Thursday, May 1, 2014

Dharma art - Manjusri

Dharma Art
24X36" Acrylic on canvas

A bodhisattva is a person who wishes to benefit others through their own enlightenment. They post-pone their enlightenment so they can be there for other beings and in traditional Buddhist teachings many of them embody specific characteristics attributed to an enlightened mind.

The bodhisattva I identify with most strongly is Manjusri, the bodhisattva of wisdom. Depicted in various ways, depending on the specific Buddhist tradition, Manjusri is most commonly shown holding a flaming sword in one hand and a book in the other. The book represents knowledge and the sword represents doubt. The sword is used to cut through the book, destroying it and the sense of 'knowing' we may think we have when we decide there is a 'right' answer.

The message is to seek questions, rather than answers. To be open and aware of the paradoxical nature of life and to doubt what we perceive to 'know' on the basis that the universe is constantly changing.

The words I used on this piece are as follows:
The universe does not lend itself to being conclusively known. 
This becomes clear when we are awake to the present moment. 
We can see nothing is ever just one way. 

I have great respect for doubt and questions. In my experience answers cause a lot of trouble because an answer assumes there is something 'right' and therefore something or someone can be 'wrong'. But dualistic concepts are subjective.

After reading 'A Brief History of Time' I have spent time reflecting on the second law of thermodynamics. In it's most basic description the idea is that there are statistically more versions of chaos than order. As Stephen Hawking so brilliantly illustrates - one can shake a box of puzzle pieces and there is a chance they will all fall into place as a fully formed image but there is a much greater chance of the pieces landing chaotically.

In short - the universe is not a 'fixable' place. It is not and cannot be static and yet most of us live as if there is a 'pause' button whereby if we get everything 'right' then we can expect smooth sailing.
The teachings of Manjusri (who may or may not have existed) and many others ask us to doubt our ability to 'know' and relax into accepting the universe as dynamic. 

I have been working on shifting my thinking to grasp this concept with greater and greater clarity and painting this piece has acted as creating a reminder.

I am working on having it imaged so prints will soon be available.

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