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The Vimalakirti Sutra: The Theater of the Inconceivable

Robert Thurman and Peter Sellars discuss

Wednesday, September 28, 2011
8:00 PM–9:30 PM

The Vimalakirti Sutra dates from the First Century AD, a watershed moment in Buddhist history that brought sacred teachings out of the monasteries and into the streets, and out of classical and academic language and into the vernacular. The work is characterized by humor and a radical, democratizing aspect that powerfully and pointedly addresses equal rights for women and an inclusive world of spiritually-charged reciprocity which levels all hierarchies. The text is written in dialogue form and upends many long-established tropes of the Buddhist canon while concentrating on miracles – the unimaginable, the inconceivable – which we are invited to imagine and embody.
The Vimalakirti Sutra with its outrageous humor, irreverent tone, and startling spectacle, was intended to be staged for an illiterate audience in fairgrounds, marketplaces and at festival days, bringing the most refined and radical concepts of Buddhism to a working class public; putting the most sacred teachings not only in the hands of a clerical aristocracy, but spreading them with pleasure and ease to a population that knew life’s struggles firsthand.” – Peter Sellars
Noted for his unique contemporary staging of classical and contemporary operas and plays, Peter Sellars is an American theater director who has gained international recognition for his work and who also teaches at UCLA. His most recent appearance at the Rubin was with activist Raj Patel in a ‘Talk about Nothing’ while he made his directorial debut at the Metropolitan Opera staging John Adams’s groundbreaking first opera, Nixon in China.

Related Performance

The Vimalakirti Sutra: Public Rehearsals
ActressKate Valk, dancerMichael Schumacherand stage directorPeter Sellarsexplore the dramatization of the earliest narrative sutra in the Buddhist canon. This presentation complements the exhibitionOnce Upon Many Times: Legends and Myths in Himalayan Art(opening September 6, 2011).
Friday,September 30and Saturday,October 1at 7 p.m.
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