“Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”
–Percy Bysshe Shelley
Tenzin Robert Thurman, speaking at the Artist and Buddhist Contemplatives gathering at the Garrison Institute, offered this idea in a talk titled The Buddha Emanation Body as the Original Buddhist Art Piece. It raises the question, What kind of a world do we want to create?
Bob talked about the Buddhist understanding of the bliss of non-duality, the bliss of wisdom realizing compassion. In this bliss, the duality of subject and object dissolve, leaving the clear-light-bliss-void, as Bob calls it, the most powerful energy. And the activity of this bliss is compassion since once this bliss is experienced, one wants to share it.
In this compassionate bliss, artists, he said, have an imagination of what the world can be. Nirmanakaya is the emanation body of the buddhas which, with compassionate artistry, can manifest whatsoever, benefitting whomsoever, whenever effective.
And through this art, we who experience it can all aim ourselves at this compassionate bliss void reality. The artist is not doing this deliberately, or didactically, but feels this bliss, and the bliss is the material. Bliss, he says, is an essential source of beauty.
One could argue that this compassionate bliss is a source of all great art from the universal power of the Mona Lisa, a soul stirring symphony, soaring cathedrals, or a perfect poem. This bliss helps us remember who we truly are and from that place, we can begin to imagine and create the world anew.
Bob began his talk by responding to group vocalization of OM, or AUM, that Meredith Monk had led with the group just before his talk. In his talk, he speaks with his characteristic joy, beauty, and eloquence about the origins in the Indian cosmology of the creator sound, A.
Please join Robert Thurman and composer and interdisciplinary artist Meredith Monk at the Rubin Museum of Art in NYC on December 12th from 7pm-8:30pm. They will talk publicly together for the first time about the place Buddhism, artistic expression, and environmental concerns meet. To purchase a ticket, please click here.
Sara Overton is an artist based in New York City and founder of the Buddhist and Artists Contemplatives Project. Her visual art is often meditative and influenced by the natural world.