Gary Linehan, The Union Democrat

By Jenny Rosenbaum

For The Union Democrat

The monthly "Salon, East-West Mosaic: Alchemy of Transformation" will sponsor a slide presentation by Jeffrey Durham, curator of Himalayan art at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.His talk will begin at 6 p.m. Sunday at 709 Arbona Circle in Sonora. The community is welcome.

Durham will discuss an historic exhibition at the Asian Art Museum on view through May 25 - "Yoga: the Art of Transformation." The show encompasses thousands of years of Indian art - more than 100 masterpieces illuminating the philosophical, mystical, spiritual and artistic underpinnings of yogic traditions that played a key role in the evolution of Asia's legacy to the world.

The Asian Art Museum is the only West Coast venue for this historic show and the world's first major art exhibition on yoga - the spiritual discipline that plunges into life's most difficult problem: the persistence of human suffering and how to transcend it.

The artwork is drawn from more than 25 museums and private collections in the United States, India and Europe, dating from the second to the 20th centuries. The paintings, tapestries and sculptures illuminate, according to Durham, "the kaleidoscopic array of traditions we call yoga," including the "subtle body" - the network of bodily energy centers yogis target - and the esoteric traditions in which gurus could transform themselves into immortal gods and goddesses, read people's minds, learn to fly and revisit the past.

They attained these levels through mastery of the body, using mandalas, intense concentration, mantras and transcendence of dualities.

The show probes yoga's ancient genesis, today a global phenomenon practiced by millions of people to attain heightened spiritual insights and enhanced health. Some of the Mughal emperors who ruled India for 200 years were themselves spiritual seekers who surrounded themselves with Sufi sages and holy men.

The exhibition reveals many of the paradoxes and enigmas underlying yogic traditions, such as its focus on "perfecting one's body in order to lose it, loosening the mind till the cosmos flows in" and "how the great savior god Shiva is at once ethereal and frightful," in the words of art historian Holland Cotter, who describes yoga as "a shattering personal revolution that altered the rules of the existential game and redefined the possible."

Durham's talk will also explore an accompanying exhibition at the museum: "Enter the Mandala," through Oct. 26. For Himalayan Buddhists, mandalas are cosmic maps saturated with mystical meanings. They do not simply represent the home of the deities but are visionary worlds to enter, to gain insight into the innermost nature of reality.

As Durham described it: "Practitioners visualize a specific mandala then, in the mind's eye, enter it in full three-dimensional detail." This exhibition offers "a taste of the genius of esoteric Buddhist art," Durham said. "It provides entry into another world in ways that, under ordinary conditions, would require decades of meditation to master."

Indian music will be featured before Sunday's talk. The slide show will be followed by a question and answer session and a potluck dinner. Donations are wewlcome but no one will be turned away. For directions or more information, call 533-4208.