The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

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

Post by MayaRefugee » Thu Feb 04, 2010 10:09 pm

I agree meindzai, when you look at the qualities involved in displaying "artistry" a lot overlap with the qualities of a good meditator i.e. discernment, concentration, inginuity, etc.

Would you agree the meditators "artwork" would be his/her mind and the decision to share/portray an aspect of their mind would then make them an "artist"?

Peace.

meindzai
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by meindzai » Thu Feb 04, 2010 10:56 pm

MayaRefugee wrote:I agree meindzai, when you look at the qualities involved in displaying "artistry" a lot overlap with the qualities of a good meditator i.e. discernment, concentration, inginuity, etc.

Would you agree the meditators "artwork" would be his/her mind and the decision to share/portray an aspect of their mind would then make them an "artist"?

Peace.
I'm not sure I'm qualified to explain in depth what the connection between art and meditation really is. To me there just seems to be a connection, and there is something about being unhindered by conventional thinking that frees up the creative process. I think the Buddha was an unconventional thinker.

The "skill" and "practice" part is something I feel might be more applicable to Theravada. It doesn't have to be "art". It can even be a skill like sharpening knives. (Something Thanissaro Bhikkhu has mentioned). It seems that people who have developed some kind of skill or art form have a better time with meditation.

-M

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

Post by Kim OHara » Fri Feb 05, 2010 12:14 am

MayaRefugee wrote: Would you agree the meditators "artwork" would be his/her mind and the decision to share/portray an aspect of their mind would then make them an "artist"?
Hi, MayaRefugee,
I have thought - and maybe said - previously that your choice of words seems to be contributing vagueness and confusion, not clarity, to the discussion and (I suspect) your own thinking. Here is another example - you are stretching the words 'artwork' and 'artist' to cover ideas they were never intended to cover, and that makes them less meaningful, not more.
I think that if you spent a bit of time clarifying your language (e.g. the differences between art and craft, skill and technique, artist and artwork, career and vocation and hobby), you would simultaneously clarify your thinking and maybe resolve a lot of your own questions.
Words aren't thoughts, but the right words do help us think. :smile:

Kim

MayaRefugee
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by MayaRefugee » Fri Feb 05, 2010 5:12 am

Kim,

I apologise if I have offended you by not meeting the standards of "word-smithery" you expect in a discussion.

Untill recently I never spoke what I thought and I just parroted what I thought I was supposed to say, behind this parroting I was developing my own understanding/intuition of things, I'm now making an effort to bring this understanding to the forefront/learn to speak what I really think/have intuited and this forum has become an avenue for me to do this - please recognise this is a learning tool for me to see what's going on in my and other peoples minds in relation to certain objects/concepts of meditation.

You say I'm not using words the way they were intended, intended by who and what authority do they have?

Words are labels and transcending labels or the labeling part of the mind, I have read, is integral on the path to enlightenment.

You say you're a music teacher, if one of your students learnt to play the piano using their intuition and developed a degree of competency they were happy with and, using their own language, called A-Sharp "this key here" would you tell them they are making things less meaningful by not calling A-Sharp A-Sharp like you think they are supposed to do?

Have you read about the illiterate arahants or idiot-savants or other enigmas - there are other ways to arrive at competency then just through the absorbtion and adherence to convention.

Adherence to conventions, in this case the conventions of a "language", as meindzai alluded to, is a burden - the dhamma also says stuff about rites, rituals, traditions, ceromonies, etc and how they're not worth following - this all ties in with the question I raised about ones attitude when engaging in the artistic process, I find an attitude that emphasizes convention to be inhibiting - each to their own I guess.

meindzai,

I used to work in a bar when I was at Uni, not tooting my own horn but I got pretty good at the tasks involved and eventually it took very little conscious thought to carry them out.

Having my body occupied with activities that had become habit/took very little conscious thought allowed me to contemplate other things and work on attainting peace of mind.

Giving the body something simple to do or letting it indulge in a habit it likes I've found can help bring about peace of mind.

Not that I know much about it I've read Zen monks do walking meditation - walking is pretty simple and requires little thought.

Peace.

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

Post by Kim OHara » Fri Feb 05, 2010 6:52 am

Hi, MayaRefugee,
MayaRefugee wrote:Kim,
I apologise if I have offended you by not meeting the standards of "word-smithery" you expect in a discussion.
No need to apologise - I'm not offended. :smile:
MayaRefugee wrote: Untill recently I never spoke what I thought and I just parroted what I thought I was supposed to say, behind this parroting I was developing my own understanding/intuition of things, I'm now making an effort to bring this understanding to the forefront/learn to speak what I really think/have intuited and this forum has become an avenue for me to do this - please recognise this is a learning tool for me to see what's going on in my and other peoples minds in relation to certain objects/concepts of meditation.
Okay - I can understand that. My previous post was actually aimed at helping you do it better.
MayaRefugee wrote: You say I'm not using words the way they were intended, intended by who and what authority do they have?
It's not really 'intended', more 'agreed' or 'accepted' - my poor usage - sorry.
While you're talking to yourself, thinking things through, you can use any words you like - though I still think that using words carefully does help you think better.
When you are trying to communicate with others (e.g. here), your communication fails if you don't use their language. In particular, if your private meaning of 'art' and 'artist' doesn't match your readers' meaning of 'art' and 'artist', you won't communicate what you want to communicate. Is that good? Is it useful? Is it even good manners? Of course not.
MayaRefugee wrote: Words are labels and transcending labels or the labeling part of the mind, I have read, is integral on the path to enlightenment.
That also is true. But at the moment, we're communicating, not transcending.
MayaRefugee wrote: You say you're a music teacher, if one of your students learnt to play the piano using their intuition and developed a degree of competency they were happy with and, using their own language, called A-Sharp "this key here" would you tell them they are making things less meaningful by not calling A-Sharp A-Sharp like you think they are supposed to do?

No, but I would tell them it's useful to use the accepted names for the notes so that they can communicate with other musicians.
MayaRefugee wrote: Have you read about the illiterate arahants or idiot-savants or other enigmas - there are other ways to arrive at competency then just through the absorbtion and adherence to convention.
True, but be careful that you don't confuse 'convention' and 'competence' and then reject the technical training which allows you to express yourself freely.
MayaRefugee wrote: Adherence to conventions, in this case the conventions of a "language", as meindzai alluded to, is a burden - the dhamma also says stuff about rites, rituals, traditions, ceromonies, etc and how they're not worth following - this all ties in with the question I raised about ones attitude when engaging in the artistic process, I find an attitude that emphasizes convention to be inhibiting - each to their own I guess.
Chacun a son gout, as you say. :thinking:
But if you want to talk about it - as you seemed to (you started the thread, didn't you?) - we do need a shared language.

:namaste:
Kim

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appicchato
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by appicchato » Fri Feb 05, 2010 9:06 am

meindzai wrote: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.
LIFE is a form of art...the art of being skillful...mindful...etc..... :popcorn:

MayaRefugee
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by MayaRefugee » Sat Feb 06, 2010 2:40 am

Kim,

I agree with your sentiments.

I think it's already been pointed out but as you say the desire to communicate does require adherence to mutually agreed upon conventions.

The desire to communicate was prevalent from The Buddhas enlightened perspective so I guess freeing yourself from this desire is not neccessary to become enlightened.

How does one choose what to communicate though?

Hitler chose to communicate his vision/idea/dream, Buddha communicated his vision/idea/dream - isn't it vain to believe your vision/idea/dream is deserved of communication?

appicchato,

Nice saying - here's another.

"We are all born artists, the trick is staying one when we grow up"....Picasso

Peace.

pt1
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by pt1 » Sat Feb 06, 2010 6:03 am

MayaRefugee wrote: 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?
I agree in principle, though personally, I have not yet been able to find a way not to dilute the dhamma when putting it in "my own words", or even just manage to maintain the same quality of expression as it is in the canon. Either way, I think the fact that we're trying to figure out this issue is already a lot better than being involved in arts just for selfish reasons (i.e. sensual pleasures, conceit, etc).
MayaRefugee wrote: 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 guess so. I mean, if a work of art is made the vessel for a dhamma message, then most people would first react to it through sensual pleasure, because that's the ingrained habit of reacting to sensual objects for most of us, be they objects of sound, sight, etc. Would anyone then also get the dhamma message once the sensual pleasure is aroused? Hard to say, but so far my conclusion is that one is directly opposed to the other, and so the approach seems fundamentally counter-productive and could be justified only in extreme situations (like when it is the only way to sneak in some dhamma).

Best wishes

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

Post by Kim OHara » Sat Feb 06, 2010 12:17 pm

pt1 wrote: I mean, if a work of art is made the vessel for a dhamma message, then most people would first react to it through sensual pleasure, because that's the ingrained habit of reacting to sensual objects for most of us, be they objects of sound, sight, etc. Would anyone then also get the dhamma message once the sensual pleasure is aroused? Hard to say, but so far my conclusion is that one is directly opposed to the other, and so the approach seems fundamentally counter-productive and could be justified only in extreme situations (like when it is the only way to sneak in some dhamma).

Best wishes
Here's a counter-argument.
:smile:
Kim
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pt1
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by pt1 » Sun Feb 07, 2010 5:00 am

Hi Kim, not sure what you're trying to say. I mean, if the mind turns to examining the picture behind the text, I'll most probably either like the picture or dislike it, and both of these would be unwholesome cittas, what would exclude the possibility of wisdom arising at these moments of liking/disliking (at least), so it would be impossible to wisely consider the dhamma verse in these moments (at least). On that basis, I'd say the verse would have a better chance of being wisely considered without the picture behind it. Though of course, yours is a pretty innocent case, e.g. if the verse was also sung in a melody, like Christian psalms for example, there'd be a lot more room for unwholesome cittas arising on account of dis/liking the singing, music, etc.

Best wishes

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

Post by Kim OHara » Mon Feb 08, 2010 7:38 am

pt1 wrote:Hi Kim, not sure what you're trying to say. I mean, if the mind turns to examining the picture behind the text, I'll most probably either like the picture or dislike it, ...
Hi, pt1,
I'm a firm believer in art as communication, but I do know that not all art communicates with all people. Maybe that's the difficulty here, and you would respond more easily to different art - I don't know. Your approach of responding to the components separately misses the fact that they interact with each other ... if you let them, anyway.
I don't want to explain it all, because explaining art is like explaining jokes - if you have to do it, you usually kill it - but you might like to think about the effects, meanings, implications, and/or attention-holding qualities of
- the same picture without any text
- the same picture with a completely different text (an advertisement, for instance)
- the same text with a really ugly/industrial picture behind it
- the same text without any picture

Over to you,
:namaste:

Kim

pt1
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by pt1 » Mon Feb 08, 2010 1:31 pm

Hi Kim,

I think I see the source of miscommunication:
Kim O'Hara wrote: Your approach of responding to the components separately misses the fact that they interact with each other ...
The point of taking the text separately from the picture or any other component like background music for example was that I was kind of thinking in terms of how abhidhamma takes consciousness to occur - e.g.visual and auditory consciousness cannot happen at the same time, but one after the other. And each moment of consciousness (citta) will have certain mental factors that accompany it (such as attention, concentration, etc, but also such as greed, hate, or generosity, wisdom, etc) and make it wholesome or unwholesome.

Of course even while reading just the text, there will be many, many moments of different cittas, but speaking in general terms, if my attention is on the picture, it's not on considering the text at that moment, or if the attention is on the sound (music), it's not on the text, etc. Of course, the problem is that most of us have greed and hate (liking and disliking) as ingrained habitual reaction to seeing a visual object or hearing a sound, etc. And greed and hate make a citta unwholesome, while only wholesome cittas lead to awakening. Hence my conclusion that encouraging unwholesome cittas with extra sense objects like music, pictures, etc, is counter-productive.

Again, it's not the picture or music or any other kind of a sense-object that's the culprit here, but it is the ingrained habits of reacting to sense-objects with greed/hate that is the problem. That's just how things are before awakening. So my thinking is, if we're going to try to transmit dhamma (and thus encourage wholesome cittas that are accompanied with wisdom), then why make the job harder by encouraging unwholesome cittas with additional sense objects like music, pictures, etc?

Best wishes

chownah
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by chownah » Mon Feb 08, 2010 3:25 pm

I would like to ask the original poster if the term "The Artistic Process" means 1. that it is a process for creating art....or 2. it is a process that is itself "artistic". For example, "a difficult process" means it is a process that is difficult itself but does not mean that it is a process to make things difficult.

Also I'd like to ask whether the Greek statues of naked people are art and if they were created by people using "the artistic process"?

chownah

MayaRefugee
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by MayaRefugee » Tue Feb 09, 2010 1:39 am

chownah,

I started this thread to better understand what goes on in the mind and the imagination during what I believe to be the artistic process - when I started this thread I'd never heard of the word papanca which I'm tending to think sums up the artistic process.

The way I see it, somewhere in the mind of an individual they learn/observe that certain instigators of sense-consciousness either alone or in arrangements/formations give rise to certain reactions/phenomena in the mind of the individual being subject to these instigators of sense-consciousness.

For whatever reason the individual that observed the arising of this certain reaction/phenomena in either themselves or someone else decides that they will play with these instigators and see if they can to get the same phenomena to arise in either themselves or someone else.

I think the imagination comes into it when the individual tries to invent instigators of sense-consciousness that haven't been manifest in a particular way before i.e. the individual is envisioning something and not just depicting what already is.

So to answer your question it is a bit of 1 and 2 - the result of thinking/acting artistically is a work of art but there are more ramifications to it.

In regards to the statues in Greece I would say they are art as it is my assumption that the sculptors were trying to get certain phenomena to arise in those viewing them. I assume the sculptors would have observed how people reacted when subject to aesthetic formations of instigators of sense-consciousness and tried to provide a means for evoking these reactions.

I would then go on to divide these artworks/sculptures/statues into those with imagination and those without. There are statues of Pan for example, half goat half man, as far as I know he is a figment of someones imagination and not a depiction of something that already is - working from a vision or something imagined IMO is harder then working from something that already is so I would say that the more imagination employed in the artistic process the more artistic the resultant instigator of sense-consciousness is.

I would really like to delve into this some more so it would be good if you all joined me in this and continued contributing to this thread.

Peace.

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

Post by Kim OHara » Tue Feb 09, 2010 11:19 am

pt1 wrote:Hi Kim,
... The point of taking the text separately from the picture or any other component like background music for example was that I was kind of thinking in terms of how abhidhamma takes consciousness to occur - e.g.visual and auditory consciousness cannot happen at the same time, but one after the other. And each moment of consciousness (citta) will have certain mental factors that accompany it (such as attention, concentration, etc, but also such as greed, hate, or generosity, wisdom, etc) and make it wholesome or unwholesome.
... it's not the picture or music or any other kind of a sense-object that's the culprit here, but it is the ingrained habits of reacting to sense-objects with greed/hate that is the problem.
... if we're going to try to transmit dhamma (and thus encourage wholesome cittas that are accompanied with wisdom), then why make the job harder by encouraging unwholesome cittas with additional sense objects like music, pictures, etc?
Hi, pt1,
I've never looked far into the Abhidhamma. Maybe I'm missing something that will revolutionise my understanding of the world or of myself, but maybe not; what you describe here certainly does not match my subjective experience of the world, though I can see that it is at least plausible in theory.
I've got to say, then, that I don't think your analysis is relevant to my, or most people's, experience of art. I also wonder how it deals with such simple sensory conflicts as, for instance, a dhamma verse in a font you dislike intensely.

We all can, and often do, choose how to organise our sense impressions (and sense impressions are, of course, all we ever have). Check out the 'Understanding Engineers' thread for examples of some poor alternative choices. :tongue:
But if your way leads you towards enlightenment, or even simply makes you happy, stay with it.
:namaste:
Kim

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