The Art Sutra: Viewing through the Empty Heart

Viewers of religious art and artifacts in a museum setting often overlook the spiritual significance of the works on display in favor of formal, aesthetic, and historical concerns. Through the lens of the Heart Sutra, the Abbot of the New Orleans Zen Temple discusses the depiction of various Buddhist figures in the exhibition Buddha and Shiva, Lotus and Dragon: Masterworks from the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection at Asia Society, including Shakyamuni, Avalokiteshvara, and Shariputra.

Richard Reishin Collins is the second abbot of the New Orleans Zen Temple. Retired Dean Emeritus and Professor of English from California State University Bakersfield, he was also RosaMary Professor of English at Xavier University of Louisiana and editor of the Xavier Review. He has also taught at LSU and at the American University in Bulgaria, in addition to having been a Fulbright lecturer at the Universities of Bucharest and Timisoara in Romania. His books include “No Fear Zen: Discovering Balance in an Unbalanced World” (2015) and “Taisen Deshimaru’s Mushotoku Mind: The Heart of the Heart Sutra” (2012). His translation of Deshimaru’s “Autobiography of a Zen Monk” is due out in 2021 (all from Hohm Press).




NOMA is committed to uniting, inspiring, and engaging diverse communities and cultures through the arts — now more than ever. Your gift will make a direct and immediate impact as NOMA welcomes our community back to the museum and sculpture garden, plans new exhibitions, and develops virtual and at-home arts education resources for school partners.




Education and outreach initiatives at NOMA are supported in part by the Zemurray Foundation; the Lois and Lloyd Hawkins Jr. Foundation; The Helis Foundation; The Gayle and Tom Benson Foundation; The City of New Orleans; IBERIABANK; The Wagner Foundation; Janice Parmelee and Bill Hammack; the Diversifying Art Museum Leadership Initiative, funded by the Walton Family Foundation and the Ford Foundation; Sara and David Kelso; Patrick F. Taylor Foundation;  Dr. Scott S. Cowen; The RosaMary Foundation; The Azby Fund; the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, a Federal agency; The Collins C. Diboll Private Foundation; Burkenroad Foundation; Marian Dreux Van Horn Education Endowment; The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation;  Ruby K. Worner Trust through the PNC Charitable Trusts Grant Review Committee; The Harry T. Howard III Foundation; New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation, Inc.; Harvey and Marie Orth; The Bruce J. Heim Foundation; and Mrs. Bennett A. Molter, Jr. This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.