DAILY PROGRAM :: 22/03/2018 Click here for full program
  Thursday, 22/03/2018, 19 : 00
Pregnancy of absence

If Emptiness (sunyata) is the central concept of Buddhist philosophy, of Buddhist experience and – especially in its East Asian form – of Buddhist art as well, then why is the comprehension of Emptiness, particularly in the modern West, fraught with so much misunderstanding, with such mystification, even with such apparent obfuscation? Is Emptiness literal, absolute nothingness, the “null and void”of all being or a pointer to“that which is not a thing” (not an object and which cannot be objectified)?  Is it thus the pure subjectivity of the primordial, unconditioned “I AM ”, the timeless first person singular of the present moment, or the ontological “energy death” of the universe?  Similarly, is Emptiness the absence of something or the pure potential of everything, the pregnancy of the possible?  And how does this relate to the fundamental metaphysical question of “why is there something and not nothing”? Would it have been better if Emptiness, sunyata (etymologically sunya in Sanskrit means “zero, nothing, empty”),  had from the outset been translated into European languages as “spaciousness”, or even “presence”?  And what does it mean to be creating art from or out of a state of consciousness deeply informed and inspired by Emptiness? And have some contemporary Western artists, in purporting to be inspired by Buddhist Emptiness, really understood its full scope and reach?
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      The idea behind organizing the multimedia event – The PREGNANCY of ABSENCE – the AESTHETICS of EMPTINESS in BUDDHIST EXPERIENCE and ART – is to try and provide some possible answers to the questions surrounding Buddhist (and Daoist) Emptiness, answers which by their very nature have to resemble more rough sketches than definitive and final answers. Taking part in the evening are Mirko Gaspari, a philosopher; Mariko Hori, a contemporary Japanese visual artist; and Okwang Sunim, a Zen teacher and Korean Zen monk of Serbian origin who has spent some 20 years in Buddhist monasteries in Sri Lanka, Thailand and South Korea.
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       First Gaspari will tell the story of the meaning of Emptiness in Daoist and Buddhist philosophy; its significance in their spiritual practice and experience; the universal application  and value of that experience; and finally,  its place in East Asian (and modern Western) art.  Some segments of that story will be illustrated with music and slide projections.
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       Then Okwang Sunim, in a state of meditative absorption informed by Zen Buddhist Emptiness, will perform the installation of the contemporary Japanese visual artist Mariko Hori dubbed “The Space Between a Day and a Gate is the Way to the Gateless Gate”.  The uniqueness of this performance is that the installation – which, although infused by a modern sensibility and specific daily objects, is nevertheless a creation of sorts of a “Zen garden in motion” – is performed from a state of mind anchored in Buddhist Emptiness. It is executed in absolute silence of the participants and the audience and also represents an attempt to help the audience enter a “spiritual state of Emptiness”.  To aid the audience in this, during the performance Mariko Hori will serve the audience morsels of minimalist “Zen food” that by way of taste hints at a ‘tinge of Emptiness’ (to be eaten ‘meditatively’ in complete silence while intensely absorbed in the visuals of the performance). The performance begins and ends with approximately five minute Zen meditation intervals by Okwang Sunim.
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        The evening ends with a premier chanting of the first Serbian translation of the seminal Zen Buddhist text the “Heart Sutra” chanted daily in practically all Zen Buddhist monasteries throughout the world. The central theme of the “Heart Sutra” is precisely the philosophical meaning and, more importantly, the experiential spiritual realization of Buddhist Emptiness. The chant will be performed by Okwang Sunim, Mirko Gaspari and the lovely female choir “Mulabanda” from the Vedanta Yoga Center. This will not only be the public chanting premier of the first Serbian translation of the “Heart Sutra” (translated by Gaspari) but also a practically worldwide unique performance of the chant in which women outnumber men! It is the wish of both Okwang Sunim and Mirko Gaspari that in this way this too will be a small contribution to the deconstruction of the considerable patriarchy of the Zen Buddhist tradition.
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       Due to time constraints it is necessary that the event remains within a two hour time window and thus the questions and discussion period with the audience will be in accordance with and depend on the length of the various segments of the evening which have not been strictly predetermined. The design of this announcement, the poster for the event and the social media banner was done by designer and Sangha member of the Zen Center Beograd Rade Andjelković.
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