The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Kim OHara
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by Kim OHara » Sat Jan 30, 2010 2:25 am

MayaRefugee wrote: You say good art starts with having something to say.

Somewhere in the process the artist has to declare/believe what they have to say/express is worthy of being said/expressed.

What do you think is worthy of being said/expressed?

In the evolution of my art I've noticed what I deem worthy of expression changes as my beliefs/understandings change, once ones beliefs/understandings align with the changeless/deathless what do you think would be worthy of expression?
You can only start from where you are. Anything else is false and leads to artwork with no integrity of vision.
That means that what you think is 'worthy of expression' ought to change as you grow as a human being.
Your best starting point is what moves you most strongly - whether it's admiration for a noble deed or outrage over an ignoble one.
For me, what is worth expressing is primarily what helps others to become better people and helps the world become a better place. Sorry to sound so goody-goody about it but (1) I'm primarily a teacher with an arts practice on the side, and the teaching mind-set is pervasive and (2) I have a good role model - I think the Buddha's advice to Rahula (can't find it now, sorry) applies to the arts as much as to any other activity: if your actions lead to benefits for others, they're good; if not, not.
Not all my work is driven by that motive, though: sometimes I'll get fascinated with a technical problem and end up producing something I think others will like. Other times I will be exploring a personal issue, but what comes out of that may never be seen by anyone else.
MayaRefugee wrote:Kim,
If one made it to the top of the mountain should they sit expressing/depicting the view for others at the bottom or should they build climbing aids to help others get to the top aswell?
Both - inspiration and practical help are both good.
:smile:
Kim

chownah
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by chownah » Sat Jan 30, 2010 1:50 pm

Since this is a "free for all" let me poke a bit and see if I can find a button somewhere......

Art is fun and stimulates the emotions but really folks get over it....it is just a point of view glorifying the insightful blah blah blah of the self. Don't get me wrong...I like art and feel that I can hold my own in expressing myself in many different artistic media....and non artistic media as well....but reallllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllly please try to get out of worshiping this mundane "achievement"........but only if you want to...........
chownah

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cooran
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by cooran » Sat Jan 30, 2010 7:55 pm

Hello all,

A reference to painting in the Samyutta Nikaya II The Book of Causation (Nidanavagga) 12 Nidanasamyutta

64 If there is Lust

"Suppose, bhikkhus, an artist or a painter, using dye or lac or turmeric or indigo or crimson, would create the figure of a man or a woman complete in all its features on a well-polished plank or wall or canvas. So too, if there is lust for the nutriment edible food, or for the nutriment contact, or for the nutriment mental volition, or for the nutriment consciousness, if there is delight, if there is craving, consciousness becomes established there and comes to growth. Wherever consciousness becomes established and comes to growth ... I say that is accompanied by sorrow, anguish, and despair." [note 173]

Note 173: Spk: The painter represents kamma with its adjuncts [Spk-pt: craving and ignorance, and time and destination etc.]; the panel, wall, or canvas represents the round with its three realms. As the painter creates a figure on the panel so kamma with its adjuncts creates a form in the realms of existence. As the figure created by an unskilled painter is ugly deformed, and disagreeable, so the kamma performed with a mind dissociated from knowledge gives rise to an ugly, deformed, disagreeable figure. But as the figure created by a skilled painter is beautiful and well shaped, so the kamma performed with a mind associated with knowledge gives rise to a beautiful and comely figure.

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---

MayaRefugee
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by MayaRefugee » Sun Jan 31, 2010 1:57 am

chownah,

Of all the worldy pursuits don't you think this mundane "achievement" i.e. proper utilization of the artistic process does the most to contribute to the enlightenment/ending of suffering/ignorance for all beings.

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty"....Keats.

If one knows/understands truth and can disseminate it via mundane "achievements" I think they are using their time well.

Their knowledge/understanding/mastery of truth would determine the inherent beauty of their mundane "achievement" - the more beautiful the mundane "achievement" the more cathartic/useful it is to those caught in samskara/maya.

cooran,

Thank you for posting that stuff, it mirrors what I've been trying to contemplate - :bow:

Peace.

chownah
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by chownah » Mon Feb 01, 2010 2:19 pm

MayaRefuge,
"Proper utilization of the artistic process.".....What the heck does that mean?....I mean can you please explain what this is?

Keats had his views on things....the Greeks did a lot of art depicting the human body....maybe it would be good to go find how the Buddha viewed the human body.....something like a bag full of puss, urine, and excement....vile smell...filth oozing out of every pore....in a constant state of decay....if you turned it inside out you couldn't keep the birds from eating it.

chownah

meindzai
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by meindzai » Mon Feb 01, 2010 6:12 pm

chownah wrote:Since this is a "free for all" let me poke a bit and see if I can find a button somewhere......

Art is fun and stimulates the emotions but really folks get over it....it is just a point of view glorifying the insightful blah blah blah of the self. Don't get me wrong...I like art and feel that I can hold my own in expressing myself in many different artistic media....and non artistic media as well....but reallllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllly please try to get out of worshiping this mundane "achievement"........but only if you want to...........
chownah
Feel better?

-M

pt1
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by pt1 » Tue Feb 02, 2010 4:17 am

Still, wasn't there a sutta which warns that the sasana will decline when people start paying more attention to the works of artists than to the deep dhamma discourses?

So, I have to ask myself - even if I make a work of art with best possible intentions of not appealing to sensual craving but only expressing the truth and doing it effectively, will it ever be quite as good in expressing the truth as a dhamma discourse by the Buddha? Most probably not. So perhaps a better use of my time would be to learn dhamma discourses and somehow relay them to others (whether by transcription, translation or however) instead of making my own works of art. And further, I feel that if I'm using up other people's time with my own works of art (which are most certainly inferior to the Buddha's discourses) then I'm also inadvertently contributing to the decline of the sasana, as per the sutta.

One situation that might seem as an exception is when a creative process is used for meditation - e.g. playing a bamboo flute. However, I feel playing here simply aids one's insight and therefore has nothing to do with art really, nor is it intended to be for an audience. So, imo, it makes no difference here whether the outside activity as labeled as "playing a flute, riding a bike, or meditation while walking".

The only role for a work of art that I can honestly see is if people are skeptical to religion in whatever form. Such people will therefore never want to listen/read a dhamma discourse, so it is at this point where a work of art might be useful in conveying/expressing the truth in a non-dogmatic fashion. Outside of this though, I struggle to find any justification for spending my or other people's time on (even the highest) art.

(Unless of course the idea is to satisfy my/other people's sensual cravings, which can sometimes be the only way to temporarily escape the aversion to unpleasant feeling/dukkha - i.e. since we as puthujjanas don't really know how dispassion as the escape from dukkha really looks like in experience, the only remaining route for us is to seek temporary escape into the temporary clinging to temporary pleasant feeling supplied by a work of art for example, though of course that won't solve the problem of dukkha in the long run).

Best wishes

MayaRefugee
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by MayaRefugee » Wed Feb 03, 2010 3:18 am

chownah,

What I meant by proper utilization of the artistic process was a certain way of going from the enlightened/deathless/nibbanic state to making the decision to use ones volition to undertake the production of a work of "art" through to the completion of the production of this work of "art".

I ask myself:

What's the motivation?
What's the need?
Are the ends the artist seeks justified?
According to who or what are the ends the artist seeks justified?

I'm still deliberating on the intricacies involved in all of this but it's clear a series of decisions/choices/assumptions have to be made and if one's mind is incongruent with truth/has defilements/not fully awakened this would influence the decisions/choices/assumptions that an artist/individual makes throughout this summoning of action i.e. engagement in the "artistic process".

If I identified with hedonism for example my truths/beliefs would be different to the truths of those inherent to practitoners of the dhamma and therefore the decisions/choices/assumptions I made if I chose to partake/indulge in the artistic process wouldn't resonate with the decisions/choices/assumptions a practitioner of the dhamma would make if they chose to partake/indulge in the artistic process an as a result the karma accrued by the hedonistic artist and the dhamma practicing artist would be different.

What I'm trying to point out is if the cessation of suffering caused by ignorance wasn't one's imperative the rules/factors that arise to govern/guide the outcome of the artistic process i.e. a piece of art and it's intended results/repercussions totally changes.

In regard to what you said about the Greeks, the depictions of the human body by the artists of that time display what the artists and presumably what the Zeitgeist of that periods/that cultures/that civilizations imperative was.

The Greeks thought form was the bees-knees, Punks think rebellion is the bees-knees - imperatives come and go but the changeless/deathless doesn't.

pt1,

If ending suffering and ignorance was your imperative putting the dhamma in or translating the dhamma into "your own words" so to speak while maintaining the integrity of how the messages in the dhamma were intended to be comprehended would be the way to go I'm reckoning - sort of like the same messages but different modes of communication - What do you think?

In saying this the intended recipient of the message/teaching your communicating would have to be watching for the message and not be simply gratifying/treating their senses with/to appealing colours/vibrations/textures/etc. - the trickiness of getting them to look for a message among the colors/vibrations/textures/etc is probably why The Buddha said what you mentioned about the decline of sasana if people payed more attention to artists then the dhamma.

I've got some other stuff I'd like to bring up but I'll leave it for later.

Peace.

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Kim OHara
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by Kim OHara » Wed Feb 03, 2010 4:34 am

MayaRefugee wrote: I've got some other stuff I'd like to bring up but I'll leave it for later.
Me too, to both halves of that sentence.
Let's just try to remember this thread exists and add to it instead of starting another. :smile:

Kim

chownah
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by chownah » Wed Feb 03, 2010 2:08 pm

meindzai wrote:
chownah wrote:Since this is a "free for all" let me poke a bit and see if I can find a button somewhere......

Art is fun and stimulates the emotions but really folks get over it....it is just a point of view glorifying the insightful blah blah blah of the self. Don't get me wrong...I like art and feel that I can hold my own in expressing myself in many different artistic media....and non artistic media as well....but reallllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllly please try to get out of worshiping this mundane "achievement"........but only if you want to...........
chownah
Feel better?

-M
I'm fine, thank you......do you feel better?.....got any ideas about this thread you would like to share?
chownah

I'm wondering what is the difference between artistic process and creative process.
chownah

meindzai
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by meindzai » Wed Feb 03, 2010 4:14 pm

chownah wrote: I'm fine, thank you......do you feel better?.....got any ideas about this thread you would like to share?
chownah
Oh I'm feeling ok. Have been meditating for once instead of that extra hour of sleep I thought I needed. :) Maybe I'll start to be less grumpy and sarcastic.

Anyway I see where you're coming from in terms of worldly acheivements but if you've ever really experienced the process of truly cultivating an art form you might have a different perspective. If it weren't for the fact that I wanted to play guitar like Jimi Hendrix when I was 11 years old I probably never would have ended up being a Buddhist. (Though these days I play jazz and classical guitar unless somebody wants me to bang out some old school rock riff). There is some link between artistry and "spirituality" (I hate that word though) though, as I have mentioned, it's not something that really comes up in Theravada.

Creativity aside, there's one thing the whole endeavor of mastering an instrument taught me it was how to do this thing called "practice" and what it means, and what it involves, and how you have to be patient and persistent to cultivate something over time. I would have never had the patience for sitting in meditation if I didn't know what it meant to cultivate something. So I think that schools that teach some art form as part of their "spiritual" (blech again) practice are definately onto something. Though certainly it can become about competitiveness, achievement, gain, fame, etc. But then again so can Dhamma practice.

While I never put my art form down completely (I plan to return to teaching classical guitar soon) I did change my reason for doing it. When I was a kid I wanted to disappear into my art form as an escape, and then I wanted to be impressive and appreciated and loved by my peers. That has worn off and now I have a completely different attitude to it, and I actually do consider it part of my practice.
I'm wondering what is the difference between artistic process and creative process.
chownah
I'd say the artistic process has to do with taking the creative process into a particular realm or art form that one has crafted. There are some very creative people out there with no particular skill. My dad said the coolest thing once - "There is no art without craftsmanship." He once saw a peice of art that was made of metal and very badly welded. He spotted this as a professional welder who had no "creative" ability. He probably could have reproduced the thing better than the original "artist" though he probably wouldn't have been able to invent the thing from scratch. Nonetheless he was not impressed with the piece at all.

-M

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tiltbillings
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by tiltbillings » Thu Feb 04, 2010 12:11 am

MayaRefugee,

In reading over this rather difficult thread, I think I understand your questions and concerns, but rather than trying puzzle this all out, it might be better to simply do the practice and do your art and let things play out. These things will find a balance without forcing the issue.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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zavk
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by zavk » Thu Feb 04, 2010 12:28 am

tiltbillings wrote:MayaRefugee,

In reading over this rather difficult thread, I think I understand your questions and concerns, but rather than trying puzzle this all out, it might be better to simply do the practice and do your art and let things play out. These things will find a balance without forcing the issue.
Yes, yes. And this requires creativity, it is a itself a kind of artistry.

-----------------------------------

On a slightly different note. I've had similar conversations both online and offline. In such conversations, someone would usually express some discomfort with the idea of 'art'. I can see why this is so because 'art' in modern culture is often associated with 'distinction' and 'discrimination'. To a certain extent, art in modern culture is seen as a system of 'value' and 'judgement'. It is also often associated with various social groups who use the idea of 'art' to maintain cultural hierarchy. And to a certain extent, 'art' has become an industry (even though many art enthusiasts see themselves as above the crass processes of the market).

Because of these associations, it is understandable why some people would find the idea of 'art' off-putting. From this perspective, it is easily associated with self-indulgence or one-upmanship. Hence, when the topic of 'art' comes up, it is understandable why people say things like, 'Get over it!' or 'Get over yourself!'

IMO, it is important to be critical about such conceptualisations of art. But I don't think the OP is talking about art in this sense.

Anyway, all the best.
With metta,
zavk

MayaRefugee
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by MayaRefugee » Thu Feb 04, 2010 10:44 am

zavk,

I agree "art" is a very ambiguous term and have myself observed the things you point out - I'm more concerned with the process/art of how an "artist" goes from having a "vision", deciding that their "vision" is worthy of realisation and then going on to realise that "vision".

As an example, The Buddha had a vision to end suffering which he had learned/witnessed was caused by ignorance.

He used words and their associated meanings to put together speeches/discourses and performed them in the hope they would be interpreted/received/understood/agreed with by the ignorant and thus contribute to the realisation of his vision i.e. the cessation of their suffering.

The "art" in this IMO is knowing and choosing the right words then arranging them in the right way i.e. fabricating the word-arrangements that are going to contribute to the realization of his vision.

This fabrication of word-arrangements got the wheel of dhamma spinning and gave rise to the sasana so it was pretty good "artistry" IMO.

tiltbillings,

Thanks for your post - this is just stuff I like to ponder - it doesn't keep me awake at night or anything. I will continue to do my art and practice as you advise.

chownah,

I'd agree with what meindzai said about the difference between the artistic process and the creative process but i'll add that IMO a lot of it boils down to the mind controlling the body/volition that is doing the creating. It's like what meindzai said about practicing - cultivating the discipline to practice helps build the mind in it's ability to control the body/volition at a certain skill level - he picks up a guitar and it's more "artistic" then when the regular joe who doesn't practice picks up the guitar and tries to get "creative" - I find meindzai more "artistic" then the regular joe cause his mind/heart contains discipline.

That's it for now, Peace everyone.

meindzai
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by meindzai » Thu Feb 04, 2010 4:08 pm

MayaRefugee wrote:
I'd agree with what meindzai said about the difference between the artistic process and the creative process but i'll add that IMO a lot of it boils down to the mind controlling the body/volition that is doing the creating. It's like what meindzai said about practicing - cultivating the discipline to practice helps build the mind in it's ability to control the body/volition at a certain skill level - he picks up a guitar and it's more "artistic" then when the regular joe who doesn't practice picks up the guitar and tries to get "creative" - I find meindzai more "artistic" then the regular joe cause his mind/heart contains discipline.

That's it for now, Peace everyone.
But "Regular Joe" is my stage name! :tongue: j/k

I know a lot of people whose entry into meditation practice was through the arts in one way or another. It doesn't necessarily mean that Buddhism is about art or that we must accept the Buddha as an artist at some kind, but there seems to be, at least anecdotally, some sort of connection.

-M

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