Amitajyoti from the FWBO’s London Buddhist Arts Centre writes with this review of the recent ‘Buddha Mind - Creative Mind?’ event, held over the weekend of 12-14th June. She says -
"‘Buddha Mind - Creative Mind?’ was an intra-Buddhist Arts and Creativity event, held at Taplow Court, a beautiful venue just outside London belonging to Soka Gakkai International (SGI), and organised by the Institute of Oriental Philosophy, supported by the UK’s Network of Buddhist Organisations (NBO).
"The focus of this event was an exploration of the relationship between Buddhist thought/practice and Creativity with specific reference to the arts. Does Buddhist thought and practice help or hinder the creative process? The theme was explored through a series of academic lectures, discussion, exhibition of artworks and workshops. The event brought together around 80 people from a broad spectrum of backgrounds Buddhist and non-Buddhist, artist and non-artists all who share an interest in the theme. The exhibition of visual arts included sculpture, painting and film and represented 40 artists who each share some association with Buddhism.
"The spirit of creativity was evoked during the weekend through the spirit of participation and play that was encouraged by the organisers throughout the event. Contributors included academics, artists, singer-songwriters, curators, and art critics from a range of backgrounds and traditions including singer-songwriter Howard Jones; Robert Beer, artist and author of ‘The Encyclopaedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs’; Sister Zangmo, Buddhist nun, artist and tutor; Samanera Amaranatho from Amaravati; and members of ‘The Bodhisattvas’, an Engaged Buddhist acoustic duo! For a fuller review of the programme see Chris Wards report on TripleGem.
"Dr John Peacock gave the introductory talk on the theme of ‘Life as a Work of Art’, offering us the opportunity of being creative moment by moment through the activity of ‘giving attention’ to one’s experience, which, he stated, is the ‘opening of the creative life’ - a willingness to experience things beyond the familiar. The range of talks given covered historical developments in art from ‘The Rise of Buddhist art in India, Third century BCE to second century CE’ to the influence of Buddhism upon the visual arts in the USA since 1950’s, and poetry in USA and UK, as well as some talks given by contemporary Buddhist artists, writers, singers and musicians in the UK.
"Of the FWBO practitioners who participated in the weekend, Akasaka led a drawing workshop entitled ‘Drawing as meditation’, Ratnagarbha gave a talk on Buddhism in modern poetry, and Lilavati and myself each gave a presentation and facilitated a discussion group on the theme of how Buddhist thought and practice influence the creative process.
"On the Saturday evening we had a vegetarian dinner prepared by volunteers from SGI UK which was held in the main house. The food was delicious and was served with great care and consideration which can only be an influence of Japanese etiquette – reflective of the general care and attentiveness of the organising teams throughout the weekend. The Saturday eve soiree was an opportunity for participants to offer poetry, performance and music. The richness and diversity of this event was a real highlight, with Richard Gombrich singing Wagnerian arias, John Peacock sublimely playing the sitar, followed by poetry readings and songs concluding with ‘The Bodhisattvas’ who offered guitar, drum, singalong vocals - and the odd Sex Pistols song!
"With a healthy combination of analytical enquiry, discussion and play the event offered us an opportunity to really explore the theme and gain deeper understandings of the relationship between the creative processes of the mind and Buddhist thought and practice. Thanks to Jamie Cresswell (Director of the IOP) and Val Stephenson for their broad vision of the arts and creativity and for putting so much energy, enthusiasm and skill into the organisation of this event.
"If you would like to make contact with other people interested in this field, go to www.dharmaarts.ning.com/ - the site of the Dharma Arts Network (DAN) which was launched at the conference, or the London Buddhist Arts Centre’s website where you can sign up to their database.
For further references to the influence of Buddhism upon Western Art I recommend two American publications entitled ‘Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art’ and ‘Smile of the Buddha’.