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Auroville Experience


April 2009

 

Seeking emptiness

- Priya Sundaravalli

A feeling of emptiness, space and silence prevails in the mandala exhibition at the Pavilion of Tibetan Culture. The mandalas of Auroville artist Sarasija appear deceptively simple at first sight. It is only when viewed from an inner level that one realizes that this is spiritual art which attempts to express the inexpressible. “For me, mandalas represent the essence of the Universe,” says Sarasija.

 


Sarasija's mandalas are characterised by the use of the bindu (dot) at the centre which represents the soul.

Sarasija first encountered mandalas in the mountains of Ladhakh. “I was staying in a monastery for three months when the lamas were creating a Kalachakra mandala from coloured sand. It was huge and impressive. Every day they worked on it. Finally it was finished, and there was a big puja and celebration. And then, suddenly, in front of everyone's eyes, they destroyed it. I was shocked. The sand was gathered up into little containers, taken to the river, and mixed with the water. All done, all gone… Later I asked a monk about what had happened. I will never forget his reply, ‘This is Buddha's house – all the universe, all, you, me, is Buddha,' he said”. A Buddhist herself, the statement made a deep impact. “Ever since, mandalas have become part of my life”.

Kim Sung Ae, better known by her Auroville name Sarasija, meaning ‘Lotus Flower' in Sanskrit, got her bachelor in Fine Arts at the E-Wha Women's University , Korea . “I knew that if I wanted to be a successful artist, I should have stayed in Korea and worked in Seoul . But that was not my path. I wanted to go to India , to live a dream”. For many Koreans, in particular those who have a Buddhist background, India is the Mother country as it is the birthplace of the Lord Buddha. Sarasija had another reason as well. “One of my ancestors was an Indian princess from Ayodhya who married a Korean king”. But above all, Sarasija wanted to go to India “to find my soul, to develop myself spiritually.”

She landed at Rabindranath Tagore's Visva-Bharati University in Shantiniketan, where she got her Post Diploma Fine Arts. “Those three years in Shantiniketan were a heaven for me. I studied philosophy and sculpture while being surrounded by many forms of culture. I particular enjoyed the music of the Bauls, those wandering singers from Bengal who believe in a simple life.”

Sarasija in her studio. Photo by VimalTen years ago she made the decision to settle in Auroville. “I worked for the first four years in the Matrimandir nursery, learning to surrender and work in silence. Only afterwards did I feel ready to start drawing mandalas and giving classes.” She explains, “I am a spiritual seeker. As part of my seeking, it's natural for me to express my inner self through art. Creating mandalas means for me going into meditation, going to the centre. I want now to serve the Divine through offering mandala-drawing classes and share the peace and silence I experience.”

 

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