Tibet’s Secret Temple: The Wellcome Collection

I love yoga and am a huge fan of old buildings and their lesser known interior decorations, so I couldn’t possibly turn down the opportunity to see an exhibition combining the two! ‘Tibet’s Secret Temple’ uses the late 17th century ‘Lukhang Temple’ as a microcosm for Buddhism and a focal point to introduce ideas about spiritual enlightenment, meditation and yoga. Hundreds of original and digitally recreated artefacts from the Dalai Lama’s private sanctuary are on display; manuscripts, drawings, architectural features, wall hangings, masks, musical instruments, wool carpets, statues, jewellery, ornaments made from human bone, meditation shawls and belts, and yogic skirts amongst others. The exhibition opens with two huge plasma screens showing different Buddhist rituals as well as the boat journey to the Temple which is situated on an island on a lake behind The Potala Palace in Tibet’s capital city of Lhasa. The next room continues to offer contextual insights into the temple, its origins, meaning and symbolism – as it was constructed to reconcile a water serpent (Lu) who appeared to the Fifth Dalai Lama during meditation and warned that the construction of The Potala Palace was disturbing his subterranean realm, but was fulfilled during the lifetime of the Sixth Dalai Lama (1683-1706) who later renounced his monastic vows and used the temple as a retreat for his amorous encounters! The exhibition goes on to explore Tibetan medicine, enlightenment, the demonic divine, yoga, tantric practices, meditation and mindfulness, and closes with an entire gallery filled with life-size digitally recreated images of the north, west and east walls of the previously unseen meditation chamber. As you exit the exhibition, a last information panel optimistically discusses the current (Fourteenth) Dalai Lama’s visit to American in 1979 and subsequent scientific studies into the physical and mental benefits of the once secret yogic practices illustrated on these temple murals, which continue to be growing in popularity today.

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