Lessons about practice and community through painting 10,000 Buddhas
In 2017, artist Amanda Giacomini achieved her multi-year goal of painting 10,000 Buddhas. She did this by screen printing on paper, oil painting on wood, and by creating large-scale public murals in public and private spaces. While it was a landmark goal that she had set for herself, Amanda continues to paint Buddhas. Throughout the project, Amanda has taught yoga alongside her husband MC YOGI at their studio in Point Reyes and on the festival circuit.
She took some time to share her process with LA YOGA while she was creating a two-wall Buddha mural inside the studio at the La Quinta Resort & Club A Waldorf Astoria Resort.
LA YOGA: Tell us about your process.
Amanda: The first 99 Buddhas I painted by hand. When I decided to ramp up to 10,000 Buddhas, I knew it was too much to do that many by hand. So, it took me a year to figure out the process of using the stencils in painting.
LA YOGA: What inspired your leap from the first 99 to setting a goal of painting 10,000 Buddhas?
AG: That was one of those magical moments. It was a little intuitive clairvoyant download. I had such a rich experience painting the first 99 in my studio. While I was painting, I was educating myself, immersing myself in learning about Buddha. I was learning about his life story, his past lives, and his teachings. I didn’t want it to end. One night I was painting very late at night and it just occurred to me to keep going.
Then the first big public wall I did was in Miami (pictured here). While I was painting so many people came by and wanted to take pictures. I wasn’t even finished and they would stand and do a mudra, or a yoga pose, or simply sit and meditate with the Buddhas.
LA YOGA: When it comes to painting so many Buddhas, including the large walls, how does your yoga practice support you?
AG: My yoga practice maintains the strength of my body, my physical endurance, and even the concentration mentally to work for up to 14 hours—even in intense conditions.
When I did an outdoor wall in Washington DC, it was hot—it was 97 degrees. (That wall is on P Street near Logan Circle right next to the Whole Foods.) To be able to paint all day, outside, in the heat comes from the physical stamina I have as a yogi, and the ability to just quiet my mind and be one-pointed for many hours. All of that is the result of 25 years of practice.
LA YOGA: What has surprised you the most going through the process of painting 10,000 Buddhas?
AG: I surprise myself all the time. Until I did it, I didn’t know the courage it takes to paint a big giant wall. I didn’t know I had it in me to drive a giant 60-foot boom lift and climb up there and spray paint a wall. I was proud of myself for not backing away from the project when it got big. For years and years as an artist, I painted small. This project has tested me in a lot of ways. The street art game is a very masculine world, there are a lot of great women, but it’s still dominated by men. So, doing this makes me feel like a strong woman.
LA YOGA: Now that you’ve been doing it for a few years, do you have any thoughts or goals of where you want it to go next?
AG: I’m kind of in the flow. Now, I feel I’m spreading Buddhas around the world. And I think, what better thing to leave behind?
LA YOGA: There is a lot of meaning behind these images. Now that you’ve had a relationship with them, what do they mean to you?
AG: They represent the power of practice. All of these Buddhas are sitting in meditation poses practicing. The different messages of the mudras are symbolic reminders of philosophy. To me, the Buddhas are symbols of equality, equanimity, and connection. There are lots of little Buddhas practicing together to create a field of energy. I think this represents the new paradigm we are in of spiritual practice.
I feel like we’re moving away from having the one master that everybody bows down to, and instead we’re much more of a collective group of friends and colleagues and communities that are supporting each other and uplifting each other. This is the power of the sangha or the community.
The Three Jewels in Buddhism are the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. This image encapsulates all three but it really reminds me of the sangha. In my own life, I met my husband through the yoga community. Most of my close friends and all of the people I work with are part of this community. There’s a huge bond between those of us who practice, a point of connection.
We can do our own practice, but we also benefit from the knowledge and the path that others have been taking. We learn from each other. Sometimes I meditate by myself, but when MC YOGI and I meditate together, it’s stronger. When you’re in a big group of people meditating together, it’s just magic.
When we’ve led big classes with over 1,000 people doing yoga, breathing, sitting, and meditating, that energy is unbelievable. It’s through the roof. You just feel the whole space transform. I believe in the power of people coming together and practicing. I think that’s how we change the world.
For more information about Amanda Giacomini and the 10,000 Buddhas visit: 10000buddhas.com/10000buddhas/
Karen Henry is an Associate Editor at LA YOGA who volunteers in a variety of capacities for nonprofit organizations and artists around Los Angeles. She practices yoga as a counterbalance to her daily impact sports and is a mother of four grown children who also practice yoga . Now, she’s working on teaching yoga and joy of life to the grandkids!