DTH: What is Bodhi Day and how does it relate to the new Ackland exhibit?
LH: The new exhibit is Asian oriented, and Bodhi Day is the day that the Buddha was sitting under the Bodhi tree and basically achieved Nirvana, also known as enlightenment. He had been traveling with these other aesthetics that were trying to transcend their lives and free themselves of suffering, and he had basically almost starved himself to death. He was eating one mustard seed a day. So, he finally decided to sit up and meditate to try and figure out the answer. What he came up with were the Four Noble Truths and that suffering is optional. Basically, we get in our own way – we cause our own suffering.
DTH: What is the role of meditation in Bodhi Day?
LH: The Buddha was sitting and meditating, and that is how he achieved enlightenment. When you look at how to celebrate Bodhi Day, it is to go to some place where you can meditate. It’s an opportunity to take a step back, disconnect, and take some time to be with yourself.
DTH: How are meditation and visual art connected?
LH: In some styles of Buddhist meditation, they like you to sit with your eyes open because they want you to face your life. Some people who meditate will sit and look at a candle’s light, and they do this so that there aren’t as many distractions. It could be that you go into an art museum, and you have the opportunity to look at these amazing representations of art.
DTH: What is distinctive about Buddhist art?
LH: In this type of art, there is usually a Buddha in it and all that he represents to people who either practice Buddhism or practice meditation. There is a famous story about this guy who asked the Buddha if he was god, and the Buddha said ‘no.’ Then the guy asked if the Buddha was a saint, and the Buddha said ‘no.’ Then the guy asked the Buddha what he really was, and the Buddha said that he was awake. This is what enlightenment is — that you’re awake to your life. So when you see Buddhist art, it represents the idea that you want to be awake to your life and what is happening.
DTH: Why should people come to the meditation class?
LH: To be able to sit with other people and meditate is always inspiring. It’s an intro class so I am going to be giving meditation techniques. I am going to be giving you a counting or mantra technique so that it is more accessible to people.
DTH: Why is meditation important?
LH: I have been meditating since 1997, but I have been teaching it since the past two and a half years because I feel like it is very needed. Being in Chapel Hill and working with students and professors, I see people with a lot of stress at times during exams, and I feel like meditation just gets you in a better state of mind to prepare for stress. Meditation is to sit and help you realize that your breath is calm and hopefully, this helps you become calm. Our minds will take us everywhere, and meditation helps to bring you back to the current moment and your breath and what you really have control over in the moment. It helps bring you back to reality.