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Dharma Realm Buddhist University Exhibits Ceramic Reliefs Portraying the Life of the Buddha

One of the ceramic reliefs by Lorraine Capparell. From
One of the ceramic reliefs by Lorraine Capparell. From

Dharma Realm Buddhist University (DRBU), in northern California, is hosting an exhibition of a series of ceramic reliefs titled “Śākyamuni Buddha: A Story,” by Lorraine Capparell. An opening reception was held in the university building on 16 February and the artwork will remain on display until 31 May.

“Śākyamuni Buddha: A Story” is the unexpected result of a collaboration between artist Lorraine Capparell and Prof. Ronald Y. Nakasone, senior lecturer at Berkeley’s Graduate Theological Union. Having produced ink washes to illustrate Nakasone’s book Ethics of Enlightenment: Essays and Sermons in Search for a Buddhist Ethic (Dharma Cloud Publishers 1990), Capparell took the project one step further, this time retelling the Buddha’s life events in the form of ceramic art. 

Capparell told the Ukiah Daily Journal: “In the process of doing these pictures, I became fascinated with the images and myths associated with the life of the Buddha. . . . I was not content to let these images remain in two dimensions. Because I am a sculptor, it was natural to me to render the illustrations in bas relief. The result is this show.” (Ukiah Daily Journal)

“Śākyamuni Buddha: A Story” provides an opportunity for the local community and for schools, families, educators, and spiritual practitioners alike to discover the life of the Buddha through art.


Capparell, originally from Rochester, New York, studied sculpture with Steven DeStaebler at San Francisco State University in the 1970s. A successful painter, sculptor, and photographer, Capparell now works from her studio in Palo Alto, California. Having traveled extensively in Asia, Capparell’s artwork is often inspired by Buddhist and Hindu art and architecture. At the exhibition’s opening, the artist explained that she came across Buddhism in Myanmar, where a sculpture of the Buddha’s parinirvaa “[evoked] in her a sense of peace.” (Dharma Realm Buddhist University)

Speaking to a patron during the exhibition’s opening reception, Capparell “described that she used a slab roller to prepare clay slabs, which she would stack on top of each other, working the layered material as a whole piece.” (Dharma Realm Buddhist University) The exhibition’s pamphlet includes reproductions of the original ink wash illustrations as well as an outline of the Buddha’s life, edited by Prof. Nakasone. Nakasone is a senior lecturer in Buddhist art and culture whose contributions to Buddhist studies have earned him special recognition from the Thai royal family. He is also an ordained Jōdo Shinshū (Pure Land) cleric.

DRBU president Susan Rounds praised Capparell’s ceramic series as being a “fresh” and “inviting” portrayal of Shakyamuni Buddha’s life. “These visual and tactile depictions reach beyond the confines of their respective frames, drawing the viewer into their world,” she said. “Joining with other artists of the past, present, and future, Ms. Capparell animates anew the events that have inspired countless devotees throughout the centuries.” (Ukiah Daily Journal)

Dharma Realm Buddhist University. From
Dharma Realm Buddhist University. From

Set on the outskirts of the city of Ukiah in northern California, Dharma Realm Buddhist University is part of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, a monastic complex founded by Venerable Master Hsuan Hua in 1974. The monastery is comprised of 70 large buildings, as well as fields, orchards, vineyards, and woods. As an accredited university, the DRBD “offers an education of the highest spiritual integrity, firmly refusing to follow the corrupt trends of the world. It aims to educate outstanding individuals who can become capable leaders of mankind and increase the spirit of righteousness in the world.” (City of Ten Thousand Buddhas)

See More

Dharma Realm Buddhist University presents art exhibition Śākyamuni Buddha: A Story (Ukiah Daily Journal)
Śākyamuni Buddha: A Story Exhibition (Dharma Realm Buddhist University)
Śākyamuni Buddha: A Story Exhibition Opening Reception (Dharma Realm Buddhist University)
City of Ten Thousand Buddhas
Lorraine Capparell

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