the emperor wearing 2 hats

The Dalai Lama wears 2 hats: 1 yellow, the other red. These 2 hats represent two major sects of Tibetan Buddhism, & he manages to wear both, to rule both, at the same time. It would be like one individual ruling the Catholics & Anglicans simultaneously. An unheard of feat for westerners, for whom the minutiae of costume and ritual are of paramount importance, not to mention the theology that has been shaped over recent centuries.

What brought this to mind was an incident that occurred to me recently: travelling home by train after spending a week in the country I fell into conversation with a number of people. They were drawn to the spectacle of my weaving tapestry on a loom. One person told me that she also made tapestries, by which she meant that she canvas stitched images. She told me that she was struggling currently with a commission to complete the image of Leonardo’s Last Supper.

It struck me that iconic feats of hagiography like Leonardo’s Last Supper have managed to rise above the limitations of being branded a “Catholic” image; after all, we have seen hundreds of years of Anglicans and other schools of religious persuasions feveriously disassociate themselves from anything “Catholic”, from any spectacle or event that has any suggestions of “bells & smells”. Perhaps its fame has managed to impart a type of universalism to the image.

We have all just celebrated Easter, in a year whose calender aligned Orthodox & Catholic/Anglican etc celebrations. A cartoon posted on FB made light of a white guy being born in the middle east & growing up to found the christian religion.

Perhaps the Leonardo image has managed a generic version of our expectations of the original Last Supper, an amalgum of white guy looks in an occidentalised setting. There’s something of red hat/yellow hat about the event. Of course there’s a tradition that nomadic Tibetans stayed in Palestine during Jesus’ upbringing, & contributed to his particular message of love, tolerance & non-judgementalism. Wouldn’t it be nice.


About anton veenstra

tapestry weaver, fibre artist, gay/qr activist, multiculturalist
This entry was posted in Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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