The Diamond Sutra in La-La-Land

“In La-La Land We Trust.”
– Robert Campbell

There’s a new exhibition opening tomorrow at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, Cave Temples Of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art On China’s Silk Road:

library-cave-2On the western edge of the Gobi Desert, near the ancient oasis town of Dunhuang, China, hundreds of cave temples were carved into a cliff face and decorated with Buddhist wall paintings and sculptures. [“Library” cave shown right.] The caves are known as the Mogao (peerless) Grottoes. From the 4th to the 14th century, Dunhuang bore witness to intense religious, commercial, and cultural exchange along the trade routes linking the East and West, known collectively as the Silk Road. The documents and artifacts discovered in the site’s famed Library Cave, along with the paintings and sculptures found in almost 500 other caves, focus primarily on Buddhism. They also tell tales of the merchants, monks, and ruling families who lived, worked, and worshipped in the Dunhuang region.”

The exhibition is collaboration with the Dunhuang Academy and the Dunhuang Foundation and will feature rare objects from the caves, cave replicas, along with Cave 45 described as a “virtual immersive experience.”  One of the 43 manuscripts included is The Diamond Sutra, the world’s oldest complete printed book, currently on loan from the British Library.

I’ve written a number of posts that deal with this indispensible Mahayana Buddhist teaching that you can find here.

But an even better resource is a book by Joyce Morgan and Conrad Walters, Journeys on the Silk Road: A Desert Explorer, Buddha’s Secret Library, and the Unearthing of the World’s Oldest Printed Book that tells the fascinating story of Aurel Stein (and his dog, Dash), an archaeologist, who traveled along the Silk Road through India, Tibet, and China in search of relics for the British Museum. It details his various expeditions, the friendships made, the politics and intrigue encountered, and the artifacts he discovered, one being the oldest printed copy of the Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra.

On the surface, The Diamond Sutra seems difficult to understand, but when we read between the lines we find that, as Thich Nhat Hanh notes in The Diamond That Cuts Through Illusion, “The sutra is so deep and wonderful.  It has its own language.  The first Western scholars who obtained the text thought it was talking nonsense.  It’s language seems mysterious, but when you look deeply, you can understand.”

In the Morgan and Walters book, Paul Harrison, Professor of Religious Studies at Stanford University, compares the sutra to a “piece of music that must be heard to be appreciated or a play that needs to be witnessed”  but if you approach the text as you would a novel “with a logical mind expecting things to be done in sequence and no repetitions to occur, it seems very weird.”

Subhuti, what do you think?  Has the Buddha attained the supreme awakening? Has he something he can teach?”

Subhuti said, “World Honored One, as I understand the dharma of the Buddha, the Buddha has no doctrine to covey.  The truth is ungraspable and inexpressible.  It neither is nor is not.  How is it so?  Because all noble teachers are exalted by the unconditioned.”

[Based on the Mu Soeng translation]



Today is the 87th birthday of Steve Ditko, legendary comic book artist, the original artist and co-creator of Spiderman. Marvel Comics has put Spidey through many changes over the years. Few people still remember the storyline in which Spiderman became a Buddhist. Here’s an image showing how Spidey assumed his meditation position whenever he dropped into his friendly, neighborhood Zen center.

Spiderman often like to meditate in the ancient Tibetan upside-down position.While I’m at, I might was well share some more images I’ve made collected.

Did you know that Groucho Marx was also a Zen Buddhist? Here he is giving a dharma talk somewhere in Beverly Hills in the early 1940s.


There’s supposed to be a rock formation on the planet Mars in the shape of Buddha. What amazes me is that no one has ever commented about this Mars rock formation in the form of Dejah Thoris, the Princess of Mars from the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ books.

MarsDejahThorisRock2Originally, Deepak Chopra wanted to be an actor. This little seen photo shows him trying out for the role of Superman in 1978.

chopra-superman2013Finally, a rare painting depicting a scene from the Buddhist sutra, Descent into Dairy Queen:

buddha-dqAnd as they still say over on the Warner Brothers lot:

That's All Folks-3



The Photographer of New York

One of the benefits of having a blog is that you can use it to introduce your readers to interesting people whom they might not have known about previously. Today it is Berenice Abbott, an American photographer best known for her black-and-white photography, born on July 17, 1898. She learned photography from Man Ray in Paris during the 1920s, returned to American to become the photographer of New York City according to some folks,and taught at the New School for Social Research for over 20 years. She died at the age of 93 in 1991.

Read more about this strong-willed, independent, pioneer of modern photography here, while this site claims to be the official Berenice Abbott archive.

Does not the very word ‘creative’ mean to build, to initiate, to give out, to act – rather than to be acted upon, to be subjective? Living photography is positive in its approach, it sings a song of life – not death.”

– Berenice Abbott

Whether it is a photograph or on film, I’m a sucker for black and white. For certain subjects, the stark images are more compelling, and without the color to distract, it is easier to concentrate on the image. Orson Welles once called B&W “the actor’s best friend” because he felt actors gave better performances in black and white, for it allowed more focus on the actor’s expressions as he or she emoted.

Today, several of Berenice Abbott’s most notable photos:

Penn Station, Interior, Manhattan - 1935
Penn Station, Interior, Manhattan – 1935
Brooklyn Bridge 1933
Brooklyn Bridge 1933
Children at a fair 1967
Children at a fair 1967
Jean Cocteau with a gun 1926
Jean Cocteau with a gun 1926

Found Art

Those of you who have followed The Endless Further for any length of time have probably guessed by now that I like photography. Not only do I like to take photos (see my photography site) but I also enjoy messing about in Photoshop. In this latter work I use stock images, or sometimes my own photos, and distort them, construct a montage, add text, or whatever, to create something interesting, or perhaps humorous, or just to create.

I think of this along the lines of “found art,” like found poetry which is using existing texts and refashioning them, reordering the words, to present as poems. I’m going by the same principle only using images. Andy Warhol’s soup cans or Marcel Duchamp’s bicycle wheels and urinals are two examples of found art or photography.

Today I present three pieces I created last night while watching the Golden Globes (I get bored during the commercials). Three of these you might call posters, the fourth is just . . . something.

Thought of Enlightenment


Sun’s Orb


The Other Shore




“Creativity is knowing how to hide your sources”
– Albert Einstein