Using art to teach dhamma

Slightly macabre -Anatomy of an angel by Damien Hurst


with metta,


Ayya Yeshe uses her warm and rich voice in order to convey messages of peace and compassion, as for example during the Sakyadhita Buddhist Women’s Conference in Hongkong 2017 where she spontaneously sang “Ella’s song”, a song on social justice and compassion from African American Acapella group “Sweet honey and the Rock”:

Edit: See also this thread:


I have to confess that while it might be seen as an “entertainment,” I have an interest in calligraphy and some forms of Japanese art such as ceramics, and am planning to visit a Rinzai zendo in the Driftless area of southwestern Wisconsin next year to observe their Japanese calligraphy and ceramics practice. I’d even welcome the chance to fire an almsbowl in the new kiln that they installed recently. As long as they don’t force me to do koans as the price of admission… :slight_smile:

almsbowl 1


A clear full moon night

MN 118

On that occasion—the Uposatha day of the fifteenth, the full-moon night of the Komudī full moon of the fourth month—the Blessed One was seated in the open surrounded by the Sangha of bhikkhus. Then, surveying the silent Sangha of bhikkhus, he addressed them thus:

“Bhikkhus, this assembly is free from prattle, this assembly is free from chatter. It consists purely of heartwood. Such is this Sangha of bhikkhus, such is this assembly. Such an assembly as is worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of reverential salutation, an incomparable field of merit for the world—such is this Sangha of bhikkhus, such is this assembly. Such an assembly that a small gift given to it becomes great and a great gift greater—such is this Sangha of bhikkhus, such is this assembly. Such an assembly as is rare for the world to see—such is this Sangha of bhikkhus, such is this assembly. Such an assembly as would be worth journeying many leagues with a travel-bag to see—such is this Sangha of bhikkhus, such is this assembly.


Thag 4.10 Dhammika

“Dhamma really protects you if you practice Dhamma;
Dhamma well-practiced brings happiness.
If you practice Dhamma, this is the benefit—
You won’t go to a bad destination.

Dhamma and what is not Dhamma
Don’t both lead to the same results.
What is not Dhamma leads to hell,
While Dhamma takes you to a good destination.

So you should be enthusiastic to perform acts of Dhamma,
Rejoicing in the Fortunate One, the poised.
Disciples of the best of Fortunate Ones are firm in Dhamma;
Those wise ones are led on, going to the very best of refuges.”

“The boil has been burst from its root,
The net of craving is undone.
He has ended transmigration, he has nothing,
Just like the full moon in a clear night sky.”



“As many garlands can be made
from a heap of flowers,
so too, much that is wholesome can be done
during this human existence.”

—Dhp 53 (translation by Ajahn Munindo)



Putting EBTs into sound: The Path premier cantata on EBDs


The adventure of painting 10.000 Buddhas—Amanda Giacomini’s huge artistic endeavor:


I have been making dhamma art for the past few years. Sharing a link to my site, where you can see how I incorporate it into my practice.


Thanks for sharing, I like the hands on the tree. Best wishes for your practice.


I too make Dhamma art … and that’s a great name for it. :smiley:

@mandala, your work is really lovely. The installations of the paired hands really affected me, and I do like your statement:

For me, the practice of art is as much developing as it is letting go.


I think a lot would learnt about balance of abstract elements (like form and space) doing this work, which is equal to meditation on those subjects.


Thank you @Gillian. :pray: Would be great to see your art, if you’re open to sharing :slightly_smiling_face:


Nice to see your work again @Gillian. If You Have a Mind You Must Clean It III is my current favorite.


I suggest the "Sky " series is more successful than the “Rock” because it contains explicit contrast of two elements, earth and sky (air). They also signify “above” (sky), and “below” (earth). The “Rock” series is somewhat oppressive due to lack of this elemental contrast.

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I too have a secret shameful past as an artist. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

I used to make art inspired by my interest in Buddhism and to help me understand aspects of meditation practice, including, change, form and emptiness. Some of my work was quite devotional; writing the word Buddha, or copying suttas. Others were about meditation experiences of bliss and dissolution of self. I frequently used images of flowers and insects as metaphors for creativity, trying to capture that sense of the blossoming of knowledge in meditation, and to explore the theme of interconnectivity and interdependence.
Would you like to see a few? Oh well. If you insist. :laughing:
The images are coloured pencil on black paper. On a screen they are best viewed in a dark room.


The Honey-tongued One

Bliss Bliss Bliss

The Wisdom of the Flower Blossoming in the Darkness

Of Wisdom


To the Buddha

Wisdom Flower







Here’s some art babble I wrote about these types of works:

These drawings grew out of an earlier interest in the intersection of writing and drawing, examining historical writing systems which evolved from pictures. I am especially interested in the role of calligraphy in Buddhist cultures and, specifically, the practice of copying Buddhist religious texts (suttas).

My work investigates the limitations of written language; especially its inability to describe the realms of thought that lie ‘beyond words’ and to determine whether the drawn gesture could convey these realms instead. My aim is to reclaim the role of drawing in creating meaning; to create work that moves beyond words whilst still being invested with significance. My calligraphic works locate a point where the specificity of meaning collapses and dissolves into ambiguity; where text becomes drawing and drawing becomes text.

The English alphabet is a script not ideally suited to a flowing calligraphic gesture, lacking the inherent pictorial qualities of Chinese characters or Japanese cursive writing; so, I invented a rather idiosyncratic swirling script, still somewhat legible, but inconsequentially so. The text is presented vertically rather than horizontally, relating to Eastern writing systems, and disrupting the familiarity of the letters and words, emphasising the visual nature and formal qualities of the work over the words themselves.

I have taken considerable liberty with the letters, transforming them into figurative elements; the letter O becomes the flapping wings of butterflies, I’s become sticky stamens, F’s appear as dragonflies or bees, while M’s and W’s are transfigured into burgeoning blossoms.

These figurative elements act as a kind of ornamentation to the sutra text and are reminiscent of the marginalia of western mediaeval manuscripts. They have a life of their own, beyond the meaning of the text and enrich the meaning of the work. The butterflies and flowers which populate the work participate in some sort of drama or story unfolding on the page; lotus flowers grow from tangled roots to bud and blossom, visited by the zooming butterflies and bees; feeding and pollinating.

These figurative elements are both illustrative and symbolic. In Buddhist art and literature, butterflies have long been used as a symbol of change and impermanence, as have lotus flowers– which carry the addition symbolic value of an offering to Buddha, as well as being a symbol of purity and a metaphor for the attainment of Enlightenment.

For me, these small narratives also represent the process of creation, the cycle of life and the interconnectivity of all things.

A lifetime ago!


@Akaliko My favourite is Bliss, bliss, bliss!

And @Gillian -my fav is The sky is high, the ground is thick II


One reason I love art that is that it doesn’t tell us what it means, just allows those who see it to receive meanings. (IRL the rock series looks different to when photographed, because they are on mirror so viewers’s perceptions of themselves peer back offering a variety of views.)

These works would make a wonderful slide show in a darkened room. The last ‘Untitled’ makes a fitting finale, suggestive of light or a meditative breakthrough, and is my fave.

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Very beautiful, Bhante. I think art can certainly be a vehicle for the dhamma, and helping to settle down and focus. Far less refined than your organic drawings, I once did a computer graphic inspired by one of your talks.no_wish.pdf (8.1 MB)


It’s a calming exercise to photoshop Buddha statues…
They might be helpful for starting a meditation.
In gif format, so they work well in a browser.



Here is a piece of music that I wrote last year after a meditation retreat. It is called ‘Aspen’ and is based on a a ‘Namo tassa’ melody that I heard from Ajahn Sona.

Happy Full Moon!