Totally Alive

A book I am most looking forward to reading is not due to be published until November 10th of this year.  The title:  Sarasvati’s Gift: The Autobiography of Mayumi Oda–Artist, Activist, and Modern Buddhist Revolutionary.  Although I had been exposed to her artistic work back in the late 80s in some of Nhat Hanh’s earliest books with Parallax Press, I was reminded of her at the turn of this year when reading Kazauaki Tanahashi’s Painting Peace: Art in a Time of Global Crisis. (Some of you have received excerpts of this from me via the mail.)  He dedicated his inspiring book to Mayumi.  Eager to learn more about her, I  then read  Divine Gardens: Mayumi Oda  and the San Francisco Zen Center.  To provoke your interest in her forthcoming  autobiography —I’d like to bring together people to read her book and Kaz’s—here are a few testimonies from  people associated with the Zen Center about Mayumi…

 I think that her Buddhist practice and having grown up under very difficult circumstances in Japan greatly influence the work. She has always had a deep commitment to the peace movement, having experienced the ramifications of nuclear warfare—the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—and the firebombing of Tokyo and the Japanese cities. Those images never leave you. Buddhist practice gives one a way of putting some of these experiences in a  deeper context.  —Renee Des Tombe

… I understood how modern and original Mayumi’s work was in contrast to traditional Buddhist images. I realized how rebellious she must have been to paint the goddess in this way—it was such  big step away from traditional subjects and methods of painting. There’s such a vibrancy and playfulness to her work that goes against the formal tradition. —Audrey Halle

They say that the contribution that the West has given to Buddhism is the feminine: female priests and practitioners, strong women teachers and our recognition of all the women in our long lineage never acknowledged until Buddhism came to the West. For Mayumi to bring this into our practice is truly a gift.  —Nancy Petrin

The images and conjunctions of Mayumi’s art arise from the resources and “recesses” (as she says) of her Japanese culture, and from her own creativity, feminism, eroticism, wisdom, and compassion. Mayumi makes beautiful images of inductive and seductive power. They Are catalysts of an additional, revealing reality, in which we become willing participants.  —Baker Roshi

I did not know she was an artist, an activist, and a feminist. I knew she was totally alive.—Linda Ruth Cutts

The idea that she could take these archetypes, these Bodhisattvas who were traditionally shown as male, and turn them into voluptuous, vital, and beautiful female images, was radical to me. —Lane E. Olson

Out of Mayumi’s studio flowed new depictions of Goddesses and Bodhisattvas, who reframed the traditional male Bodhisattvas in feminine forms.  They could do anything…. We wanted  to spread the message that liberation is universal, particular, and relational, which Mayumi’s silkscreens and books so profoundly expressed. —Shosan Victoria Austin

She had a clear and direct manner, a kind of reserved and enviable concentration, and at the same time a wonderful sense of openness and humor. —Renee Des Tombe


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