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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MayaRefugee
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by MayaRefugee » Mon Feb 15, 2010 11:43 am

pt1,

Thanks for another terrific contribution.

I've made a start on reading the material you recommended, looks like buying "Abhidhamma in Daily Life" will be on the cards - the linked electronic version only goes to chapter 8.

Kim,

"I've got nasty habits"....Mick Jagger - :tantrum:

I probably won't contribute to this thread till I make sense of all this new insight (which could be a while).

Peace.

pt1
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by pt1 » Mon Feb 15, 2010 11:45 am

Kim O'Hara wrote: OUCH!! Here comes that pesky creator-idea again!!
I think it's a good comment. Short and to the point. The creator thing is a deep-rooted idea so we need all the reminders we can get to be aware of it as it creeps up again and again. That will hopefully prepare the ground to tackle the idea that's rooted even deeper - the idea of self that creates, self that meditates, self that wants to be different, etc

Best wishes

pt1
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by pt1 » Mon Feb 15, 2010 12:16 pm

MayaRefugee wrote: I've made a start on reading the material you recommended, looks like buying "Abhidhamma in Daily Life" will be on the cards - the linked electronic version only goes to chapter 8.
Sorry about that, haven't noticed. Here is a full version

If you are very keen on a physical book version, you can check the yahoo group I mentioned, sometimes they might have a few books left over for free they'd be happy to share.

Best wishes

MayaRefugee
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by MayaRefugee » Tue Feb 16, 2010 1:52 am

Thanks pt1,

I thought I'd add this, it was in "Abhidhamma in Daily Life".
How is consciousness (i.e. mind) capable of producing a variety or diversity of effects in action? There is no art in the world more variegated than the art of painting. In painting, the painter's masterpiece is more artistic than the rest of his pictures. An artistic design occurs to the painters of masterpieces that such and such pictures should be drawn in such and such a way. Through this artistic design there arise operations of the mind (or artistic operations) accomplishing such things as sketching the outline, putting on the paint, touching up, and embellishing... Thus all classes of arts in the world, specific or generic, are achieved by the mind. And owing to its capacity thus to produce a variety or diversity of effects in action, the mind, which achieves all these arts, is in itself artistic like the arts themselves. Nay, it is even more artistic than the art itself, because the latter cannot execute every design perfectly. For that reason the Blessed One has said, ``Monks, have you seen a masterpiece of painting?'' ``Yes, Lord.'' ``Monks, that masterpiece of art is designed by the mind. Indeed, monks, the mind is even more artistic than that masterpiece.'' (Kindred Sayings, III, 151)
Peace.

pt1
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by pt1 » Tue Feb 16, 2010 6:44 am

Good quote. I really like the "Nay, it [the mind] is even more artistic than the art itself". So, seems like the best thing is to understand the mind first, and with that, one will automatically understand all the arts.

Best wishes

chownah
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by chownah » Wed Feb 17, 2010 1:47 pm

Is "Kindred Sayings, III, 151" a commentary?....or what is its standing in the heirarchy of Theravadin texts?
chownah

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jcsuperstar
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by jcsuperstar » Wed Feb 17, 2010 2:14 pm

chownah wrote:Is "Kindred Sayings, III, 151" a commentary?....or what is its standing in the heirarchy of Theravadin texts?
chownah
it's an english rendering of Samyutta Nikaya
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

meindzai
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by meindzai » Wed Feb 17, 2010 5:03 pm

RE: The god thing

I'm not a theist, but I understand the motivation completely. Many artists, musicians, etc. talk about the creative "force" in terms that imply that they do not take personal responsibility for their "creation." In theistic or mystical terms, which typically don't involve a great deal of analysis, this is simply described as channeling some mystic force, or channeling God or whatever. Because that's exactly how it feels. If you've ever really been involved in a creative act it seems to come from absolutely nowhere.

Somebody versed in psychology could probably give you a good explanation of what's happening, using terms like ego, consious, subconsious, maybe superconsious. But the visceral experience is that it's not "me" that's creating anything. I've written compositions, songs, whatever that people have complimented me on and it's hard to even take the compliment seriously or have any pride around the work - it almost feels like you're taking credit for something somebody else did.

I've mentioned before that really Zen Buddhism, much moreso than Theravada has explored this in relation to the Buddhism, and they typically do it with reference to "non-duality." Or "no separation between subject and object." And it is looked at as a kind of expression of the not-self teaching. But there's a big caution here, which is that Buddhism doesn't take the non-separation of subject and object as an absorption into any cosmic entity. It simply says that there is no barrier. It doesn't say that "you are me and I am you and I am art and I am the universe." Becuase that still implies an "I." The Buddha denied all fabrications of an "I" no matter how cosmic or humble.

What *is* happening often during the creative process, and what Zen arts take advantage of, is that our normal discursive thinking fades into the background or is of secondary importance. Zen arts involve a complete and total mastery of the craft so that there is no "thought" involved in terms of technique or whatever, in other words a very quiet and meditative mindset.

Without analysing all of this from a standpoint of anatta or dependent origination it can look and feel very much like the will of a cosmic or divine power of some sort.

-M

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

Post by Kim OHara » Thu Feb 18, 2010 2:56 am

:goodpost:

Kim

Virgo
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by Virgo » Thu Feb 18, 2010 3:39 am

MayaRefugee wrote:Hey Guys,

Does anyone know if the Buddha ever talked about the imagination?

I've tried googling and searching this forum and I can't find anything.

The reason I ask is I have artistic inclinations and I've noticed I spend a lot of time manifesting mental concepts of what I perceive/am conscious of through the use of (what I currently think is) my imagination assisted by my intellect.

I would like to know what the Buddha said about this habit/tendency so I can see this process for what it is - I think I could just be clinging to aspirations of being labeled smart/clever by those I share these mental concepts with.

Anyway, any help will be greatly appreciated.

Peace.
Hi MayaRefuge,

When you are imagine something it is simply a function of the cetasika of perception. It is the same cetasika that perceives past or present. Citta is simply perceiving things. This cetasika arises and falls away. Clinging to it as me, my own, or as arising for any reason other than conditions were present for it's arising, and not seeing it as utterly anatta and uncontrollable leads to dukkha and rebirth. Rebirth in six realms is very, very undesirable. I am not sure what else to say about this.

Nevertheless, to reiterate, perception is simply a mental factor. It can perceive dhammas past, present, those which is imagined as well as those which have not yet manifested under certain circumstances. This cetasika or mental factor arises and falls. You cannot control it and make it stay, nor can you cause it to arise, it arises only when the conditions are there for it to arise. Clinging to this citta causes pain and suffering. A mind with supramundane Right View knows that cetasika as anatta or without self as it arises because in that citta the mental factor of panna, or discriminative of penetrative wisdom has developed to a keen degree. The main thing that causes wisdom to develop to that degree - the degree at which it knows the true aspect of perception, and of every other dhamma that arises, is wisdom (panna) on the level of reflection. One should reflect that dhammas arise because of conditions. That is all that can be done. The wrong views will slip away slowly. It cannot be forced. Just as we cannot force corn to grow, we cannot force wisdom to develop (because dhammas are not-self); however, the right conditions can be set for it to grow just as the right conditions can be set for corn to grow. It may seem like we are making something occur by "setting up those right conditions" but it is actually just conditioned actions that we do after hearing dhamma, not a self doing them. That action to be taken is simply to understand the dhamma clearly. Then wisdom will grow. Any other way reinforces the main enemy to panna ie. the view that there is a self performing something instead of just understanding conditioned dhammas.

If you have any other questions I would cetainly like to help answer them.

Kevin

Kevin

MayaRefugee
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by MayaRefugee » Thu Feb 18, 2010 5:19 am

Thanks Kevin (Virgo) - :bow:

Can someone point me in the right direction to understand what's going on when one first learns a mantra then conjures the intention to chant that mantra.

How is it possible for us to learn/hold on to/remember and then later recite that mantra?

Thanks in advance,

Peace.

pt1
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by pt1 » Thu Feb 18, 2010 11:55 am

Virgo wrote:A mind with supramundane Right View knows that cetasika as anatta or without self as it arises because in that citta the mental factor of panna, or discriminative of penetrative wisdom has developed to a keen degree.
Sure, but no need to put it out of reach for us ordinary folks, even right view that's not supramundane can have a glimpse of anatta on occasions, I believe, though I wonder if it can happen before any of the stages of insight actually happen. Either way, I think it would certainly happen on every of the many stages of insight that precede stream-entry and the supramundane right view.

Best wishes

pt1
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by pt1 » Thu Feb 18, 2010 12:37 pm

meindzai wrote:RE: The god thing

I'm not a theist, but I understand the motivation completely. Many artists, musicians, etc. talk about the creative "force" in terms that imply that they do not take personal responsibility for their "creation." In theistic or mystical terms, which typically don't involve a great deal of analysis, this is simply described as channeling some mystic force, or channeling God or whatever. Because that's exactly how it feels. If you've ever really been involved in a creative act it seems to come from absolutely nowhere.

Somebody versed in psychology could probably give you a good explanation of what's happening, using terms like ego, consious, subconsious, maybe superconsious. But the visceral experience is that it's not "me" that's creating anything. I've written compositions, songs, whatever that people have complimented me on and it's hard to even take the compliment seriously or have any pride around the work - it almost feels like you're taking credit for something somebody else did.

I've mentioned before that really Zen Buddhism, much moreso than Theravada has explored this in relation to the Buddhism, and they typically do it with reference to "non-duality." Or "no separation between subject and object." And it is looked at as a kind of expression of the not-self teaching. But there's a big caution here, which is that Buddhism doesn't take the non-separation of subject and object as an absorption into any cosmic entity. It simply says that there is no barrier. It doesn't say that "you are me and I am you and I am art and I am the universe." Becuase that still implies an "I." The Buddha denied all fabrications of an "I" no matter how cosmic or humble.

What *is* happening often during the creative process, and what Zen arts take advantage of, is that our normal discursive thinking fades into the background or is of secondary importance. Zen arts involve a complete and total mastery of the craft so that there is no "thought" involved in terms of technique or whatever, in other words a very quiet and meditative mindset.

Without analysing all of this from a standpoint of anatta or dependent origination it can look and feel very much like the will of a cosmic or divine power of some sort.
While I'd agree with you in the Lounge or on a non-buddhist forum, I see no reason why the experiences you describe cannot be explained in a buddhist sense which would hopefully take out the possibility of interpreting any aspect of those experiences in a manner that would perpetuate the wrong view (self, god, etc).

E.g. if we look at the moment when "creative force" occurs - let's say I'm sitting down with my guitar and making a song. What is happening usually is judging what's heard as in "I don't like it, it's been done, too mellow, etc". I'd say these are just akusala (unwholesome) cittas. But sometimes, there suddenly comes a moment, when a sort of awareness kicks in, no more judging thoughts, no more selfishness (i.e. wanting things to be the way I like it), there's a pleasant feeling with varying strength, and whatever I'm doing at the moment seems great. I'd say those are quite possibly kusala (wholesome) cittas. This soon disappears though, as the judging or wanting to hang onto the pleasant feeling prevail (so again akusala). So, I'd say both akusala and kusala happened fully conditioned, kicked in on their own when the conditions were right, no god, nor self, were needed to make them arise, and then fall. And if I then stop playing and listen to what I was just playing (if I was recording it), then it might not sound as great as it did just a few moments ago, at some other time it might again sound great, and then later as nothing special, etc. Which would mean it has very little to do with the music, but more with the kind of citta and cetasikas that were/are arising at the time.

By the way, any plans to resume your abhidhamma blog you used to run on e-sangha? I found it helpful at the time.

Best wishes

pt1
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by pt1 » Thu Feb 18, 2010 12:47 pm

MayaRefugee wrote:Thanks Kevin (Virgo) - :bow:

Can someone point me in the right direction to understand what's going on when one first learns a mantra then conjures the intention to chant that mantra.

How is it possible for us to learn/hold on to/remember and then later recite that mantra?
As I understand it, I'd say many mental factors will be involved in learning and remembering but perception can be singled out as the cetasika responsible for memory (recall). It in turn will depend on the kind of the citta at the moment, so if I remember a mantra and want to recite it to get something for myself out of it - calm, pleasant feeling, etc, then citta is most probably unwholesome at the time, and so is the intention, perception and all the other cetasikas that accompany it. If on the other hand I'm reciting it in order to help someone else in some way, then citta and all the cetsikas that accompany it might be wholesome at the time.

Perhaps Kevin can add a bit more detail or correct me if I'm wrong.

Best wishes

meindzai
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Post by meindzai » Thu Feb 18, 2010 4:09 pm

pt1 wrote:
meindzai wrote:RE: The god thing

I'm not a theist, but I understand the motivation completely. Many artists, musicians, etc. talk about the creative "force" in terms that imply that they do not take personal responsibility for their "creation." In theistic or mystical terms, which typically don't involve a great deal of analysis, this is simply described as channeling some mystic force, or channeling God or whatever. Because that's exactly how it feels. If you've ever really been involved in a creative act it seems to come from absolutely nowhere.

Somebody versed in psychology could probably give you a good explanation of what's happening, using terms like ego, consious, subconsious, maybe superconsious. But the visceral experience is that it's not "me" that's creating anything. I've written compositions, songs, whatever that people have complimented me on and it's hard to even take the compliment seriously or have any pride around the work - it almost feels like you're taking credit for something somebody else did.

I've mentioned before that really Zen Buddhism, much moreso than Theravada has explored this in relation to the Buddhism, and they typically do it with reference to "non-duality." Or "no separation between subject and object." And it is looked at as a kind of expression of the not-self teaching. But there's a big caution here, which is that Buddhism doesn't take the non-separation of subject and object as an absorption into any cosmic entity. It simply says that there is no barrier. It doesn't say that "you are me and I am you and I am art and I am the universe." Becuase that still implies an "I." The Buddha denied all fabrications of an "I" no matter how cosmic or humble.

What *is* happening often during the creative process, and what Zen arts take advantage of, is that our normal discursive thinking fades into the background or is of secondary importance. Zen arts involve a complete and total mastery of the craft so that there is no "thought" involved in terms of technique or whatever, in other words a very quiet and meditative mindset.

Without analysing all of this from a standpoint of anatta or dependent origination it can look and feel very much like the will of a cosmic or divine power of some sort.
While I'd agree with you in the Lounge or on a non-buddhist forum, I see no reason why the experiences you describe cannot be explained in a buddhist sense which would hopefully take out the possibility of interpreting any aspect of those experiences in a manner that would perpetuate the wrong view (self, god, etc).

E.g. if we look at the moment when "creative force" occurs - let's say I'm sitting down with my guitar and making a song. What is happening usually is judging what's heard as in "I don't like it, it's been done, too mellow, etc". I'd say these are just akusala (unwholesome) cittas. But sometimes, there suddenly comes a moment, when a sort of awareness kicks in, no more judging thoughts, no more selfishness (i.e. wanting things to be the way I like it), there's a pleasant feeling with varying strength, and whatever I'm doing at the moment seems great. I'd say those are quite possibly kusala (wholesome) cittas. This soon disappears though, as the judging or wanting to hang onto the pleasant feeling prevail (so again akusala). So, I'd say both akusala and kusala happened fully conditioned, kicked in on their own when the conditions were right, no god, nor self, were needed to make them arise, and then fall. And if I then stop playing and listen to what I was just playing (if I was recording it), then it might not sound as great as it did just a few moments ago, at some other time it might again sound great, and then later as nothing special, etc. Which would mean it has very little to do with the music, but more with the kind of citta and cetasikas that were/are arising at the time.
You may be right. I don't feel equipped to analyze the process abhidhammically. If you believe the zen tradition, the true creative process arises out of a kind of samadhi, which would translate into some kind of jhana. Jhana for Theravadans implies wholesome cittas. Yet art and music (from a Theravada POV) almost always imply some sort of craving.
By the way, any plans to resume your abhidhamma blog you used to run on e-sangha? I found it helpful at the time.

Best wishes
I'd like to very much. The first problem is that there are a lot of life changes that prevent me from spending the time I really needed with it. The second is that I don't have access to the old blog, which was all on E-sangha. Wish I had it saved elsewhere.

I wonder if we could start over with it in a study group/thread here, like some of the threads we had on E-sangha. I found that Ninas work was very, very heavy in the beginning, then the chapters got easier to swallow. Just dissecting the first three or four chapters alone really changed my perspective quite a bit.

-M

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