'The face I had before the world was made' - An essay on Buddhism and Beauty, by Ratnagarbha, the editor of Triratna’s Buddhist arts journal, Urthona
On Tue, 17 February, 2015 - 13:59
This wonderful old photograph of W. B. Yeats made by George Berresford in 1911 introduces a new essay on Buddhism and Beauty, by Ratnagarbha, the editor of Triratna’s Buddhist arts journal, Urthona – a journey in the company of James Hillman, Sangharakshita and the poetry of W. B. Yeats:
The first book to be written from a Western perspective on the subject of Buddhism and the arts was Art and Meditation, by the well known German devotee of Tibetan Buddhism, Lama Govinda, originally published in 1936. In this he says:
Art and meditation are creative states of the human mind. Both are nourished by the same source, but it may seem that they are moving in different directions: art towards the realm of sense-impressions, meditation towards the overcoming of forms and sense-impressions. But the difference pertains only to accidentals, not to the essentials.
So in Lama Govida’s view meditation and art are based in equally creative (or skilful to use traditional Buddhist terminology) states of mind. This is an inspiring, holistic way to look at the place of the arts in Buddhist practice. Appreciating or creating art is a way of working on the mind, of cultivating more insightful, expansive and grounded states of consciousness. Meditation, one might say, is the royal road to higher states of being, the mind working directly on the mind. But the arts present a very attractive, engaging means, a tool to work on our mental states by means of impressions ‘out the there’ in the world of the senses; that world to which we are all so attached, so ‘hooked up’. By means of the arts we use this attraction outwards to draw us into a world of meaningfully arranged forms, a world of beauty and significance, which partakes equally of the inner and outer life, and reminds us of who we truly are.