It’s Tibet Week at Emory University, an annual, week-long celebration of Tibetan culture. Emory has a longstanding partnership with Tibet, which combines Western and Tibetan Buddhist intellectual practices through educational opportunities.
Hosted at the Michael C. Carlos Museum, there are daily events, including lectures, guided meditations and a mandala – a sand painting created by monks over the course of the week and then wiped away.
There will also be a shrine composed of 124 objects from the Alice S. Kandell collection.
The shrine is a central part of Tibetan Buddhist practice. Emory religion professor Sara McClintock said that the shrine is a focus for one’s practices, which can include prostration, recitation of prayers and, importantly, offerings.
“A shrine is a place where you can make offerings to the Buddhas, but also it’s a place to focus one’s mind and think about the qualities one would like to inculcate in one’s self,” explained McClintock. “The icons on the shrine represent various enlightened qualities and the practitioner comes before the shrine with the idea that her or she would like to emulate those qualities in himself or herself.”
Alice S. Kandell is an avid collector of Tibetan Buddhism iconography. Kandell was drawn to Tibetan culture when she visited Sikkim, a small Indian state on the boarder of what was then Tibet, while she was in college.
“I was just overwhelmed with the beauty of not just the art, the whole culture, the people, the scenery, the clouds, the air,” she said. “It never left me.”
After collecting for many years, Kandell donated 250 of her 500 pieces to the Smithsonian Institution's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. Even with the donation, her New York apartment has two shrine rooms. Though not a Buddhist herself, she makes sure the objects are organized appropriately.
“It’s organized in a way that it should be,” Kandell said. “I have advisors and I have monks periodically coming in to place objects.”
“Doorway to an Enlightened World: The Tibetan Shrine from the Alice S. Kandell Collection” is on view at the Carlos Museum through Nov. 27. Kandell will be speaking about the shrine at the Carlos Museum at 7:30 p.m.