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.”
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.
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.
The images are coloured pencil on black paper. On a screen they are best viewed in a dark room.
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.
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.
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)
Ahhh this is one of my favourite suttas! Perhaps you are like me—a visual learner. I make mind maps of Buddhist lists all the time, and find it much easier to see the overall structure and sequence, as well as helping me remember much better.
I will start another thread about this and tag you to see what I’ve been developing.
Thanks for sharing!
PS. I think that meditation is a creative activity, I often compare it to art or cooking; there needs to be an understanding of scientific principles (like measuring ingredients or having the right temperature) but bringing creativity to it allows us to be flexible and respond in new ways to what is needed. I often think people become stuck in their meditation because of a lack of creativity.
Thank you, Bhante. I’d be very interested to learn more about your mind maps. It’s true I often make maps of important concepts. Well said about creativity helping in meditation. It works both ways, meditation helps to become more creative wherever creativity is needed. _/_
This underestimates visual ‘language’, which in the sense reception process happens before words and has a connection to feeling. The degree of balance in the 'Sky" series between the elements earth and sky, and the spatial distance between the two communicate, but admittedly visual thinking is not shared by all the population:
“less than 30% of the population strongly uses visual/spatial thinking, another 45% uses both visual/spatial thinking and thinking in the form of words, and 25% thinks exclusively in words”—Wikipedia
Developing visual thinking, the response to lines, colours etc. for their own sake, can sharpen recognition in the sense restraint process, where there is increased awareness of incoming sense data at the pre-verbal level.
“Everything comes under the sway of name as a result of man’s urge to familiarize himself with the world. Sorting out, naming and defining things, are practical necessities in ordinary life, since they help us avoid ‘tripping-over,’ just as in the case of one groping in the dark. There is a constant need to re-cognize things and the easiest way of doing it, is by putting a sign on them. While the five senses have their own separate modes of indentation, mind largely relies on the labeling-mode of attaching a name, in the course of its own groping. Since mind partakes of the ‘range’ (visaya ) and pasture (gocara ) of the other five senses as well (M. I. 295.), its own mode of indentation has a preponderating influence over the rest. Thus, perceptual data of the five external senses, in all their permutations and combinations, finally come to be assigned names and pigeon-holed as ‘things.’ This convenient but superficial indentation beclouds the mind and prevents the immediate understanding of sense-contact (phassa ). Its mode of apperception, therefore, is largely a process of ‘imagining’ and ‘figuring-out’ of objects located in the darkness of ignorance, and in its blind groping, the phenomenon of sense-contact as such, hardly receives any serious attention.”—Nanananda, note to SN 1.61