Wisdom, Compassion and Wrath: The Many Faces of Female Buddhist Deities – Intern Exhibition Online For over two millennia, Buddhist practitioners have aspired to liberate themselves and all other living beings from the suffering of saṃsāra—a Sanskrit term which refers to the never-ending cycle of death and rebirth endured by all inhabitants of the six Buddhist realms of existence. In order to transcend saṃsāra, Buddhists strive to rid themselves of the source of suffering—the “three poisons” of attachment, aversion, and ignorance—and thereby attain a state of spiritual awakening or “enlightenment” known as nirvāṇa. The path to nirvāṇa is long, taxing, and littered with obstacles. However, in the Mahāyāna Buddhist traditions of East Asia and the Vajrayāna traditions of the Himalayas, practitioners may call upon the guidance of deities to assist them. Although the majority of these deities are male, the Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna Buddhist pantheons also feature a number of formidable female deities. This exhibition highlights paintings and sculptures of female Buddhist deities from the Scripps College art collection that illustrate the complexity and indispensability of the divine feminine in Buddhism. The deities featured here assume an array of forms personifying divine wisdom, great compassion, and terrifying wrath, all to assist practitioners on their spiritual journeys to nirvāṇa. This exhibition was curated by Anabella Walser (SC ’22), the Peggy Phelps Curatorial Intern for the Summer of 2020. Special thanks go to Dr. Zhiru Ng at Pomona College, professor of religious studies and coordinator of Asian studies, and Meher McArthur, the Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler curator of academic programs and collections at Scripps College, for their guidance. The exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Peggy Phelps, a former Claremont Graduate University trustee, compassionate philanthropist, and generous patron of the arts. -Anabella Walser ’22, Peggy Phelps Curatorial Intern
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