Exploring Buddhist Philosophy Through Art: A Unique Journey in the Art Galleries

July 15, 2023 8:09AM
Image of students sitting around a table and cutting images out of magazines to create their own collage artwork

In the Spring of 2023, Annabella Pitkin, Chair of the Asian Studies Department and Associate Professor, Religion Studies collaborated with the Lehigh University Art Galleries to bring two of her classes to the galleries for an in-depth tour of the exhibition Gateway to Himalayan Art and a unique hands-on experience.

Over a series of visits, students enrolled in Intro to Buddhism: Love, Death and Freedom and Buddhism and Ecology, participated in experiences to deepen their understanding of Buddhist principles while creating their own mandalas, intricate and symmetrical artworks that serve as powerful tools for meditation and self-expression. Students began with a tour of the exhibition with Annabella Pitkin to further their studies and choose a work of art that they would later write an in-depth paper for the class.  They then received an overview of photography as a tool to enhance mindfulness, stillness and intention with Teaching Artist and Educator Susan Morelock. Afterwards, students were sent out to explore campus and capture imagery that they saw that explored ideas of ecology and enlightened or sacred spaces, as well as personal devotion and offering.

With newfound knowledge and inspiration, participants returned to the gallery to engage in a hands-on art project to create their own mandalas. Utilizing the photographs they took in the previous session, each participant selected their own colors, patterns, and symbols, infusing their mandala with personal meaning and intention. The process becomes a meditative practice, allowing individuals to connect with their inner selves.

Combining the timeless wisdom of Buddhism, the contemplative experience of art, and the personal expression of creating mandalas, these classes offered a unique and transformative journey for participants. By immersing themselves in the world of art and delving into the symbolism found within the works on display in the exhibition, participants gained a deeper understanding of themselves and the Buddhist principles they were exploring. Through the creation of their own mandalas, students were able to tap into their inner creativity and unlock a pathway to mindfulness, self-reflection, and personal growth. The mandalas serve as tangible reminders of the participants' journey and their deepening understanding of Buddhist principles.


View a full gallery of images on the Asian Studies website here and here.