Purifying the Creative Process

Some say art has no place in Dhamma, and others say the path lessens the desire to alter artistic visions. I’m not exactly sure what it’s going to mean for me and my art yet because I haven’t gone into a heavy production phase since I’ve been on the path.

My “personal art” creation process, (not to be confused with “commercial art” -making the art of others) has been a life-long therapeutic activity for me…the pure expression of my ego observing, exploring and working on itself, interlaced with insights and visions that may come before and during the process. It has also been a life-long method to access periods of joyful rapture, best described as psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s “flow state;” a state that occurs while a good balance of perceived challenge and skill level is maintained. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_(psychology)

A close artist friend who grew up in Sri Lanka (where becoming a monk is a bit more common) warned me that on this path my love for art and music will vanish. Another artist told me she had encountered the same message when speaking with vipassana A. T.’s. However, vipassana meditator and visual artist Johnnie Lawson has had a very different experience; he describes vipassana as actually purifying his creative process. He explains that after he began to practice vipassana he has received clearer visions, and the will to create them in their pure form, rather than adding so much of “himself” to them. He says before his process felt laborious, tedious and draining, but now he simply observes the “finished image” equanimously, and produces it exactly as it is. Through this process, he is free of attachment to the finished image, and he is able to meditate as he produces it. He has become a clear channel. This is completely on par with what my gnostic teachers had told me about creativity. They even said the master Samael Aun Weor wrote all his books this way; he sat at the typewriter, in a state of meditation, typed them out in a linear fashion, never did he change nor edited a thing.

So it seems the art that has no place in Dhamma, is the art designed by a judgmental mind, rather than the art that is received, and unchanged by a mind that simply discerns. I am humbled by such knowledge, and know I still have a long way to go. Usually when I receive a vision it is complex and detailed but not crystal clear, sometimes I feel it more than I see it, and receiving words is usually very fragmented for me. If what I received was completely finished so I didn’t have to think would this mean there would be no more fun challenge?…and no more marvellous flow states?…would it mean I would show art to the world that I couldn’t explain, and would make very little sense to anyone?…Well only time on the path will tell. Here’s some images that came to me while sitting at Dhamma Surabhi, I tried to stay true to how they appeared while producing them:

This one was crystal clear.


This one I felt and saw, but it wasn’t as clear.

4 thoughts on “Purifying the Creative Process

  1. Lisa Griffiths

    In this context, I’m using Art to mean a diverse range of human activities and the products of those activities; I’m speaking primarily about visual arts because that’s the area where I am most experienced.

    It’s also interesting that Dhamma is called the “Art of living” where it would be both the activity and and the product.

    I was using it to mean “a state which upholds” or “the product of the path,” but I’ve changed the context to mean “the path” since Goneka can be quoted using this meaning: “Dhamma – the way to liberation” http://www.dhamma.org/en/goenka.shtml

    Hopefully this makes reading less vague. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Vipassana Sadhana Sansthan | DHAMMASOTA

  3. Thank you for sharing your insights along with examples of other artists. I came to this post when I was struggling to finish a commercial film project after my vipassana sessions. Now, I feel clearer. In the end of your article, you have mentioned a few questions that you say that you might need time to know. I am curious if you have found those answers.
    Regarding your question “would it mean I would show art to the world that I couldn’t explain, and would make very little sense to anyone?…Well only time on the path will tell. ” I suppose that it is a process where you understand and let the audience or viewer interpret for themselves like many artists do. For example David Lynch, a famous artist/meditator openly does not disclose why he has such surreal scenes and stories in the movies he makes. Thank you!

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