A Woman Defined

Art & Culture by Mahvash Mossaed

As Though I Had Just Come Back Home

August 31, 2011

It’s so ironic… Since I was a young girl, I was never a spiritual or a religion person, mostly due to the fact that I have never been the kind of person whom can easily conform. If you were to draw a circle around me and forbid me to ever step out of it, all I would want to do is to step out of this circle the first chance I get.

I am an artist –  a painter. For years and years, since the beginning of my adulthood, when I started to paint, up until the older woman I am now, I have always painted my own life symbolically. I have been a woman going through different phases of her life, expressing and communicating her feelings through her autobiographical paintings with her viewers.

About 15 years ago, I started painting all these images of a woman, who was supposedly me, all in white, sitting in meditation forms and poses. I managed to complete a large collection of works all dedicated to spirituality and one’s connection with the beyond.

All these paintings were hung and covered all the walls of my home and my studio. Often, people who came to visit would ask me in complete surprise, “Well, Mahvash, what is going on? We did not know that you are into meditation and spirituality.” The fact was that I did not know it myself either, but it was like my soul was telling me something, and the best thing I could do was to listen to its soft whisper very carefully. And that’s exactly what I did.

I started reading books on religions – all sorts of books by different masters and spiritual leaders; books on meditation, yoga, Zen, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. I listened to lectures by masters of all sorts, spiritualists and philosophers. I took notes of the parts of their writings that had affected me just to compare one’s point of view with another. I would fall in love with a master’ s mind and then that master’s philosophy. I would immerse and drown myself into their writings. As I advanced into my readings, I felt that I was already creating a communication line with which I could get in touch with the person I was inside.

They say that when a student is ready, the teacher will appear. It is so very much true. Let me tell you how it all happened.

One day, I was invited and accompanied by a friend of mine to a woman’s house. As the homeowner was showing us around the house, she took us to a room and said, “Now this room is my sanctuary. It’s where I come to find my peace.”

The room was cozy, quiet and small. The light was dim. There was an altar set up against the wall, and in front of it were incense and books. The colors and textures of the objects in the room were subdued. Everything sat in the background with no attempt at getting much attention, yet you felt like you could sit there quietly for a long while and just be immersed in your own soul without being disturbed by anyone, including the constant noise in your own head.

The silence of the room made us feel as if we had to whisper and be calm and let go of all our anxieties. Tee host continued, “Yes, this is where I come when I need to be one with myself. As you know, I am a Buddhist. I practice Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism.”

I wanted to know everything about it, and she also wanted to tell me everything about what was so special and so close to her heart. That evening, we all sat around her dining table, drinking tea and talking about life, death and our beliefs. Afterward, I went home with a collection of books that she had lent me to read. I was fascinated, curious and excited, like I was about to get off a ship that had brought me to this magical, exotic island which I could not wait to explore.

The first time I walked into the SGI Buddhist Center, there were about close to one hundred people all gathered there for a world peace prayer. They were all chanting “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” together with one voice. I sat on the first seat I could find and started chanting with everyone else, my voice first timid and a whisper, but soon loud and clear. I felt one with every one, as though my voice were one of the many waves of this powerful river which was moving forward. I felt as though I was one of the waves and part of this river’s energy, and my voice was effortlessly going with it. I felt that everything there was already very familiar to me, as though I had done this before, as though I had been there before, as though I had just come back home.

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