Approaching Buddhist Art with Eric Huntington

A donation-based event.

Two Wednesdays, June 16 & 23, 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm CDT

Artwork and visual culture are central to Buddhism, forming not only a core of practice but also a window onto history, philosophy, and more. In this series of two events, Eric Huntington will outline several different approaches to Buddhist art and provide opportunities for interactive discussion about how specific images and objects may be understood in terms of different approaches to religion. By looking at art through lenses of ritual, meditation, philosophy, anthropology, and history, one can understand not only the vast importance of visual culture to Buddhism but also more about Buddhism itself.

Images, Meditation, and Ritual
Many of the central practices of Tibetan and Himalayan Buddhism involve complex visual and material forms, as evinced in paintings, sculptures, and objects used in ritual. In this event, Eric Huntington, Anne Klein, and attendees will participate in an informal discussion of several important images and objects that represent different aspects of Buddhist practice, including fields of accumulation, mandala offerings, and more. Emphasis will be placed on essential techniques for reading images to understand key principles of Buddhist theory and practice. Huntington and Klein will also discuss Huntington’s background and training in the study of Buddhist visual culture, and attendees will have the opportunity to discuss their own approaches to artwork in relation to their diverse expectations and experiences.

How to View a Buddhist Mandala
The mandala is one of the most visually recognizable features of Tantric Buddhism, a circle of deities that represents complex cosmological, theological, philosophical, and ritual ideas. Huntington will present a lecture that outlines several different ways to think about mandalas and the diverse aspects of Buddhism that they encapsulate. Approaching mandalas as visual artworks, bases for meditation, supports for ritual, and structures for esoteric performance, Huntington will explore numerous examples from southern and central Asia. Particular attention will be paid to the Vajradhatu Mandala and its five buddhas centered on Vairocana, one of the earliest mandalic systems of Tantric Buddhism.

Eric Huntington studies relationships between visual culture, ritual, and philosophy in Buddhism. His recent book, Creating the Universe: Depictions of the Cosmos in Himalayan Buddhism (University of Washington Press, 2018), exposes the complex cosmological thinking behind many kinds of texts, rituals, artworks, and buildings across Buddhist history. In Fall 2021, Huntington will become the TT and WF Chao Assistant Professor of Transnational Asian Studies at Rice University. For more information, please visit