On August 16, 2016 the 114th anniversary of George Roerich, the elder son of Nicholas and Helena Roerich, was celebrated in the International Roerich Memorial Trust, Nagar, Distt. Kullu.
The 114th anniversary of George Roerich in the International Roerich Memorial Trust
This year, too, festivities started with the Buddhist ritual ‘Lama Choepa’ (the Tibetan analogue of Guru Puja), the sacred ceremony in honour of one’s spiritual master. And it is not a coincidence. To his own students George Roerich was not only a research supervisor but a real teacher of life, a true Guru. Buddhists also treat him as a Guru, which would be justified even for his English translation of the Tibetan historical treatise ‘The Blue Annals’ alone. His translation of the chapter on the Kalachakra, the great teaching of Shambhala, is admitted to be one of the best. The solemn ritual in the memory of George Roerich was conducted by the lamas of the Pangang Monastery located on the opposite bank of the Beas.
Ms. Olga Karaseva’s paper titled “In Search for a Common Ground: The Latest Interaction Between Buddhism and Western Science” was presented by Alexander Pereverzev, Assistant Curator, IRMT. Ms. Karaseva who could not be present at the seminar is a research scholar at the School of Central Asian Studies, JNU, Delhi, India. For the past three decades with the active support of His Holiness Dalai Lama XIV an international seminar on the so-called neurosciences – the interdisciplinary branch of knowledge studying neural processes – has been held. The main focus of the seminar is on the achievements of neurobiology, neuropsychology, and psychopharmacology. While studying such problems as the existence of different levels of consciousness, the relationship between ethics, virtue, emotions and health; the relationship between emotions and the physical characteristics of brain etc., the seminar has found empirical proofs of the paradigm according to which the body and the brain are carriers of mental processes rather than their substantial causes. The participants of the seminar propose to consider the latest findings of astrophysics and quantum physics like the limitlessness of Universe through the paradigm of Buddhist philosophy, draw parallels between the quantum vacuum and the postulates of the Kalachakra, etc. In his writings Dalai Lama proposes to develop a universal ethics on the basis of new science working in close cooperation with Buddhist philosophy. As George Roerich claimed, “Presently knowledge is the only way for mankind. It is the turn of science now.”
The academic seminar “George Roerich as a Scholar of Buddhism” that discussed various topics related to the Buddhist culture and philosophy became the main event of the festive day.
Mr. Andrey Yemelin, Ph.D. (Psychology), discussed the similarities and differences in the approach to the nature of human mind in Buddhism and modern psychology. He underscored the difference in the goals of the psychological practices they propose: social adaptation and strengthening of the function of Ego in western psychology and rising to the qualitatively different transpersonal level of consciousness in Buddhism. But there also are points of similarity between the two systems of mental training: of late, the special practices of awareness and concentration, and the self-actualization of personality are being developed within the framework of gestalt- and transpersonal psychology. If one starts thinking about others and wishing for their happiness and cessation of their suffering, it will contribute to the development of a more harmonious society and will help one get rid of one’s fears and anxieties.
“As a scholar, George Roerich was one of the greatest encyclopedists of East and West,” wrote George Roerich’s colleague, director of the Sikkim Research Institute of Tibetology Nirman Singh. “A linguist, explorer, archeologist, art critic, historian and Culture expert, he had no limits in the field of knowledge.” At the age of 21, having solid theoretical knowledge and impressive military training, George Roerich along with his parents took part in the Central Asian Expedition, in the course of which he developed himself as a researcher with extraordinarily broad erudition. After the completion of the expedition at the end of 1928 the family moved to the Kullu Valley, and here in the Roerich Himalayan Estate George Roerich lived and worked for 20 years in close cooperation with his parents and brother, Svetoslav Roerich. He engaged in research, organized expeditions and remained the continuous director of ‘Uruvsati’ Himalayan Research Institute. Along with absolutely diverse fields of knowledge, he was deeply interested in Buddhism, mainly as a subject of high science. It has therefore become a good tradition of the IRMT to invite the representatives of Buddhism to the anniversary celebrations of this renowned scholar.
In her welcome address Mrs. Larisa Surgina, Russian Curator, IRMT, informed the participants of the seminar of the major achievements of George Roerich as a scholar. These include, among others, his monograph titled ‘Tibetan Paintings’, his translation of the fundamental treatise on the history of Tibetan Buddhism ‘The Blue Annals’, as well as the articles on the history and culture of Central Asia. Having returned to his motherland, George Roerich revived the ‘Bibliotheca Buddhica’ Series and became the editor of the famous text Dhammapada.
Mr. Ramesh Chander, Indian Curator, IRMT, presented a paper on Tibetan Iconography. Tibetan art is more than a millennium-old and is inseparably connected with the Buddhist philosophy and practice. Whatever the Tibetan thankas and statues depict (the universe, spiritual realms, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas), their each and every detail is pregnant with profound symbolic meaning. The speaker dwelled on the images of Avalokiteshvara, Padmasambhava Mahakala and the famous philosopher Nagarjuna so popular in Tibetan iconography. He also underscored the relevance of one of the basic ideas of Buddhism, that of compassion for all living beings, in the world of today.
Mr. Petr Abramov, Ph.D. (Philosophy), Science Editor of the magazine of the International Centre of the Roerichs, Moscow, presented a paper on “Buddhist Cosmology”. When we talk about Buddhist cosmology it has to be remembered that in Buddhism external world is just a relative and not an absolute and self-sufficient reality. Different Buddhist cosmological theories are found in Theravada, in the Mahayana teaching of countless Buddha fields and also in the system of Kalachakra. The Buddhist ideas of atomic and vacuum particles, the theory of world’s development due to natural causes rather than by the will of the almighty god, etc. are profound and non-contradictory to the modern scientific data. All the same, Dalai Lama XIV remarks that several cosmological ideas of the Abhidharma, for instance that the Earth is flat and the Sun and the Moon rotate around it, should be removed from Buddhism.
The researcher and social worker of Himachal Pradesh Mrs. Rosie Khanna spoke on the “Religious Culture of the Kullu Valley”. In terms of culture and archeology the Kullu Valley is a truly remarkable area. As Nicholas Roerich wrote, once upon a time dozens of Buddhist monasteries flourished there. Bon left its imprint on the religious beliefs of the valley, which is a blend of Buddhism, Hinduism and Shamanism. Many a story and legend is connected with the ancient heroes and sages who inhabited it in time immemorial. Learning about the life and deeds of such saintly figures of Hinduism as Rishis Manu, Jamadagni and Vasishtha closely connected with this valley, and the contemplation on the grand and beautiful Himalayas can transform the life of man. Most importantly, as the speaker noted, all myths and legends corroborate the eternal law: good always triumphs over evil and light invariably dispels darkness.
The festive day was marked by the opening of two exhibitions in the IRMT. The grand opening of the exhibition of modern art from the collection of the International Roerich Memorial Trust (IRMT) took place in the Seminar Hall. The exhibition displays several Rajasthani and Himachali landscapes of the recently deceased big friend of the IRMT Atmaram Koigade, the Himalayan landscapes of Carol Fraser, views of the Roerich Estate in Naggar and Helena Roerich’s cremation site in Kalimpong executed in 1995 by the Russian artist Vladimir Nadezhin, watercolours by Prabir and Banasree Dutta, views of Naggar, its environs and monuments.
Only a part of the modern art collection of the IRMT has been displayed in the exhibition. The paintings gifted to the IRMT by the artists who exhibited there during the past decade form the backbone of the collection. Then there are the pictures painted in the Roerich Estate proper and presented to the IRMT by the guest artists. Being a true multicultural mosaic, the exhibition displays the works by the artists from India, Russia, USA, Great Britain, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
The second exhibition that opened on the same day – that of the children’s paintings on “The Cherished Nicholas Roerich Sites” – caused delight and admiration of the guests of the programme. The exhibition displayed the drawings and paintings of the students of the Helena Roerich Academy of Arts for Children who participated in the international competition “The Sound and Colour of Roerich’s Realm” conducted annually by the administration of the Leningrad Region, Russia, with the support of the St. Petersburg branch of the International Centre of the Roerichs, Moscow.
The house of the Roerichs and their memorial bench, ‘Urusvati’ Institute and the Tripura Sundari Temple, the picturesque spot under the linden trees where Helena and Nicholas Roerich so liked to sit and where the Memorial Stone of Nicholas Roerich is now located – all these cherished Himalayan sites of the great Russian artist seen through the eyes of Indian children and experienced in children’s hearts could not leave anyone untouched.
The festivities closed with the cultural programme by the students and teachers of the Helena Roerich Academy of Art for Children, IRMT, and the students of the Tibetan Children’s Village School, Patlikuhl (close to Naggar). They presented Tibetan folk songs and dances, the traditional songs of the Kullu valley, the medley of patriotic songs on the occasion of the Independence Day celebrated the day before (August 15), and dance items from the contemporary popular Indian films including ‘Jodha and Akbar’. The students were dressed in national costumes and the items they performed – so full of light, zeal and pure childlike spirit – charged everybody with joy and optimism.
The day closed with the traditional ‘nati’ dance that united adults and children, Indians and Russians, and all the guests and participants of the festival in honour of the great Scholar and Human Being George Roerich.
Mrs. Larisa Surgina, Russian Curator, IRMT, welcomes the guests and participants of the seminar “George Roerich as a Scholar of Buddhism”.
Mr. Ramesh Chander, Indian Curator, IRMT, delivers a lecture on Tibetan Iconography.
Dr. Alexander Pereverzev reads out a paper by Ms. Olga Karaseva.