Urthona – a Journal of Buddhism and the Arts


Urthona is a lively, glossy magazine packed with reviews, art features, photography features, in depth essays on art, music & literature and much more – everything about the arts from a spiritual viewpoint, written by Buddhists for Buddhists!

Urthna-mag-webCurrent issue: Goddesses east and west. Anne Baring on the goddess image. Stunning photographs of Tibet by Mariisa Roth. Ted Hughes and the goddess by Dhivan Thomas Jones. Further details in URTHONA SHOP


Our site: www.urthona.com

Essays and much more: urthonaessays.wordpress.com

Read interviews with remarkable artists like Sahaja who has been painting canvases of Vajrasattva – Buddha of primordial purity.
See a wide selection of high quality reproductions of work by artists at the cutting edge of turning dharma into image.
Savour ten pages of poetry by Buddhist and others, plus poetry reivews of your favourite modern poets.
Be informed about developments and new work in the Triratna arts community.

IFor more details and to subscribe go to www.urthona.com

For editor’s blog with intriguing thoughts on art, nature, society and the universe, plus longer essays on Blake, Seamus Heaney, Aro Paart and much more go tourthonaessays.wordpress.com

A bit more about Urthona (see websites for lots more about our vision and our mission!)

The Blake connection: Urthona magazine takes its name from William Blake’s spirit of the Imagination, Urthona, one of the four Zoas. In his temporal form Los, Urthona is the archetypal blacksmith who labours at his forge to beat out forms which will awaken mankind from spiritual slumber and remind us that this world is ‘all one continued vision of Fancy or Imagination.’

Urthona’s Mission: Our focus is mainly on European and American art, literature and music, from Lucian Freud or James Macmillan to Shakespeare and Sophocles. Most of our writers are buddhists but we do interviews and feature the work of anyone whose work is inspired and relevant to modern spiritual seekers. There are also features on Eastern Buddhist art, for example on Japanese poetry. We explore particularly the work of artists and thinkers who are working to bring about cultural renewal by expressing the sacred dimension of the arts in ways which are relevant to the 21st century. We investigate artists and writers from all eras and cultures who, to borrow a phrase from Nietzsche, ‘grope their way along new experiences, open up new tracks’…Urthona is a magazine for those who are interested in the cultivating the imagination as means to self development. We see the arts as tools of spiritual transformation.

How to find us: Urthona is published annually, in late Autumn. It is sold in all larger Triratna centres & by subscription from the website. If you would like to see it at your centre or group please e mail us! Urthona is a 64 page, A4 format, colour magazine, with a stylish design.

Editor: Ratnagarbha



Sangha at the Lucid Body House


On Friday, October 9, long-time Triratna NYC sangha member Fay Simpson held the inaugural Performance Salon at her recently renovated Lucid Body House in the Kip’s Bay neighborhood of Manhattan. An impressive coterie of artists, performers, and students made for a full house at what Fay hopes will become an ongoing, monthly event.

Fay performed in a dance piece she created, entitled, “Sharla’s Story”. Other sangha members joined her on stage. Josh Heath presented a selection of his paintings from a series called “The Apostles”, while Brian Waldbillig read from his original work, “On Compassion of the Tree”. The New York sangha had notable contingent in attendance: in addition to the performers, Sita Mani, Lara Nahas, Vajramati, and Brian’s dog Dante all showed up to offer support and encouragement.

To find out more about Fay’s work and to check out future events, go to www.lucidbody.com


On Compassion of the Tree


Liturgy of a World that Passes Away


Part I

Just outside the dining room bay window of my childhood home in Iowa stood a tall tree. To be honest, I don’t even know what sort of tree it was. Was it oak or elm? The tree was old, at least to the little mind of a little man. It was just a tree. And yet, more than most elements of my childhood, the tree still dwells in my consciousness. For all its plainness, I can recall no other tree that was so grand and kind in that little town. Never was there so sweet a tree with such gentle leaves. Perhaps it is the mere nostalgia of a man midway through his journey in this life, a man who could not love a tree when he was a child and now deludes himself with wishful memories. Perhaps it is something else: a wooly intuition that there is something noble and valuable in every experience. That tree is no longer there and I am no longer a little child but, in some way, the tree lives on in me.

The tree is so common an aspect of our human experience that most of us cannot grasp its beauty, significance, or compassion. Perhaps only on a long journey in the desert or across the sea or through the infinite expanse of outer space – those places where the tree seems but fantasy – can our kind laugh with joy or weep in sorrow for something so ordinary as a tree.

The embrace of a grandmother
The compassion of a tree
The infinite expanse of the human heart
These will endure forever

Not long ago I discovered in my own DNA remnants of a past I never knew. From far away places like Northern India and the Caucasus Mountains there are hints of ancient migrations, of survival in unlikely circumstances, of love in the midst of suffering. In the DNA of every human – in your DNA and in mine – there is courage to embark upon impossible journeys, to survive and evolve in hopeless situations. There is ancient wisdom we never knew we possessed.

The human heart is a mystery worth contemplating. Fragile is the heart, bruised and pierced quite easily. It is the very essence of human weakness. And yet, because of that heart our kind is capable of near-infinite love, compassion, and healing. We can forgive anything, even the unforgivable. We can love anyone, even the unlovable.

The heart is sacred, just as you and I are sacred
Just like the stray dog
Just like the wrinkles of an old woman’s face
Just like the sweet refuge of calm waters
Just like the branches of an ancient tree
Just like each and every breath

When I was young nothing seemed so vain, so unnecessary, so terrifying as having children. Now, midway through life’s journey, I wonder differently.

On the tree of every family, of every people
There are many branches
Some are foolish men, others wise women
Some are hopeful children, some cynical elders
There are farmers and beggars
There are peoples of the forest
There are peoples of the sea
There are people of hate and war
Some are deaf and blind
While others are oracles of an impossible future

Should my branch never produce even a single shoot, the tree will continue. My tree will continue. Your tree will continue. OUR tree will endure and the fragile human heart will make many marvelous, unimaginable, glorious journeys.

Part II
Our Tree is a tree of suffering
It is a tree of life and hope
Under the shade of its kind boughs
We take refuge from the scorching sun
And from the torrents of rain
Whether alone in silence
Or surrounded by the many peoples
Its roots are watered with tears
Its roots are nourished by blood
Though we are tired and weak
Its noble trunk holds us aright
And its many mighty branches
Reach out to the infinite multitude of stars
To proclaim: WE ARE HERE

Though the elders are slaughtered and the children enslaved
The Tree will continue
Though the fields lay barren and rivers flow no more
The Tree will continue
Though the houses are empty and the monuments destroyed
The Tree will continue
Though our world is passing away
The Tree will continue



Lost Kingdoms exhibit @ The Met

Lost Kingdoms – Hindu-Buddhist sculpture from South East Asia – 5th to 8th Century.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art through July 27 2014.

It’s one of the most peaceful and beautiful exhibits I’ve enjoyed to date, featuring 160 sculptures and relics, most on loan from museums in SE Asia, Paris, and some private collections too.

The curator and designer used light and shadow to create a space that feels reverent.  People become quiet upon entering this exhibit, which is a wonderful respite from the brightness and noise of the surrounding galleries.

I’ve visited twice.

The first time, I focused on learning and reading as many of the descriptions as I could absorb.

It was exciting to see the wall-sized reproductions of photographs of archaeological digs and then realize that right in front of you are one or more artifacts from that exact location.


The treasures represent the ancient cultures of Pyu, Funan, Zhenla, Champa, Dvāravatī, Kedah, and Śrīvijaya. Nowadays known as Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Myanmar.


The Met and other reviewers have done a great job of documenting the specifics, so I won’t try to duplicate them here.  If interested, all items on display can be found categorized online here.

My second time through, a few weeks after the first, I tried to just absorb the experience.

No reading, learning, analyzing.  Just walked through, taking it all in.

Here are a few pieces that I found particularly moving.

Krishna Govardhana
early 7th century
Lent by National Museum of Cambodia, Phnom Penh
Krishna raising Mount Govardhan in India to protect the people from a great rainstorm.

I love the gentleness of his smile juxtaposed with the strength and effort of his pose.

early 9th century
Lent by Musée National des Arts Asiatiques–Guimet, Paris
Vishnu riding his celestial vehicle, the mythical eagle Garuda

The whole mystical man-riding-beast image appealed to me.  Eagles are a powerful symbol in many cultures.  I could imagine how striking this sculpture must have been in full color, given the richness of the remaining pigment on the left wing.

7th century
Lent by National Museum of Cambodia, Phnom Penh
One of Shiva’s mischievous dwarfish helpers. His pot-bellied form almost certainly betrays his yaksha origins as a fertility deity linked to agriculture.

The smooth, worn, discolored (damaged) surface of his belly, tells me of the many people who have rubbed this statue’s belly, transferring oils from their hands, praying for a strong harvest, a safe birth, and other important life-sustaining wishes.


Date: 9th century
Lent by Musée National des Arts Asiatiques–Guimet, Paris, Gift of J. J. Meijer
The bodhisattva holds in his ten radiating arms the objects that define his powers

The last room of the exhibit is dedicated to Bodhisattvas, with Avalokiteshvara the most numerous.  This example was the most intact demonstrating his compassion in action.



I highly recommend a visit to this exhibit.

For me it was both an educational and spiritual experience.