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Buddhadharma : Winter 2009
41 winter 2 00 9 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly and natural vitality, all artists could create works that are beneficial to themselves and to others. We all have an ego, and even when we want to, we cannot get rid of it easily. The ego and its attachments, aversions, and insecurities are naturally going to arise continually. However, whether you submit to them or move through them, whether you put them in charge or trust your natural ability to create— this is up to you. It’s going to be difficult to create without moving through these things, but if you have self-confidence and repeatedly make it through attachments and fears, eventu- ally you reach a place where you really trust yourself and allow yourself to become freely expressive. At that point, if you just “let it flow,” the work becomes stainless. For instance, in my painting, I paint over and over and over on the same canvas. Even though I can create an image in the first round, paint- ing it over and over makes me move through many emo- tions and ego-contrivances. No matter how the painting ends up looking, it contains the blessing of what I have moved through. The first painting, even though it may be beautiful, does not have as much of a blessing as the end result of moving through and letting go of attachments. So I try to move through as much as possible. This is a big part of the discipline I suggest we try to cultivate as artists. I would like to make a humble request to all of you who are artists to trust your true nature, trust your natural vitality, and fearlessly let go of the ego’s insecurities. Simply embody self-confidence in the true nature of mind and its natural vital- ity and become accepting of all that is created naturally with such freedom. Then any form of art created in this way will not have to be divorced from our meditation practice. It could actually become the most supportive conduct for your prac- tice. Regardless of whether you are a meditator, if your disci- pline is to move through your ego contrivance—trusting your creativity and remaining aware of it in the work, and then just allowing the process to take place—this itself is meditation. It makes no difference whether you have a separate meditation discipline. This is true for any form of art. I consider teaching to be an art form as well, yet teach- ings are conceptual. You think things through as you present various points. If you allow your thought process to flow naturally and creatively without any hindrance from ego or ego-contrivance, then your thought process can be the same as with abstract expressionist painting. Again, this thought proc- ess is the production of the true nature of mind, and allowing that natural process to take place without getting in the way is the same discipline—just go with the story you are writing or the music you are composing. Whether it is conceptual or nonconceptual it has to flow, and the flow has to come very genuinely out of your creative mind and not from nitpicking. This creative mind can be trusted to be there in your natural state, ready to express itself. Removing the hindrances of ego- contrivance—by moving through the ego-emotions as quickly as possible—is what is required. Many people have told me that they used to be artists, but since they became Buddhist meditators they have let go of their art. They thought it too frivolous a pursuit, not supportive of their spiritual path and the practice of meditation. I think that is absolutely wrong. I think art can be the most supportive part of what one does in life with meditation practice. Art enriches the practice, and in the end, meditation practice and art become united. This is the goal of all practitioners: what we practice in meditation becomes our life. Life and our meditation practice become united to the point that there is not much difference between meditation sessions and post-meditation. Post-meditation becomes part of the same discipline as in- meditation, and with that there is a great sense of deep satisfaction. Otherwise, we can have a connection to art and a longing to be an artist and yet see this as a conflict with our connection to meditation practice and our longing to be a meditator. Seeing it as a conflict, we might think we have to drop one and pick up the other, and in this way we lose something that is very important, very enriching, fulfilling, and mutually supportive. In this case something important is not being understood or appreciated or taken onto the path. If we follow this route, even though we may become a good meditator, at the end of life we might feel that we had forsaken a part of our own deep longing or passion. Perhaps you are already aware of your choice, and forsak- ing your passion has left you a little unfulfilled. You might feel okay about it, and believe that at least it is better than being acutely disappointed or sad. However, there is no reason to feel unfulfilled in the first place! There is no reason to see a conflict between art and meditation practice. Of course, you might want to spend more time doing one or the other but, please, never see them in conflict. See them as supportive of one another. Both have connections, passions, fulfillment and joy which, together, make us whole. This wholeness of being is the true accomplishment of a full life. Even though I can create an image in the first round, painting it over and over makes me move through many emotions and ego-contrivances. No matter how the painting ends up looking, it contains the blessing of what I have moved through. Dzigar Kongtrul rinpoche’s art can be viewed at kongtruljigme.com, along with audio teachings and a video of him painting.