the Bible, Matthew 6, in which the Lord's Prayer is found. I chose this passage because the Lord's Prayer is such a power-evoking Christian mantra, and the parallel intrigued me. So I started on the outer edge and spelled out the mantra in English, then in the English transliteration from Sanskrit. Kept doing that over and over, back and forth between translations, working my way toward the center of the mandala. The six-point star created itself as I laid down the type, but I knew what I was doing. That is, I was aware of the pattern that would emerge. It's lovely to watch as it slowly surfaces and reveals its design. I want to do this on a much larger scale, but please don't tell my knuckles just yet.
I'm told that there is an Arabic tradition of tiny calligraphic writing, wherein the microscopic text forms a recognizable shape. I'm thinking that the Met might have some examples of this.* If not, then I'm sure my knuckles will enjoy a leisurely walk in the park.
Above: Mandala: Gayatri Mantra from the Bible, Matthew Chapter 6, 6.5 in. x 6.5 in., 2009.
* They do. But not on display. Not surprisingly, the Met houses a fantastic collection of Arabic calligraphy, but currently there is only a dimly lit corridor in which to display it. An insider at the museum told me this afternoon that there's a special wing being built for it, which will open in 2011.