art & spirituality
The scriptures of Vedanta says this all:

In the early part of the first millennium B.C. we find stated both the methods and the discoveries of brahmavidya (knowledge of the absolute) With this introspective tool the inspired rishis (literally “seers”) of ancient India, analyzed their awareness of human experience to see if there was anything in it that was absolute. Anything that doesn't change. Their findings can be summarized in three statements:

there is an infinite, changeless reality beneath the world of change;
this same reality lies at the core of every human personality;
the purpose of life is to discover this reality experientially: that is, to realize God while here on earth. These principles and the interior experiments for realizing them were taught systematically in “forest academies” or ashrams – a tradition which continues unbroken after some three thousand years. (13)

So, BECAUSE REALITY ISN’T what it seems to be, our view on reality, that's why Vedanta exist. To explain, to delete ignorance. Animals don’t need scriptures on enlightenment. They don’t worry, because they accept reality as it is.

Worry distinguishes us from every other living being; the ancient texts define human beings as “those that worry.”

We have two realities, the one of the witness and the one of the personality. Which one is the true one? In case you ask the question. Both are. Of course. We exist, no doubt about it, we exist as a 'conscious' 'person', a 'conscious' 'individual'. A 'Jiva' in Sanskrit.

You exist and you are aware of existence. We don't give it much attention though. We take it for granted. The attention goes to thoughts and feelings and we think we are these thoughts and feelings, and not the I who is aware of them. You see the difference?

“Art is a form of nourishment, of feeding our consciousness, the spirit,” 31-yearold Susan Sontag (14) wrote in her diary in 1964. “Art holds out the promise of inner wholeness,” wrote Alain de Botton (15) half a century later. Wassily Kandinsky wrote "To harmonize the whole is the task of art.”

"Lend your ears to music, open your eyes to painting, and... stop thinking! Just ask yourself whether the work, the painting, the piece of music, has enabled you to walk around into an unknown world. If the answer is yes, what more do you want?"

And what now has to be said...words from the artist Joseph Beuys: "If you come in a space with a big flame of fire you will get burnt, and you cannot say: ‘This is the symbol of a flame’, because you will die of the heat of this flame. So is Christ not a symbol for something. It is the substance in itself. It means life. It means power, the power of life. Without this substance of Christ the earth would already have died." (11)

mark rothko

Mark Rothko. According to Rothko (16), the work of modern artists, influenced by primitive art, could be compared to that of children in that "child art transforms itself into primitivism, which is only the child producing a mimicry of himself."

Rothko: “I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotion-tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on-and the fact that lots of people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I communicate those basic emotions. The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them. And if you, as you say, are moved only by their color relationships, then you miss the point!”.

Like Vedanta says: when you see yourself only as a person and by what you have achieved in life, then you miss the point.

We are always aware, this never changes. From the moment you wake up in the morning you are aware of a continuously changing mind. Awareness doesn't change, the mind does. When you investigate this in yourself you will find out that connecting to awareness brings you the harmony Kandinsky and the other artists speak about, because awareness is always there, you can trust on that.

The purpose off Vedanta is getting peace of mind, freedom of limiting thoughts and bothering feelings. The purpose of Vedanta is to remove ignorance.

James Swartz (17), a contemporary and my Vedanta teacher, says, when he is speaking about meditation.

“In meditation, the meditator is making an enquiry in the inner world. You, the self, is the one who’s watching the meditation.

Meditation is creating the conditions where it’s easier to discriminate yourself from the objects appearing in you (think of thoughts and feelings as objects). Liberation (moksha) is understanding the difference between you, the self (consciousness) and the objects.

“In meditation, I don’t have physical objects to worry about. I only have subtle objects to worry about. When we’re meditating you can ‘see’ or ‘feel’ or ‘hear’ the silence, which is an object You can know it. You are the knower of the silence.

You’ll hear the sounds coming into the silence and disappearing out of the silence; you can see your thoughts coming in the silence and out of the silence. If you have an important experience, then you’ll feel emotions generated out of that experience appearing in the silence and disappearing out of the silence.

So you have two objects in meditation; you have the silence and the mental activity appearing in it. And there’s a third factor there too. The third factor is me, the witness of the silence. If you see or experience or know silence, you can’t be silence because you can’t be what you see. You are aware of the silence.

In meditation, there are these three factors all the time.

james swartz

James Swartz teaching Vedanta in Tiruvannamalai, India.


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