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In Tibetan Buddhism the lotus is associated with purity, awakening, transformation, and compassion, and this symbol appears in many works of art at the Rubin Museum. This tour explores art that features lotuses and relates to broader themes of compassion, love, and compassionate action. Hear from Rubin staff and curators, as well as contemporary artists featured in our special exhibitions. The tour concludes with a short meditation with Tibetan Buddhist teacher Kyabgön Phakchok Rinpoche.

The Lotus Effect

Start your visit by viewing the participatory installation The Lotus Effect, first realized online and now displayed in the Museum. Learn more about the symbol of the lotus that will guide this journey through the Rubin.

The Bodhisattva of Compassion

Himalayan traditions express the idea of compassion through personification. Learn more about the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara who is a powerful model of compassion.

Red Avalokiteshvara; Tibet or Nepal; 19th century; pigments on cloth; Rubin Museum of Art; gift of the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation; F1996.18.2 (HAR 469)

Compassion in Female Form

How many lotuses can you find in this image of Tara, a deity of compassion? Learn more about Tara’s compassionate action and her abilities to save and protect.

Green Tara Protectress from Eight Fears; Tibet; 19th century; pigments on cloth; Rubin Museum of Art; gift of Shelley and Donald Rubin; C2012.4.7 (HAR 53406)

The Lotus Family

The Padma or Lotus family of Buddhas is directly connected to the flower and its symbolic meanings. Listen to staff member Tashi Chodron speak about Amitayus Buddha, depicted here, and other qualities of the lotus family.

Buddha Amitayus; Bhutan; late 19th or early 20th century; silk appliqué and embroidery; Rubin Museum of Art; C2008.11 (HAR 6583)

The World in a Lotus

This 12th-century mandala from India takes the shape of a lotus. As a symbol of purity, the lotus grows upward and gestures toward the goal of visualization practices: to recognize that the seemingly impure world is in reality pure. The lotus opens into a blossom to reveal the sources of power found within.

Lotus Mandala of Hevajra; Northeastern India; ca. 12th century; copper alloy; Rubin Museum of Art; C2003.10.2 (HAR 65207)

Shahidul Alam’s Compassionate Action

The Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam exemplifies the idea of compassionate action through his career-spanning social justice work. Listen to the artist speak about the compassionate thought and intention behind his work in pursuit of justice.

Shahidul Alam (b. 1955, Dhaka,Bangladesh); Kalpana’s Warriors series; 2015; laser etching on straw; courtesy of Drik

Writing Letters of Love

Lee Mingwei explores the connections between people. Listen to the artist speak about his grandmother’s compassion, which in part inspired The Letter Writing Project.

Lee Mingwei, (B. 1964, Taichung, Taiwan; Lives and works in Paris and New York City); The Letter Writing Project;1998; wood and glass; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of the artist in honor of
Flora Miller Biddle and purchase, with funds from Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo and the Dorothea L. Leonhardt Fund at the Communities Foundation of Texas; 99.54a-n

Sending Love

Find a comfortable place in the Museum to center yourself and take a moment to practice compassion. Tibetan Buddhist teacher Kyabgön Phakchok Rinpoche will lead you through tonglen, a traditional breath meditation focused on generating compassion for yourself and others.