Chitta

I walk behind him along a winding path through the forest. He is slow and deliberate; walking tall wrapped in his brown robes, his mind undoubtedly like calm water. I am distracted by beams and flickers of light in the trees, my shoes squeaking because of my orthotics, stopping constantly to frame every chance at a shot I see. We get to his small, Spartan wooden hut and enter. Inside there is very little – a mattress on the floor, some candles, pictures on the wall of decomposing skulls and an open anatomy book on a squat little table.

He sits on the mattress and I sit on a cushion that barely hides the hardness of the floor. I ask him about the pictures and the book and he tells me they are to remind him of the impermanence of the body. If anyone was born to be an ascetic, it is Jason. Towering thin but elegant, his shaved head houses big, dark brown eyes of thought, his aquiline nose curving to full down turned lips. We used to sit on the back step in the sun, observing the vegetable garden and majestic old gumtree in the back yard. He was always disciplined and minimal. I was always – and still am – ploughing though some mess, drama, disaster, change or other.

He listens mindfully as I pour out my latest stories. He floats the metaphor that sometimes people become so caught up in things that it’s as if they’re trapped in a burning room, and if anyone else enters they too are devoured by the flames. I imagine my friends and I trapped in a house made up of our rooms, wandering around and around, crossing paths and colliding randomly as we burn, desperately painful. I fight back tears that threaten to well up in my eyes and my mind starts to slow.

He gestures at my camera, sitting for a moment dormant on the floor as I struggle not to pick it up again out of respect for his space, which I feel I am already violating with my messy life. He tells me that it is a weapon. It can be a weapon for good, or a weapon for evil. I feel questions bubble and rise in me and the hairs on my neck bristle as I realise the responsibility that comes with capturing slices of life in any medium.

When we walk back down the hill to the monastery through the forest, I ask this time if I can take his portrait. He stops still and straight as the trees behind him and stares intently with his brown robes draped sculpturally. He asks that I not put the picture up on a website.

I’ve printed it for myself, and take it out sometimes to remind me about purpose.

Chitta

transmute

Joined May 2007

  • Artist
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  • Artwork Comments 17

Artist's Description

A former housemate and good friend of mine is a monk at Bodhivana Buddhist Monastery in Warburton in the Yarra Valley outside Melbourne. He has taken the name ‘Chitta’, meaning ‘mind’.

I need to visit him more often.

Artwork Comments

  • Rhana Griffin
  • animo
  • Cathie Tranent
  • Melinda Kerr
  • jetsta42
  • cisco
  • Andrew Bosman
  • Suzanne German
  • transmute
  • Damian
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