By EKACHAI EUTANPISIT
Nuns are among the photographers represented in the exhibition "Woman is Mindfulness"
“CHILDREN ARE BORN to make this world beautiful, similar to the way the flowers bloom on this earth,” says Mae Chee Sansanee Sthirasuta, a Buddhist nun and founding director of the Sathira Dhammasathan Centre in Bangkok.
Reaping the fruits of mindfulness, photographer Somkid Chaijitvanich has taken dozens of remarkable shots of young girls initiated into the sisterhood. She’s presenting them and other photographers’ stirring images in the exhibition “Satri Khue Sati” (“Woman is Mindfulness”) at the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre through Sunday. There are 86 pictures in all to see.
The first part of the show features images taken by nuns and young bhikkhuni at the centre. Ranging in age from six to 70, they had a month’s training with Somkid before heading off on their own to get pictures.
Somkid’s own photos comprise the second part, depicting the young nuns. And the third part has images taken by such established photographers as National Artist Teeraparb Lohitkun, Duangdao Suwanrangsri and Punsiri Siriwetchapun.
Mae Chee Sansanee founded the centre in the belief that everyone should adhere to the dharma in daily life. “We stay in this world, but we live by the dharma,” the senior nun says. “I like to be open with others and express my gratitude to my mentors.
“I’m also grateful to the young nuns who give me in turn the opportunity to pay my respect like this and who confirm that I have heirs to the dharma teaching. They are like the pilings on which a building is raised and it’s they who will teach the next generation.
“Children have been my friends throughout my life’s journey,” Mae Chee says. “When they take pictures, it is with a virtue that’s above right or wrong and without prejudice. Taking pictures unveils the truth. Learning never ends. It liberates us from suffering.”
Somkid has absorbed the dharma lessons into her heart, saying that if today were to be her last day in this life, she would have no regrets.
“Helping others makes me really happy. Sathira Dhammasathan is where I’ve grown up spiritually, and now I’ve shown my gratitude in teaching the young nuns about photography. I’ve actually learned a lot from them in return – they’ve become my teachers.
“When we look at the pictures we see only part of the truth, but it goes much deeper, and seeing what’s inside the pictures brings much more happiness than just the beauty evident on the outside. I had some tough experiences in the past few years, but they were really enjoyable.”
The exhibition includes a broad array of photography techniques, emotions, lighting and shadows, as well as beautiful scenery and architecture. Taking it all in evokes a sense of inner peace.
Teeraparb says both writing and photography involve deciding “how you’ll tell the truth appropriately or how you’ll describe beauty as it’s reflected in your feelings”.
Mindfulness – being conscious of our every action – ensures that every photo will have meaning, he says. “Even I sometimes feel I haven’t got the picture that truly reflects the beauty I see.”
Mae Chee says “clicking the shutter with the hand” produces a picture, but “by clicking the shutter with a pure heart, we get something special. It’s a picture of the truth.”