What is the Heart of Dharma Art?
story and artwork by Jack Niland
What is the Heart of Dharma Art? It is MANIFESTING the world…your world, my world, our world…an enlightened world. Why? Because this is what the universe does. It creates world systems from the elements and their stories from the skandhas. And the universe created you.
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche said that every thing he did was dharma art. And he played and danced and laughed, and now we live in the Shambhala kingdom that he manifested. So how can we manifest our world too?
Let’s start at the beginning: when he arrived in America in 1970. Above are four examples of things he did that summer (played, danced, laughed, manifested). But they all started with the teaching of meditation on empty space. The first Dharma Art lesson is to look deep into empty space – like a piece of blank paper. He called this the magic mirror. He said if you look deep into it, you will connect with the realm where every thing that ever was, is, or will be already exists. Contemplating the traditional qualities of emptiness such as All Pervading, All Accommodating, No Obstructions and so on, you wait, focusing your intention and then a spark will appear. This is the seed of your art work.To create is to receive. Let the image expand to fill all of space. It is made of primordial light, energy, sounds, colors, shapes, smells, etc. They are all expressions of the qualities of space. Let the image condense and enter your heart. This is the union of feminine and masculine, emptiness and luminosity, Buddhism and Shambhala. This union, this energy fills your heart and then it will spontaneously radiate out and create the work of art that you wished for. This birth is called Maha Sukha, great bliss, the universal eternal dance.
And this what manifesting your world is. This is how the golden age will occur. We must create a new culture based upon this, which includes our theater, music, fashion, cities and stories, holidays and holy days, our homes and schools, clans and kingdoms. This is the heart of Dharma Art.
The four photos in this story are the door at Tail of the Tiger (Karme Choling) that I executed under Trungpa Rinpoche’s instructions. There is a picture Rinpoche created with an old dry house paint brush tied to a pole. Next is a group picture where he did the large stroke, I spilled some ink, and a girl did the blue. And last, Trungpa Rinpoche challenged me to look into the canvas and make the first western thangka.
Let our enlightened culture arise, be a feast for the senses, and let it dissolve again into space.