Friday, March 6, 2009

Buddhism and the Creative Arts

I recently discovered that a Tibetan Lama known to many, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, is also an artist. It is very interesting to see the paintings of an enlightened being. You can find them here.
The pictures themselves are copyright protected and can't be copied/pasted into this blog.

Here is a fascinating Dharma talk given by Rinpoche in Berkeley, 2008. Entitled Integrating Art and Wisdom, the audio file is split into two sections. Enjoy!

I have also decided to share a relevent excerpt from Buddha's Favourite Words on the same topic. [below]

Our creative streak is very important for human beings. Whether we are creative artists or simply making dinner, each one of us is driven in one way or another to express ourselves. But who, we may ask, are we expressing ourselves to?

Partly, we long to assert our individuality. That must surely stem from the ego and is directed mainly for the benefit of oneself. It usually manifests as showy borderline-incomprehensible displays, meant to impress others and boost our ego even further.

Seen another way, much of what we create remains on the level of entertainment – dull soul-less dance music, bottled sparkling water, a soufflĂ© … all harmless fun with not much substance to it. However, at least entertainment is largely created primarily for the enjoyment of others and must therefore be given kudos for being semi-altruistic.

But there are some creators whose effort is solely directed for the benefit of others. One thinks of J S Bach who could have spent his entire career – such as it was – composing mediocre music in his local church. Who would’ve been able to tell the difference there? But he didn’t. Bach’s music uplifts the soul and celebrates the meeting of God and humankind. Or one might recall a dark depressing wintery day when your mother prepared the family’s favourite meal, just to cheer us all up – a simple act of love and human kindness.

Creativity, the Dharma teaches, comes from the same sacred part of us as love and compassion. Anything mindfully prepared for the benefit of others, in the spirit of elevating their consciousness, and introducing them to the true nature of their mind constitutes the apogé of human creativity.

The creative arts, particularly when done in conjunction with the spiritual path, give the creator a wonderful opportunity. We can gain access to the Natural Mind through the process of genuine creativity. Then we can allow the mind’s true nature to express itself. Our Buddha Nature is always expressing itself creatively anyway. The Buddha taught, With our mind we create the world! Therefore, the Arts offer our true nature another positive avenue to awaken both ourselves and others to their nature.

Think about it. Whatever is prepared mindfully, with a love that intends to uplift and compassion that eases the suffering mind, is truly a work of art … a painting that clearly rejoices in the ultimate potential of humanity, a haiku poem that encapsulates a single instant of pure illumination, a freshly arranged Insalata Caprese one glimpse of which delights the senses and draws them into the joy of the present moment, a perfectly made hotel bed turned down with care and attention, a toilet bowl that has been cleaned and polished til it gleams by some invisible chamber maid just so we can sit our weary asses on it and poo.

Whatever does not ultimately benefit beings is not truly creative. Emanating from the ego-maniacal, lowest-common-denominator, dregs of the blah-blah-blah mind, it just adds to the mindlessness and the relentless round of distraction and denial that infuses our jaded, post-modern mindsreams already. At worst, they serve to further obscure our view of our true nature. At best they only help us pass the time til death comes.

Whatever we do for others in perfect concentration, and with the sole aim of bringing them into the wonder of the present moment, and thus potentially liberating them from suffering, is Art of the highest order.

We should aspire to becoming so uplifting in whatever we create. Our whole lives – our every move - could become a creative revelation and a perfect embodiment of ultimate truth.
If we were enlightened this instant, even the very breath we exhale would shower all beings with a multitude of blessings and a host of gentle encouragements towards enlightenment.

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