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Image of the Week: Milarepa in a Mountain Cave

11 Dec, 2015

Milarepa in a Mountain Cave

With the chaos of crowds of Christmas shoppers darting here and there, it’s the time of year when you could be forgiven for thinking that disappearing to a mountain cave for some peace and quiet is just the ticket. In this week’s Image of the Week one of Tibet’s most famous historical yoga practitioners and poets, Jetsun Milarepa, is seen doing exactly that.

Credited as one of the earliest advocates for physical spiritual practice – one that ‘takes the body as the path (to enlightenment)’ – Milarepa lived in the 11th century and spent much of his adult life in caves throughout the Himalayas meditating and composing. He was famed for having composed over 100,000 songs over his lifetime, and so, like here, is often depicted with his hand cupped to his ear, listening for his next inspiration.

This particular statue of Milarepa dates from the 18th century and features in Wellcome Collection’s latest exhibition ‘Tibet’s Secret Temple’, which explores Tantric Buddhism and its rich history of yogic and meditation practices and their connections to health. It’s a charming object, showing this archetypal ascetic meditator sitting in his cave, composing songs about the joys and challenges of his Tantric Buddhist path. If you look closely, you can see that even the animals on the mountain – deer, tigers, snow lions, red birds – have stopped to listen.

While it might not be entirely practical to get to a mountain cave yourself, Tibet’s Secret Temple gives a glimpse into the ancient, esoteric and once-secret practices that Tibetan yogis, like Milarepa, used on their path toward physical and mental wellbeing. So why not take a moment away from the crowds and come and explore the hidden gems at Wellcome Collection?

Come and explore body, mind and meditation in tantric Buddhism in ‘Tibet’s Secret Temple‘ at Wellcome Collection – on until 28th February 2016.

Image credit: Milarepa (1040-1123) Meditating in a Mountain, Kagyu Order, Tibet, 18th century © Collection of the Newark Museum

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