Berichte und Interviews / Reports and Interviews

I first met Mrs Hai-Yen Hua-Ströfer and her husband, Dr. Eckhard Ströfer, in late December 2008, when they visited me for a discussion about the Sankskrit names for various hand-gestures (Sanskrit: mudrā).

During our first meeting, I was impressed by the couple’s modest and enthusiastic mindset. Mrs Hua-Stroefer recounted that in 2004 she had been entrusted with the restoration of a Japanese painting, a 2-by-2-metre depiction of the Taima-Mandala of Buddha Amitabha’s Pure Land, which is part of a German collection. The painting was so severely damaged that she had to spend a year just on the preparations for the job. The result was greatly appreciated by the collector. She then decided to write a book presenting the entire process involved in the restoration work, to include both text and pictures. She would also be introducing the various materials, tools, equipment and techniques required for the work, so that readers can see how meticulously she had had to proceed with the restoration work, and how mindfully she had treasured this object of Buddhist art.

The restoration work made her all the more determined to comprehend the content and the background of the mandala’s subject matter. So she proceeded with further research: she collected and read scriptures and produced all the illustrations, maps, tables, and even photographs for the book herself. She took upon herself the laborious task of making sense of the sea of Buddhist terminology in Sanskrit, Chinese, German, and English.

In 2009, Ms Ströfer accompanied by her husband visited me again, bringing a draft of her book “Buddha’s Brush, Buddha’s Paste: Rebirth of a Taima-Mandala”, and talked about getting it published.

In the book, with her qualities as an artist, and her diligence in research as well as her religious humility, Mrs Hai-yen Hua-Ströfer is able to convey something of her elegant personality and the blissful paradise created in her mind through her writing and artwork. We may also admire the tranquility and beauty of her working environment as it is reflected in the book. Likewise, I believe readers will be able to leisurely create wondrous images in their minds when they sense the supreme beauty of art that emanates from this volume.

The Taima-Mandala was painted according to the “Amitāyurdhyāna-Sūtra of the Meditation on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life (Contemplation Sūtra)”. I would suggest that in the three chapters of the book, readers should find and follow the map of her mental journey, also in three stages, as below:

1. Restoration: the world we live in, and in which we suffer, is as damaged as the picture waiting to be restored; and with faith, patience and wisdom, in the cooperation of mind, hands and brain, we may hope to restore it.

2. Origin: the origin of this expectation may be traced back to the Buddha’s awakening to the understanding that all sentient beings possess Buddha-nature. The Buddha compared sentient beings to all kinds of lotus flowers which grow in the mud. The bitter experiences in our world are the mud from which positive things may grow. Though a good mind may appear as small as a seed in the beginning, it will also sprout and grow, turning afflictions into nourishment. Then, like a lotus which grows in the mud but is not contaminated, a good mind will blossom and bear fruits, and spread the seeds all around the globe.

3. Description of the picture: by following the description of the picture, we may construct our own inner Pure Land. Based on this blueprint, let us still remain as passionate as a child and always hold to a dream, in the face of enemies, frustrations, hardships, and adversities. May we establish the Pure Land in this life here on Earth as and if conditions allow.

We wish that all beings, irrespective of our like or dislike for them, may be accepted by Buddha Amitābha to his blissful Pure Land when approaching their end of lives, in tranquility and without discrimination.

Huimin Bhikshu

Doctor of Letters, University of Tokyo

President, Dharma Drum Buddhist College, Taiwan

Professor, Taipei National University of the Arts

Huimin Bhikshu

President, Dharma Drum Buddhist College, Taiwan

Professor, Taipei National University of the Arts

April. 2011

Restoration as Rebirth