Buddha Nature in a Geode: Student Digital Scholarship

[The following post is by Brooke Reiche, a student in Ivette Vargas-O’Bryan’s Fall 2015 class, “Introduction to Buddhist Traditions.”]

During my Introduction to Buddhist Traditions class, we were introduced to Scalar as a platform for creating polished and unique group projects. One main focus of these projects was the work of the Japanese artist Iwasaki Tsuneo. He painted visually stunning representations of Buddhist teachings, often integrating script from the Heart Sutra into his pieces in interesting and creative ways. The images he used, which were often nature based, were chosen to illustrate certain characteristics of Buddhist concepts, such as lightning bolts in reference to sudden enlightenment.

Lightning, by Iwasaki Tsuneo
Lightning, by Iwasaki Tsuneo

While working on this project I found myself inspired by Tsuneo’s work, and I was curious to see if I could create my own image using his method of representation. I also wanted this image to relate to the project that I was working on, which focused on Buddha nature. After some thought, I arrived at the idea of a geode. My intention was for the geode to display the hidden nature of Buddha nature in every being through the crystals inside of the formation. I also added an English translation of the heart sutra in gold along the rim, in an attempt to represent how the power of Buddhist teachings could break through the plain rock of relative reality to reveal the crystals of ultimate reality.

"Geode" by Brooke Reiche
“Geode” by Brooke Reiche

Scalar was a great platform for this, as it allowed for stunning image quality and freedom of design that let me see my piece in beautiful detail on the same scale as that used by Iwasaki. It was a very enjoyable process that was rewarding to complete.

7 thoughts on “Buddha Nature in a Geode: Student Digital Scholarship”

  1. This sounds like a really neat project. 🙂 And your artwork here is lovely.

    But I’m not familiar with geodes. Would you explain a little more about them and about how you see them relating to Buddha nature?

    • Brett,
      Thank you for the interest! Geodes are crystal formations that begin as air bubbles or hollow spaces in rocks. Over time, crystals form when mineral rich water leaks into them, and as erosion eats away the rock around these bubbles, they are exposed. From the outside they appear to be your typical round and unremarkable rock, but once they are cracked open the beautiful crystal coated interior can be seen.

      As I see it, the Geode is a great representation of every human being in a Buddhist context. As the belief goes, everyone has Buddha nature inside of them, no matter how they look, what they have done, or what their personal beliefs are. However, it is not easy to cultivate or find (in the same way that geodes are difficult to find due to their outside appearance). One can find their Buddha nature through buddhist practice and intention, in which the heart sutra plays an important role. So, I intended for the heart sutra to represent the power of these teachings being able to “crack through” the ordinary exterior and expose the hidden buddha nature inside of every being.
      I hope this helps!

  2. Brooke,

    Very well discussed! You captured the essence of the teachings in just one semester. Well done! I am so glad Scalar allowed for a visual as well as written document of your understanding.


  3. What a fantastic project, Brooke, and very cogently explained. Ivette, I’d love to learn more about this when I get to campus next fall — I’ve encountered Scalar only briefly in a digital humanities workshop at the University of Kansas and I’m curious about the classroom potential.

  4. Hi Mindy, thanks for commenting…I work with the faculty as “digital pedagogy designer” for the college, and I look forward to your arrival on campus. We have about half a dozen faculty using Scalar in various ways. I’ll be happy to help you in whatever way I can with projects for digital pedagogy and scholarship.

  5. Mindy, love to share how I have used Scalar in my Introduction to Buddhism class and what I intend to do with it in the upcoming exhibitions. Looking forward to working together when you arrive on campus.


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