Himalayan painting (detail) by John BrzostoskiJohn Brzostoski, painter, writer, lecturer, curator of the Tibetan art collection of the Riverside Museum, and founder and director of the Center of Oriental Studies, has taught Buddhist and Oriental philosophy and art as well as contemporary art since 1950. His work is timely and timeless, intimate yet universal, with essential materials deeply pertinent to confronting the Tibetan, Oriental, and human experience.

Four Essays:
ONE, “Himalayan Art”:
“The mountains rise one after another like waves of an endlessly incoming tide. In other places they stand like a snow-covered wall beyond which the world ends in white space. When one walks amongst these highest places . . . the superficial which is always with us withers. . . . If the mountains are internalized, the sanity of a natural life returns. If not, there is another way to do it through a special form of art.”

WO, “New Introduction to Tibetan Art” for the 1989 exhibition of the Riverside collection.(See the Riverside Museum Catalog of Tibetan Art below.)

HREE, “The Key to Tibetan Art”; How to come face-to-face with Tibetan art.

AND THE FOURTH, Tantra Art, Etc.
Black As black second black by black second black the black tantra black enters black the black twenty-first black century black and black dies, black moment black by black moment black it black is black being black reborn.

Web version of the original Riverside Museum Catalogue of Tibetan Art:
(introduction as well as the original b&w reproductions w/ commentary). This out-of-print classic invites you to partake of the direct and palpable connection that Tibetan Buddhist art will make with us. It discusses how the art does this, and takes us through Tibet’s history and spiritual traditions.

A review of the New York Metropolitan Museum's major 1998 exhibition
“When Silk Was Gold,” of silk tapestry art (w/ color examples).

An early review of the major Tibetan art collection at the Newark Museum .

Open Letter to H.H. the Dalai Lama written upon the occasion of his visit in 1998 (w/ a color photo).

This still timely words-and-images essay captures the immediacy of the plight of the Tibetans (seven original color reproductions).

Come to Ladakh
1976 when it was first opened to travel.

“The Noh Robe As Perfection.”
“Attention is paid to attention. Within calm dignity, watch and see in plain forms that simplicity is patterned. The form itself creates other form. Watch this with a perception as if of life-and-death importance.”

Exquisite impermanence (the Japanese call aware), so present in the “The Art of Hon’ami Koetsu,” all too briefly exhibited at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, may still be savored. See the paintings. Sip some tea from Hon’ami’s teacup.

“The Lotus Is Born in Fire” was re-presented shortly after 9-11 along with three original paintings that emerged together with it.

“Go live, win and lose, smash your hands against hysterical constellations, your head against phases of the moon, and your heart against another heart. Find the leisure to contemplate the results. You will discover the human condition.”

“Road to Sukhavati”:
"Our borrowed word is Sukha (joy-bliss-ecstasy). Art is about getting to the place of Sukha, i.e. Sukhavati."

The Maitreya Festival is held in August to commemorate Geshe Wangyal, who brought this tradition, first started by his teacher Lama Dorjieff in Mongolia, to the United States.

John has written words for the annual Maitreya Festival for over thirty years. This is his retelling of the Tibetan story of the Dog-Tooth Buddha Relic.

Desideri is John Brzostoski’s masterpiece of stunning beauty, insight and, depth. It is based on the diaries and writings of Father Ippolito Desideri, a Jesuit missionary, who lived and studied in Lhasa during the tumultuous period between the sixth and the seventh dalai lamas. Here is a short excerpt:

Unable to sleep, he dressed and quietly found the door. The watchman was startled to see him exit the gompa grounds just as wind arose and a storm, hidden in the night made its way from the cold edge of the valley. Desideri walked towards the Potala whose shadowy outline he could make out, now dim and now bright in the flashes of lightening.

It began to rain, and he took shelter in a square of yellow light. It was a house of chang sellers. Some were drinking, others half-asleep, muttering. They were polite, but offered him nothing because of his monkly robes. In the mutual eye movings, he realized where he was — one of the houses where the now-dead Dalai Lama had drunk and made songs for his lovers.

It was strange that he had found his way here. Male and female lovers, was that true? There was no way to know. The storm was now upon the valley, and the yellow room picked up the solo singing of a man’s voice somewhere out in the rain. The others, half-drunk, looked startled, and frightened, staring out into the darkness.

Desideri could understand why. The voice was so beautiful. Going to the door, he went out to find the singer. The rain stung his face, but he did not step back in. It was cold, and the drops were sharp as needles.

His head covered, he ventured towards the voice. It was near the Naga King’s park. In the flickering of lightening, he could see the little deserted pavilion over a bridge where there had been so many lovers’ rendezvous. He crossed over to be under the shelter of porch. A sleepy guard with a lantern came, recognized him, and left without a word. Then, it was then, Desideri heard the singer, as if in the sky or up on the Potala. Impossible, singing of being in Litang. He shuddered, for this was the last song of that lover-priest before he was killed by the Chinese. Silence came, but not to his heart, nor to his body. He remained where he was, mixing thoughts of staying warm with the strangeness of love in Tibet.

The cold rain began to freeze, but it was not until dawn struck that he realized the extent of the ice storm. With the storm gone, and the sun rising, he saw the twisted trees, those wooden dragon spirits made of glass, every tiny twig encased in ice — startling trees, made of brilliant light. And as quickly, they began to move with tinkling bell-like sounds, lifting his heart to a joy which he could not understand. He moved amongst them, head and eyes lifted, seeing the blue sky erase clouds and shield the valley.

He returned to Sera Gompa.

By noon that day, the ice was gone. In fact, many had not seen any evidence of its short visit.


On the High Road
Profound reading! Great fun! Take the 81-panel trip On the High Road.
The link takes you to Virginia Henes’ Tibetan Liberation site.* You may use the back button to return to Bro-pa.

Virginia Henes offers a large nonredundant collection of works by John Brzostoski at

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