Art and Dharma

Art and Dharma

Date Posted:
October 2005

A student asked Rinpoche how to integrate art with Dharma practice.

The first thing to think about is one’s attitude. The purpose of making the painting or of creating any work of art should only be to benefit others. One should do the artwork to pacify all one’s wrong concepts and disturbing emotional thoughts. While creating, one should keep a motivation of purifying negative karma and actualizing the good heart, loving kindness, bodhicitta, and, in fact, the whole path to enlightenment. By transforming one’s attitude into Dharma, one integrates one’s art with Dharma.

The second thing is the art itself. One should make objects that have a spiritual meaning. One can represent bodhisattvas’ life stories or the Buddha’s life story, showing how they practiced patience and perseverance for the happiness of other sentient beings. One could paint the life stories of great holy beings and present the ways they sacrificed their lives for other sentient beings by practicing renunciation, bodhicitta, and emptiness. One could show how they were always aware of karma. One could use art to show how happiness results from good actions and suffering from negative actions. In this way, making such paintings, for example, which carry a beneficial meaning, is the integration of art with Dharma.

To put this integration into practice, at the beginning of every day, one should pray like this: Due to all my past and future merits, may anyone who sees, touches, or remembers this painting (or other object) never be born in the lower realms. May all disturbing spirit harms and obscurations be purified. May they achieve enlightenment as soon as possible by actualizing the whole path and may they have joy and happiness in their hearts.

Since everything has to do with the power of the mind—enlightenment, hell, liberation, samsara, everything—if one generates the strong thought of benefiting others, as the mind becomes stronger, this thought will cause it to happen.