I, AN ARTIST

Prumsodun Ok, wearing a srang ka designed under his direction, before the dance altar at the Khmer Arts Academy.  Photo: Khannia Ok.

One day, my late father and I sat before a writer from the Los Angeles Times.  She asked him questions about his views on my sexuality, and what he thought about the nature of my work.  My father told her that he had no problem with me being gay; as long as I was a good person that was all that mattered.  What shocked me most however was that the old man—in response to the latter question—said, “When Prum was young I wanted him to be a doctor, a lawyer, or a teacher.  Now as an artist he is all of those things and more.”

 

Indeed, the artist in the highest and most virtuous sense is someone who heals, instilling justice and morality while sharing the liberating power of knowledge.  We have a privileged responsibility to share our gifts, so as to advance and elevate the state of humanity.  Artists therefore, are not unlike the bodhisattva—enlightened beings who labor for the spiritual transcendence of all.  Taking after The Way of the Bodhisattva then:

 

“Therefore, free from all attachment,

I will give this body for the benefit of beings.

And though it is afflicted by so many faults,

I shall adopt it as my necessary tool.”[487]

 

Keeping this purpose in mind, I will now recount a brief history of my performance work.  Each project exemplifies my multiplicity of approach, reflecting my realities as a practitioner born and raised in the diaspora and as an artist trained in dance and music, photography and filmmaking, poetry and writing. 

 

Although I started my ventures as an independent dancer in 2006—when I initiated, directed, curated, and performed in the SFAI Asian Performance Series—it was not until 2008 when I choreographed my first work, Robam Santhyea Vehea.  Meaning “Dance of the Twilight Sky,” it was inspired by my first visit to Phnom Penh, where the LGBTQ community lives in a liminal social space, present but teetering between visible and invisible.  I thus challenged myself to choreograph a short work using Khmer classical dance, costuming, and music in the traditional style, to depict the celestial love and union of two male deities.

 

It is significant to note that I used a melody that I first heard in Roeung Preah Sang, which dancers of the Sophiline Arts Ensemble were rehearsing during my time there in 2008.  Although Neak Kru Sophiline later told me it was a “feminine melody,” I chose it as it was beautiful, and embodied a history of defiantly powerful love.  In Roeung Preah Sang, the melody is used when Rachana tosses her garland to—and thereby chooses to marry—Preah Sang who is disguised as a nguoh.  Through the power of her virtue, the princess possessed the vision to see his “golden image” beneath the black skin considered uncouth and savage by her community.  Rachana is beaten by her sisters and expelled from the palace as a result—not unlike how some families and certain societies shun and stigmatize LGBTQ peoples all over the world today.  In fact, and unfortunately, approximately forty percent of homeless youth in the United States identify as LGBTQ.  To invoke Rachana and the nguoh  through this melody in Robam Santhyea Vehea then, was to invoke a history of fearless love, an honest and empowering love that transcends the limitations of society.

 

When I think about it, Robam Santhyea Vehea in many ways reflects my realities as a beginning choreographer—I was only twenty-one years old, and had only been trained as a dancer for five years at the time.  Although the work was and remains loaded with much social significance, I often found myself grappling with many limitations.  I did not have access to another male dancer (or professional dancers for that matter), so it was first performed by my sister Callie and I.  Later it was performed by two female dancers playing neay rong: Nong Sophanmay and Khannia Ok, who is my youngest sister. 

 

More importantly the most powerful limitations were self-imposed, as my historical understanding was not as sharp as it is today.  I often asked myself if the movements were traditional enough.  And my mind was often wandering wildly, thinking sometimes the sky would fall upon me at any given moment for my self-perceived transgression.  But of course, there was no transgression of any kind made.  And it made me realize that we are most fearful when we are ignorant and lack sharp visions with which to see the past, present, and future. 

 

I snapped out of this however, during lunch one day when I resigned to Neak Kru Sophiline in Cambodia.  Watching my peers dance, their technique so polished and refined, I felt like I would never catch up as I did not have access to my teacher every day.  Furthermore, I felt like a strange anomaly—skilled enough to dance alongside my peers but unable to perform with them as I was male.  Neak Kru Sophiline responded that I can dance on stage by myself, and it was from then that I was determined to carve a clear place for myself on the universe of the stage.  I had to create my own form of theater; and to do so, I drew from the words of my filmmaking teacher Brook Hinton, who taught me to “transform limitations into possibilities.”

 

So in 2009, I choreographed Robam Lom Arom.  Not having access to pin peat musicians, I designed a soundscape incorporating English narration and a Khmer lullaby.  Not having access to a costume dresser, I minimalized the costume: shaving my head to create a gender-neutral image, heightening this by painting myself completely white (an outdated practice that I was already using in Robam Santhyea Vehea), and donning a gold sbai to engender the character—who was a woman waiting for the return of her husband.  Robam Lom Arom incorporated video that was projected onto my white body-canvas, a nod to the dance’s title which translates to “Dance of Emotion’s Caress.”

 

In 2010, expanding on this approach, I created Love Me Rachana.  The work featured English narration that I wrote from the perspective of the nguoh, which was layered on a live soundscape by Archie Carey and Odeya Nini.  Inspired by my filmmaking practice—which sometimes used found footage and repetition as a tool—I appropriated the sequence of movements for when Rachana “turns her face” and tosses the garland, repeating and building upon it as the narration, which contemplated action in the face of physical and social violence, played.  Channeling this history and embodying it through the choreography spoke to the bravery and power of independent choice, allowing for my body to be a vessel for a strong, courageous, and virtuous love.

 

Expanding on this interdisciplinarity of approach, I choreographed The Cambodia Exhibit in 2011.  Inspired by nationalist conflicts on social spaces such as YouTube, the work used sound, dance, and performative talk to explore the ways in which the dancer’s body had become a tool for nationalist violence between Khmers and Thais.  Throughout the process of making this work, and through its performance, I was asking: are there borders to the love and knowledge of Lok Ta Moni Eisey? 

 

Then in 2012, I staged a dance ritual featuring the performance of a one-time work called White Chalk Horse.  Held on January 20, 2012, it honored the one-year anniversary of my father’s passing and celebrated my twenty-fifth birthday—which coincided on that same day.  Featuring both traditional and contemporary work, from both myself and non-Khmer artists such as Yannis Adoniou, Vong Phrommala, Cynthia Ling Lee, and Carol McDowell, the ritual was a moment for me to express my gratitude in the face of such significant loss.  I have staged the ritual every year since on January 20th, sometimes alone and sometimes with others,[488] to thank my father, my ancestors, my teachers, the teacher spirits, and the gods as I contemplate the interconnectedness of life and death, rebirth and renewal in our universe.

Of Land and Sky, written, directed, and performed by Prumsodun Ok and guest artists.  Sound by Archie Carey, Odeya Nini, and Ariel Campos.

Reflecting this same feeling of loss—this time the loss of lovers—and building upon my approaches to interdisciplinary performance, I created Of Land and Sky in that same year.  Inspired by a clip from the vintage Khmer film Tip Sodachan, one featuring vocals by Ros Sereysothea and Sinn Sisamouth, in which the characters sing for each other across the vast distance of land and sky, the work drew from a mythological motif and plot details seen in the Khmer dance drama Roeung Kailas, the Noh drama Hagoromo, the Japanese anime Ayashi no Ceres, and of course Tip Sodachan.  I casted two gay men as the realm-crossing lovers torn apart by social pressure, and surrounded them with a chorus of multiracial topless women ages twenty to sixty.  In doing so, I was reviving outdated Khmer approaches to the female body to challenge contemporary social norms.  In the United States, for example, disconnected men were passing anti-abortion legislation with no consideration for a woman’s choice or circumstances.  Even years later, at the time of this writing, this war on women is evidenced by American terrorists who opened fire on and killed people at Planned Parenthood centers.

 

One time, after showing the opening act of Of Land and Sky to a group of Khmer students at a university in Southeast Asia, a young woman shared a comment with me.  As a Khmer woman, she could not imagine being topless on stage because she valued her “purity.”  I responded to say that purity and virginity are different things, as you can be virgin and still have violent, unjust, and impure thoughts.  You can be a virgin and still hurt and harm others physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

 

I encouraged her to have more compassion.  For what are we to do when young children are abducted or sold into child prostitution?  Who is to blame when a woman, living in a society offering no other opportunities, sacrifices her social regard and personal safety by selling her body to feed her family?  In such a case, she has the compassionate strength and purity of spirit that a virgin may not necessarily have.  And, as Buddhists, Khmers should understand more than anyone how unreliable surfaces and bodies are anyways. 

 

For example Sophanaka, the demon sister of Reab, transformed herself into a heavenly beauty in the Reamker to seduce Preah Ream and Preah Leak.  Unable to charm them, her wicked mind and heart rises through her false form and she attacks Neang Seda.  Preah Leak subdues and disfigures the demoness before any harm can be done to the princess however.  This episode—as well as that of Rachana, Preah Sang, and nguoh—shows us then that the body is nothing but a shell and illusion, one that will ultimately decay and crumble.  Indeed, as my father once said to me when I was a six year-old boy, “We begin dying the day we are born.”  So how do we die gracefully?  How do we leave this world meaningfully and beautifully?  Leave it at a higher level and better place? 

 

Finally, on this anecdote, I made it clear to her that I never forced any of the dancers to be topless.  They made a conscious decision to do so because they believed in my vision, and trusted in each other and in me.  So what she was seeing was not a group of srei koch (bad or broken women), but an immense amount of bravery, love, intelligence, strength, and care.  Indeed, I specifically chose the dancers to highlight the diverse breadth of female beauty—because creating a space for myself means creating a space for everyone.  Consequently the dancers range in age, color, physicality, energy, and experience.  They are mothers and wives, sisters and daughters; they are actors, dancers, performance artists, writers, university professors, and community leaders as well.  All of them are the masters of their own lives and bodies, not unlike the tevoda and apsara at Angkor who sometimes hold their breasts confidently, offering to us the nurturing mother’s milk of the divine feminine.

 

Before this talk however, I unintentionally gained notoriety in Cambodia and Khmer diasporic communities in 2013.  For a re-performance of Robam Apsara—which I understood clearly to be a much-celebrated symbol of Khmer national identity—I stripped away the skin-colored leotard that dancers wear today.  As I was a man, this was an insignificant social gesture so I also removed the skirt that dancers normally wear as well.  What resulted was an offering of my body, and the history it carried, to the tradition and the society it represents.  The dance came to take on new meaning and significance as a result, all without changing a single movement.  Heated discussions ensued about the relationship between tradition and innovation, about whether men belonged in the tradition or not, and about Khmer identity to name a few.

 

Tevoda at Angkor Wat.  Twelfth century.  Photo: Prumsodun Ok.

Tevoda at Beng Mealea, her knotted hair conjuring the image of Thorani or the Earth wringing water from her hair.  Twelfth century.  Photo: Prumsodun Ok.

Robam Apsara re-performed by Prumsodun Ok.

In fact, my re-performance of Robam Apsara was a turn back to dance that reflected certain circumstances of my life at that moment.  First off, as my work got bigger and bigger, I felt as if I was in a rat race of sorts.  Partly, this had to do with the art school culture I was trained in which calls for constant production.  I realized that I needed to slow down, to breathe, and told myself that in this life—no matter how little or how many works I made—it was the quality and clarity of spirit, meaning, beauty, philosophy, and purpose that mattered.  Secondly, and more importantly, now that I had become associate artistic director of Khmer Arts, where I was in charge of all training and programming at the Academy in Long Beach, I found myself dancing more and dissecting the dance form further in order to teach it.  The performance of Robam Apsara then was a back-to-basics of a sort, one which led me to my projects today.

 

Currently, I am developing a new work entitled Beloved.  Layering evocative English, Khmer, and Spanish narration onto a lush soundscape, the work casts a history of ritual lovemaking into the dancing bodies of gay men.  Inspired by a thirteenth-century ceremony recorded by Zhou Daguan—in which King Indravarmann III climbed to the top of Phimeanakas every night to make love to a naga-woman—Beloved situates the love between men in the ritual-poetic space in which Khmer dance is set, mirroring and shaping, stretching and rechoreographing the image of ultimate social order: heaven.

 

Reflecting this return to foundations, it is important to note that the soundscape used in the opening act of Beloved is the same one I designed for Robam Lom Arom in 2009.  I wrote new narration for it of course and substituted the original lullaby for a Khmer dance melody, and certain sections were shortened or lengthened accordingly to the new choreography.  What was important was that my choreographic abilities were much sharper, and Beloved is really much so a testament to my maturation as a choreographer, dancer, and performer.  An avant-premiere of Beloved at the Bangkok Theatre Festival - Asia Focus was described by The Bangkok Post as "Radical beauty . . . brave but also intimate and tender."[489]

 

My research for Beloved, and for this writing, led me to readings on tantra and Buddhism.  And I am currently re-developing a devotional work that I initially began choreographing in 2009.  Re-titled Robam Knhom Preah Silapak (Dance of the Servants of the Sacred Art), the dance depicts women who “offer their bodies and lives to the Thommik . . . their sacred lives in accord with the laws of art . . . hands holding vajra . . . that conquer ignorance and bring freedom.”  The work has come to be inspired by the images of yogini, and is a revaluation of the dancer’s role throughout history and in contemporary society.

Beloved.  Photo: Porntep Petchsumrit.

Eros Burning in the Field of Flowers, choreography, direction, and script by Prumsodun Ok.

Whereas Beloved and Robam Knhom Preah Silapak are works developing over the period of years, I made Eros Burning in the Field of Flowers in a short period of months (an opportunity to perform in Mexico arose so I had to take it).  Wanting to honor the gay men thrown off of buildings by terrorists, I researched the relationship between homosexuality, religion, art, politics, and philosophy.  I took after Plato’s Symposium—a text in which a group of Athen’s cultural and political leaders gathered to eat, drink, flirt, and give orations on love—and weaved together a history of gods associated with homosexuality, queer priests, royalty, and warriors from Japan to Greece, Muslim Spain to Korea, Aztec Empire to China, Maya Empire to Persia.  I pitted these celebrated images against the contemporary state of LGBTQ peoples all over the world today, where we are sometimes burned alive, killed by our own parents, and discriminated against at work and in society.  Eros Burning in the Field of Flowers then shares both inspiring and sobering histories so as to heal, empower, and push forward, contemplating personal and societal mythologies, violence and inequality towards and within the LGBTQ community, as well as spirituality and reincarnation.

 

These experimental works may be difficult for most audiences however.  And, wanting to create more paths and doors for people to enter the world of Khmer dance, I began PRUM x POP.  Setting Khmer dance onto contemporary pop music, the project forges a surprising harmony between the worlds of tradition and modernity, art and entertainment.  The dances are performed by dancers of Prumsodun Ok and NATYARASA, my newly-formed company which is Cambodia's first gay dance company.

Prumsodun Ok & NATYARASA dancers perform Robam Pka Meas Pka Prak (Dance of Gold and Silver Flowers) in Phnom Penh.  Photo courtesy of Association Anvaya.

I understand fully that not everyone is happy with what I am doing.  And although I understand what they are saying—or more precisely, I understand the conditions and environment that shaped their system of values, patterns of thought, and modes of behavior—I am confident in my own vision, knowledge, and good intentions enough to simply disagree. 

 

Yes, after my performance of Robam Apsara there were people who wrote to me with angry words, those who threatened to report me to authorities, and those who threatened physical violence.  But I am not the first artist to receive such threats in world history nor in Cambodia’s for that matter, for even influential artists such as Hang Thun Hak—described as a “critique social”—and Chheng Phon faced possible arrest for pioneering lakhaon niyeay.  Take for example, the words of the latter:

 

“But later on we had the political problems and they wanted to arrest us . . . Because we criticised them too much.  We performed plays that were too critical.  For example, the play Thma Roam (“The Dancing Stone”).  That play talked about loving heritage, loving antiquities and sculpture, and how a powerful person was trying to make a profit off of artists and antiquities.  In that play there was also a part about a family fighting.  After that we performed another play that was even more sharply critical called Kanya Chareya (“The Ethical Girl”).  That play critiqued corruption in society and the culture of bribery.  So we had trouble.  When we performed it, a police van waited in front of the entrance of the theater and the police listened to every word of the play.  We ran and got the script and looked it over again, afraid that we would make a mistake.  We were very scared but we still performed.  The history of lakhaoun niyeay is a really difficult one.  We struggled and resisted a lot.  There are a lot of things that happened that people don’t really know about.  The people involved in it, the people who went through that, they understand.  In Kanya Chareya (“The Ethical Girl”), I played a Chinese person who bribed people.  We were very afraid!  The police bought all the tickets for the first two rows, and one of them held the script and if you just added a word or made a mistake from the script, they would arrest you.  It continued from there and got worse and worse.  When the police really went after us, the mother of King Sihanouk, Queen Kossamak, began to protect us.”[490] 

 

That said, there were also many more—much more—people who wrote letters of admiration and support, saying that I was “a star of Khmer dance,” “an icon of Cambodian culture,” and that I was “a child of Angkor and not of colonialism.”  From this experience, I learned how to not let fear, anger, and violence overwhelm the love and hope all around me.  The image that guided me was Shiva drinking poison, holding it in his throat until it transformed into nectar.  Even in the community of Buddhist monks who are supposed to be most detached of human folly, jealousy, and emotions, power plays were and remain strong.  So who am I to pretend that I should strive to please everyone?  Shantideva, for example, wrote:

 

“Why should I be pleased when people praise me?

Others there will be who scorn and criticize—

And why despondent when I’m blamed,

Since there’ll be others who think well of me.

 

So many are the learnings and wants of beings

That even Buddha could not please them all—

Of such a wretch as me no need to speak!

I’ll give up such concerns with worldly things.”[491]

According to my Khmer language teacher, even the Buddha—one of the most revolutionary thinkers and leaders in the history of humankind—once faced violent words, aggression, and threats.[492]  And in Cambodia, Samdech Chuon Nath, a celebrated figure instrumental in the modernization of Khmer Buddhism, once had stones thrown at him by opponents at Wat Unnalom.[493]

Pleasing people then, is simply not the same as guiding them to a place of healing and liberation.  For some medicines are sweet and easy to consume yet some are bitter and hard to swallow.  The two are not opposite of one another but instead have their own unique functional properties and purposes.  Likewise, when looking at an image of Monju Bosatsu, the bodhisattva of transcendent wisdom also known as Mañjushri, I have often wondered why he holds a sword that cuts through illusion and ignorance.  The sword, source of so much violence, conflict, and war in day-to-day life, however, is in this case a symbol for the sometimes painful physical and internal struggle we face in our journey towards transcendence.  Mañjushri’s sword is the battle we face as we strive towards spiritual, mental, and physical liberation—not unlike the way that the beautiful apsara are born from the pull between tevea and asora, a struggle that destroyed the lives of many creatures in the ocean as seen in the bas-relief at Angkor Wat.  And, back to Buddhism, did not the demon Mara attack the Buddha with massive force so as to prevent the latter’s enlightenment?

 

I accept that I am the bitter medicine of Khmer dance and the sword of Khmer arts.  I am the nguoh who says and does the things that others find unacceptable; I am Rachana who loves the golden form, the art form and tradition, more than I love the limitations of the society around me.  I know that I am the sweet medicine too.  And I will not allow myself to think in polarizing opposites nor will I demonize those who demonize me.  As an artist I aspire to be what my ancestors inscribed on temple walls as satyapala—a protector of truth—so as to build a vidyaviraloka, "a world victorious through great knowledge."[494]  I therefore hold a great responsibility to offer my fullest self to my art, tradition, and world—because what is a garden, a society, a universe in which flowers never bloom to share their singular aromas and beauties?  What is the purpose of life if it is lived in fear and hiding? 

 

Moreover, my thoughts and approach to the art form are aligned with Vann Molyvann's vision of the Royal University of Fine Arts in 1965, during a time when Cambodia revealed its artistic leadership and genius:

“Under the vigorous impulsion given by Prince Norodom Sihanouk, Head of State, steps have recently been taken which should lead to a revival in Cambodia’s traditional arts and handicrafts.  These involve drastic structural changes designed to improve and co-ordinate training methods and instruction . . . This was the more necessary as – for some decades past – Khmer artists and artisans have revealed little ability to renew traditional art forms or to create works of an original nature: a failure probably to be ascribed to a complex of greatness of Khmer classical art, which led Khmer artists and artisans to reproduce pale copies of masterpieces dating from the [twelfth] century.  Thus wood carvings were turned out by the hundreds representing some “Apsara”, or some Buddha seated on a Naga – hack work which revealed no trace of the artist’s personality, or creative imagination – by artisans opposed to this heavy heritage, and by teaching methods which encouraged subservience to, and nostalgia for, an art-style which defied imitation . . . A plan designed to attain these objectives was soon drawn up with the accent placed on providing students with a sound grounding in Khmer classic art in the belief that, once they were impregnated with these principles, students would be able to strike out in new directions.  For it was considered that the budding artist, who has assimilated the art of the past, and has become acquainted with modern ideas and techniques, would be well-equipped and psychologically liberated and suitably inspired to produce original works, which would be Cambodian in inspiration and thus contribute to the creation of a modern national art . . . [S]tudents are being encouraged to evolve new and personal styles, derived from traditional conceptions.  The objective aimed at is the renewal of that artistic inspiration, which was responsible for the creation of classic art forms.”[495]

 

So when people raise the argument against me that there are no males in dance, I would like for them to recall King Jayavarmann I and King Yasovarmann I, the dancer Vasudeva mentioned in inscription, Machas Ksatra Sophilu whom I was once compared to, and the countless iconographic images of male dancers at Angkor.  Furthermore, sitting at the feet of Soth Sam On with my hands in prayer, Neak Kru Sophiline introducing me as her only male student in 2008, all she said to me, all the old dance master ever said to me in this life was, “Mean ei, s’aat tas.”  (“What is there [to say], he is beautiful.”)

 

And for those who say that what I do is not Khmer, I have some questions.  From where is the Reamker  derived?  And Khmer script, what is it derived from?  Hinduism and Buddhism?  And the jeans your wear and the iPhones you use and the car you drive?

 

This myth of Khmer purity is senseless, especially given the way that Preah Thaong was not from Cambodia.  Both of our founding stories are in fact of the meeting of different worlds, of foreign and native, of human and neak, of brahmin and apsara, of heaven and earth, and of land and sky.  I therefore do not see Khmer or Cambodia as static and monolithic but as hybrid, diverse, rich, and dynamic.  This is the true source of our strength.  This power of the in-between, of embodying multiple approaches, spaces, and cultures can be seen in an image carved by Angkorean sculptors in which Vishnu, transforming into narasingha (lion-man), emerges from a column at the threshold of a palace at twilight to destroy a demon king who can neither be killed “by day or by night, by gods, men or animals, inside or outside his palace.”[496]

 

That said, I do not pretend to be the sole symbol of Khmer culture or Cambodia either.  Rather, I am one of many artists in the lineage and service of Lok Ta Moni Eisey who “must communicate this sacred knowledge called the theatre to skillful beings, beyond the fire of knowledge, who walk with daring and who have conquered inertia.”[497]  Thus I strive to serve the highest expression of love, beauty, compassion, knowledge, peace, and humanity.  And I will serve the tradition and these things through my art wherever I go, working to uplift the people and world around me. 

 

Drawing from the Natyashastra once more, let me remind the artists of today and tomorrow of what art is.  When the demons were ready to attack Lok Ta Moni Eisey and his disciples, Brahma, creator of the universe and the dramatic arts, appeared and said to the offended ones:

 

“Enough of your resentment, Sons of Diti, reliquish your negativity.  The opposition of good and evil manifests in you and in the gods; it is the law which relates all states and actions.  The theatre represents neither your nature nor that of the gods exclusively.  It is a representation of the triple world in its entirety.  Sometimes law, sometimes play, sometimes profit, sometimes appeasement, sometimes laughter, sometimes war, sometimes desire, sometimes murder.  Law for those who follow the law, desire for those who are dedicated to desire, constraint for those who have no self-discipline, self-mastery for those who know how to behave.  To eunuchs it gives audacity, to braggarts energy; instruction to the ignorant, science to the learned.  Pastime of great lords, comfort for those struck by misfortune; wealth for those who live from wealth, courage for trembling spirits.  Containing all the diverse states, created from all the diverse situations, I created this theatre as an analogy of the movement of the world.  There is no knowledge, no profession, no science, no art, no action—that will not be manifest in this theatre.  Therefore, you have no right to be angry with the immortals.  I have created this theatre as an analogy of the seven continents.  The theatre has been made in order to show, in their totality, the actions of devas and asuras, kings and men and visionary priests.  All individual natures in the world, with their particular forms of happiness and sorrow, with their gestures and means of expression—this will be called theatre.  To sacred knowledge, to science and to myths, it will give an audience, and to the people, a diversion: such will be this theatre.”[498]

 

So, although I may have offended some self-described “preservationists,” I am merely a faithful and devoted follower of an ancient line of world-defining artists.  Therefore, from this day forward, I will invoke the words of Shantideva and hope that artists of future generations may find their own voices in the path of the bodhisattva  as well:

 

“May I be the wishing jewel, the vase of wealth,

A word of power and the supreme healing,

May I be the three miracles,

For every being the abundant cow.

 

Just like the earth and space itself

And all the other mighty elements,

For boundless multitudes of beings

May I always be the ground of life, the source of varied sustenance.

 

Thus for everything that lives,

As far as are the limits of the sky,

May I be constantly their source of livelihood

Until they pass beyond all sorrow.

 

Just as all the Buddhas of the past
Have brought forth the awakened mind,
And in the precepts of the Bodhisattvas

Step-by-step abode and trained,

 

Likewise, for the benefit of beings,

I will bring to birth the awakened mind,

And in those precepts, step-by-step,

I will abide and train myself.”[499]

NEXT

[487] Shantideva.  The Way of the Bodhisattva.  Shambala Publications Inc., 2006.  Page 135.

[488] These people are Joyce Lu, Shyamala Moorty, Sheetal Gandhi, Shayna Keller, Jmy James Kidd, Anna B. Scott, Mariel Caranza, Allison Wyper, Khannia Ok, and Rueben D. Snyder to name a few.

[489] Limited, Bangkok Post Public Company. Radical Beauty | Bangkok Post: lifestyle, www.bangkokpost.com/archive/gender-fluid-beauty/1264731.

[490] Phon, Chheng.  “A Conversation with Chheng Phon.”  Cultures of Independence. Ed. Ly Daravuth and Ingrid Muan.  Reyum, 2001.  Pages 107 – 108.

[491] Shantideva.  The Way of the Bodhisattva.  Shambala Publications Inc., 2006.  Page 112.

[492] Name has been omitted for reasons of sensitivity.  Direct communication.  August 2016.

[493] Harris, Ian.  Cambodian Buddhism.  University of Hawai'i Press, 2005.  Page 117.

[494] Pou, Saveros.  Lexique de Sanskrit-Khmer-Français (Sanskrit Utilise au Cambodge).  Editions Angkor, 2013.  Pages 481 - 482 and 432.

[495] Vann, Molyvann.  “New Life Infused into the Arts in Cambodia.”  Originally published in Kambujasuriya May 1965, republished in Cultures of Independence. Ed. Ly Daravuth and Ingrid Muan.  Reyum, 2001.  Pages 329 – 332.

[496] Roveda, Vittorio.  The World of Khmer Mythology.  APSARA National Authority, 2013.  Page 47. 

[497] Daumal, Rene.  Rasa or Knowledge of the Self.  Translated by Louise Landes Levi.  Shivastan Publications, 2006.  Page 44.

[498] Daumal, Rene.  Rasa or Knowledge of the Self.  Translated by Louise Landes Levi.  Shivastan Publications, 2006.  Pages 101 – 102.

[499] Shantideva.  The Way of the Bodhisattva.  Shambala Publications Inc., 2006.  Page 50.