Monday, February 6, 2017

A Guide to Religious Texts: British Library

©The British Library Board, 'Kareki hana sakusha no seigan', printed in 1791
If the sacred texts of many religions overwhelm you, then take a look at some of the favorite passages or images that religious scholars chose. In an online exhibit called Expressions of Faith, the British Library invited scholars and well-known people of each of the major religions to choose their favorite.

The result gives you a fascinating look at some of the religions' great manuscripts.

For example, Sue Arnold, a well-known author and social critic with a tie to Buddhism through a Burmese mother,  picked the illustrated text above. Here's what she says about the text:
This is one of the humorous, but edifying, illustrated texts known as yellow-cover books. An impoverished novelist, Yokuro, envious of the wealth of offerings accumulated by the god, Kannon, begs him to change places for a day. The god grants Yokuro's wish and strolls off to the pleasure gardens disguised in everyday clothes - though the headdress is a bit of a giveaway
Arnold goes on to explain the importance of poverty "as a step toward salvation."
Here's  one of the Hindu manuscripts that Ravi Shanka, a very famous sitar player, chose.
Image courtesy of British Library
@the British Library Board, Shelfmark: Add. MS 24099
It's called the Sapta Chakra, which is "an illlustration of the parts of the body associated with yoga."
Shanka says that it "contains 84 recognised 'asanas' [yoga postures] and 24 'mudras'  [positions of the body] with explanatory notes in Braja-bhasha verse.

The manuscript has 118 pages and was written at the beginning of the 19th century." This exhibit is definitely worth exploring if you teach religion or you are simply interested in seeing how others see their sacred texts. It might also work as an interesting web quest.

Thanks to my colleague, Jeff Feinstein, for sending me the link. And my thanks to the British Library for permission to use their digital images.

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