The legendary figure Padmasambhava was said to be able to see through time. A new exhibition at the Rubin Museum explores how he supposedly used that power to change the course of history.
On Friday, February 2, a new exhibition at New York’s Rubin Museum opens, taking you more than 1,000 years into the past — to see the future. The exhibition, “The Second Buddha: Master of Time,” explores the life and accomplishments of Padmasambhava, the legendary 8th-century figure credited with establishing Tibetan Buddhism.
The show is the first exhibition in the Rubin’s year-long series exploring the theme of “future.” The exhibition explores the story of Padmasambhava from the perspective of past, present, and future, through a tightly-curated collection of 41 works, spanning seven centuries. The works include thangka paintings, sculpture, augmented reality, and video.
According to Tibetan Buddhism, Padmasambhava was a fully-enlightened being with the ability to see through time. He concealed his teachings to be discovered in the future at specific times when he knew they would be needed.
“The system of concealed treasure teachings continues to sustain the Buddhist tradition today,” explains curator Elena Pakhoutova.
In the exhibition, Padmasambhava’s life serves as a meditation on time. Padmasambhava defined the future of Tibet, planting the seeds of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, which would come to flourish over the next millennium.
Padmasambhava taught that past and present are interrelated, connected to each other in one’s present experience. It’s this understanding that the exhibition seemingly seeks to foster in visitors. And, while the artworks may be centuries old, their messages still have the power to soften one’s rigid sense of time.
Pakhoutova hopes the legends and artwork will inspire visitors to dwell on “the interrelated nature of the past and future, how it serves to construct our individual and collective identities, and how we ourselves enable a meaningful future.”