Mother Sela – Artist and Buddhist Nun

Mother Seta

This is a fascinating documentary about the contemporary Lebanese artist Seta Manoukian, following her life from a successful modern artist to her decision to ordain in Sri Lanka.

Born into an Orthodox Armenian family in the Lebanon, Seta started painting when she was very young, and became one of the country’s most celebrated artists.

The first half of the film follows her career in Lebanon, where she not only was a successful artist in her right, but also a teacher at the University.

Her paintings made during the Lebanese civil war set her aside as someone who was able to convey the horror and separation of war to a distant audience.

The civil war lasted 17 years, but after many death threats and the general danger of staying in the country she left for the States after 10 years.

There she met Bhante Lakkhaṇa, a Sri Lankan monk who became her meditation teacher and in the second half of the film we see her traveling to Sri Lanka to ordain.

The ordination took place at the Sumathipalo Senasun Arama in Delgoda under the tutelage of Ven Pemasiri, which was founded next to my own ordination temple.

She also traveled to a cave temple just outside Kandy in the highlands to meet with another artist turned monk: Ven Bhikkhu Sumedha, whose work I have been publishing.

I would really like to see the film that was recorded on that occasion in full, as the two of them seem to me to be of one spirit. But here we have only short extracts of course.

At the end of the film it seems that Mother Sela must have left Sumathipalo at some time, and is now back in the States following the Tibetan tradition.


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