Urthona - A Journal of Buddhism and the Arts

Urthona 30 editorial - twenty one years of inspiration!

On Wed, 29 January, 2014 - 12:08
Ratnagarbha's picture
Twenty one years of fullness (& emptiness) and still going strong…

(Image left, shows Blake’s firey spirit of revolution Orc, as featured on the cover of Urthona issue one, and our latest 30th issue!)

An extract from the editorial in the current issue of Urthona Buddhist arts magazine, our 30th issue, published twenty one years after the magazine was founded in 1992.

Twenty-one years seems like a long time! It’s a long time to have been running a small magazine, albeit just a blink in the eye of eternity as Blake might have said. Be that as it may we feel there is something to celebrate in Urthona’s continued existence, and so this will be a retrospective issue in which some of our favourite themes, writers and artists from the last 21 years appear. But as we celebrate our 21st birthday I feel that I should salute the continued existence of another small magazine – the St Botolph’s Review. the first issue of this literary journal appeared in Cambridge (where we are based) fifty seven years ago. Within were poems by Ted Hughes and a number of his associates. Indeed it was at the launch party in 1956 that Hughes first met Sylvia Plath. The review described itself then as an ‘occasional journal’ and a second edition came out in 2006. No doubt further issues will appear at similarly well spaced intervals!

Another poet whose youth is forever associated with Cambridge is Kathleen Raine, the noted Blake scholar and founder of the journal of Traditional wisdom and scholarship Temenos Review. We were proud to publish about a decade ago an essay and an interview between her and Sangharakshita. She would charmingly refer to us as ‘those nice young Buddhists who are doing good work’!

Urthona has always been at least an annual journal, since it started in 1992. It is strange to look back and wonder at the twists and chances of its history, as it has moved city and evolved with the times. Urthona issue one was produced at a small desk secreted in a stairwell alcove. The location was a back street of Montpelier, Bristol. The house opposite was a drug dealer’s den, and the even rougher area of St Paul’s was just around the corner. a Buddhist friend, Vijaya, kindly leant me his Atari games computer do to the layout on. Things really advanced when i moved to Cambridge and met Shantigarbha, who from the start had ambitious ideas for the magazine, got lots of people involved and persuaded us to move from photocopying to a proper printer and a colour cover. Our first colour cover, issue three, spring 1995 featured a truly sublime painting of an iceberg by keith grant, who had not long ago had a major retrospective at Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum. There were several in depth book reviews, including one by Visvapani on ‘William Blake and the moral law’ by E. P. Thompson. The theme was ‘art and the elemental’ a perennial Urthona concern.

Truly Urthona had arrived with this issue and set standards of content that were a benchmark as the standard of the layout slowly improved. From the start I had wanted it to be a journal for Buddhists and others who had a strong feeling for both western art (ancient and modern) and eastern spirituality. i thought then and still believe that the dialogue between the two is only just beginning, and that there is no reason at all why this dialogue should not eventually be as fruitful as that inaugurated by the discovery (by the scholars of Quatracento italy) of the entire Platonic corpus secreted away in Byzantine monasteries. But for myself then, a keen but not very well read Buddhist, it was more a matter of feeling. I felt that in Buddhist wisdom there was something fresh, challenging, and transformative, that could, if given half a chance, turn our entire culture up on its head. Urthona’s role is now, and always has been, to give a platform to artists and thinkers who work in this area, focussed, but not exclusively so, within our own particular Sangha, under the inspiration of Sangharakshita, who has always seen the arts as a vital tool for spiritual development within the secularized global culture of today’s world. We look forward to our next decade, and extend our deepest thanks to the many, many generous spirits who have contributed in so many ways over the decades! Ratnagarbha
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