A basic problem in art is splitting art from audience. In meditative art the artist embodies both – viewing is not separated from making. There is no fear of failing to achieve an aspiration. In a sense, an artist with the right state of mind, simply makes an artwork. Generally though, we need to study, develop and absorb knowledge and insight passed through tradition.
With a meditative state of mind, when we are actually creating an artwork there is total confidence. Our message is one of appreciating things as they are, without any struggle of thoughts or fears. We give up aggression towards ourselves (we do not need to impress people), and towards others (we do not need to deceive people).
Dharma art, genuine art, is the activity of non-aggression.
Traditionally it is a long, arduous process to produce and manufacture art. For instance, to make paint the colour of vermillion, somebody has to grind vermillion stone. Somebody has to collect greenery to make the colour green. Somebody has to collect deposits on the Earth to make the colour orange. Somebody has to work with the sap of trees to make ink.
Everything is made in that way.
Before you work as an artist you have to know the effort and the misery (or maybe deny it) that is involved in producing your artwork. From the modern point of view you can just go to the store, buy things, pick them up. That is not quite a good attitude, let alone elegance. People have to realise how things are made and produced, how they happen to be so beautiful, so lovely.
How are we going to organise our life so that we can afford to produce beautiful things, not at the expense or suffering of others?
That seems to be a basic point from a practical point of view.
Then, there is something beyond that, which is the concept of art altogether. It is a question of discovering elegance and dharma art.
Dharma art is not showmanship, it is not having some talent nobody has had before, it is not having an idea that nobody has thought of before. The main point of dharma art is discovering elegance. That is a question of a state of mind.
If you want to be an artist and you want to have the best of everything, you just can’t have it. You have to start by paying attention to reality. Eat properly. Cook properly. Clean your house and your clothes. Then, go beyond that and begin to have something more substantial. Then, go beyond that and actually begin to create an artistic world altogether.
We have to be honest, real and earthy. We need to appreciate things as they are. They are so beautiful and wonderful already, and in order to appreciate that, it takes time and so much discipline.
The above is a summary from Dharma Art and Discovering Elegance – the first two chapters from ‘Dharma Art’ by Chogyam Trungpa. The book is edited by Judith L. Lief and published by Shambala – Boston & London – 1996.