Buddhism, Aesthetics, and Art

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Buddhism, Aesthetics, and Art

Postby Wizard in the Forest » Thu Jan 06, 2011 7:01 am

Speaking from my experience only, I can say that I'm relatively certain that certain notions of art and defining what is Aesthetics is a culturally determined notion, but despite the different techniques, mediums, and artistic conceptual frameworks, there seems to be a unified concept of "beauty" in all cultures. However, this might be just a dangerous expression of attachment to that pleasing idea or form.

What is your opinions on the idea of Art?

If you think it strengthens attachment, how does it do this?

If you think it doesn't strengthen attachment how would you define Aesthetics in a manner that doesn't express attachment?

I remembered there were discussions about music as a distraction from practice and people debated and discussed about it. Some people believed it was healthy, and others felt it was unhealthy. I want to pose a bigger question related not only to music, but experience as a whole. Is art conducive to awakening, or do you feel it is a hindrance and attachment to the sensual? Is trying to appreciate or understand aesthetics harmless, or does it cause a clamoring attachment the very moment you try to define it?
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Re: Buddhism, Aesthetics, and Art

Postby Kenshou » Thu Jan 06, 2011 7:42 am

I think any media that can help us develop wholesome mental qualities is good. (and of course, the inverse also applies) Not to imply that we should watch a movie that causes us to feel metta rather than actual practice, however.

Sure, it's better to be wholly unattached, but in the meantime I think we can make use of such things.
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Re: Buddhism, Aesthetics, and Art

Postby clw_uk » Thu Jan 06, 2011 12:13 pm

Speaking from my experience only, I can say that I'm relatively certain that certain notions of art and defining what is Aesthetics is a culturally determined notion, but despite the different techniques, mediums, and artistic conceptual frameworks, there seems to be a unified concept of "beauty" in all cultures. However, this might be just a dangerous expression of attachment to that pleasing idea or form.

What is your opinions on the idea of Art?

If you think it strengthens attachment, how does it do this?

If you think it doesn't strengthen attachment how would you define Aesthetics in a manner that doesn't express attachment?

I remembered there were discussions about music as a distraction from practice and people debated and discussed about it. Some people believed it was healthy, and others felt it was unhealthy. I want to pose a bigger question related not only to music, but experience as a whole. Is art conducive to awakening, or do you feel it is a hindrance and attachment to the sensual? Is trying to appreciate or understand aesthetics harmless, or does it cause a clamoring attachment the very moment you try to define it?




When there is ignorant based contact with an art form, there will be birth of a feeling and the development of that feeling into craving, clinging and dukkha

If there is wisdom based contact then one knows the feeling to be impermanent, dukkha and not-self. There is no pursuit of the feeling, one is simply aware of it


In terms of practice, from what I can tell, the Buddha taught a refraining from viewing artwork, listening to music, watching plays etc because this leads to a more balanced mind not disturbed by the current of wanting or averting, instead of the opposite, such as listening to music or viewing art which strengthens it


One should then, as I said, refrain from such things and focus on the Noble Eight Fold Path, becoming more and more grounded in the moment of now, being mindfully aware, strengthening mindfulness until eventually craving ceases, through contemplation of the way things are, then one wont like or dislike art anyway


Just my thoughts on the issue anyway


Relevant Suttas


"If he feels a pleasant feeling, he understands: ‘It is impermanent; there is no holding to it; there is no delight in it.’ If he feels a painful feeling, he understands: ‘It is impermanent; there is no holding to it; there is no delight in it.’ If he feels a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, he understands: ‘It is impermanent; there is no holding to it; there is no delight in it.’


MN 140


"What are the feelings, O Lord? What is the origin of feelings, what is their cessation and the way leading to their cessation? What is the gratification in feelings? What is the danger in feelings? And what is the escape from them?"

"There are, Ananda, three kinds of feelings: pleasant, painful and neutral. Through the origin of sense-impression there is origin of feelings; through the cessation of sense-impression there is cessation of feelings. It is the noble eightfold path that is the way leading to the cessation of feelings, namely: right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.

"It is the happiness and gladness arising dependent on feelings that is the gratification in feelings. Feelings are impermanent, (liable to bring) pain, and are subject to change; this is the danger in feelings. The removal and the giving up of the desire and lust for feelings is the escape from feelings.


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nypo.html



"In the case of pleasant feelings, O monks, the underlying tendency[1] to lust should be given up; in the case of painful feelings, the underlying tendency to resistance (aversion) should be given up; in the case of neither-painful-nor-pleasant feelings, the underlying tendency to ignorance should be given up.

"If a monk has given up the tendency to lust in regard to pleasant feeling, the tendency to resistance in regard to painful feelings, and the tendency to ignorance in regard to neither-painful-nor-pleasant feelings, then he is called one who is free of (unwholesome) tendencies, one who has the right outlook. He has cut off craving, severed the fetters (to future existence), and through the full penetration of conceit,[2] he has made an end of suffering."


If one feels joy, but knows not feeling's nature,
bent towards greed, he will not find deliverance.

If one feels pain, but knows not feeling's nature,
bent toward hate, he will not find deliverance.

And even neutral feeling which as peaceful
the Lord of Wisdom has proclaimed,
if, in attachment, he should cling to it,
he will not be free from the round of ill.

And having done so, in this very life
will be free from cankers, free from taints.

Mature in knowledge, firm in Dhamma's ways,
when once his life-span ends, his body breaks,
all measure and concept he has transcended.




http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nypo.html



He follows the path of agreeing and disagreeing and experiences whatever feeling that arises - pleasant, unpleasant, or neither unpleasant nor pleasant. Delighted and pleased with those [pleasant] feelings he appropriates them. This arouses interest in those feelings. That interest for feelings is clinging. From clinging, there arises becoming, from becoming arises birth, from birth old age, sickness and death, grief, lament, unpleasantness, displeasure and distress. Thus arises the complete mass of dukkha
.


http://www.leighb.com/mn38.htm
“Happy is the man who has broken the chains which hurt the mind, and has given up worrying once and for all.” Ovid
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Re: Buddhism, Aesthetics, and Art

Postby clw_uk » Thu Jan 06, 2011 12:24 pm

Also a teaching from Ajahn Liem which I think is helpful


... In simple words: stop the speculations and
concerns and just be mindful. Stay in the reality of the present moment, the paccuppanna dhamma. No
worries about anything.

If one practices like this, there will be true
happiness with no concerns about external things. No
worries about one’s conditions of living. One could
either eat or not eat. The Buddha proved this to us
with his enlightenment. Did you ever notice that after
he had finally eaten Sujātā’s milk-rice (on the day of his
enlightenment), all he did was to do his duty in putting
forth effort in meditation? There was not the slightest
concern about the requisites one needs to sustain a
living.

All the Buddha consumed was the bliss of
seclusion, the result of having cut off his cravings and
defilements. This experience changed everything
completely. If there is no more black any more,
everything becomes white – that’s a law of nature. It is
a change that automatically takes place, ruled by
nature.
We will experience a feeling of not desiring
anything, neither liking nor disliking things in the way
ordinary people do. The sense organs are still in use,
but in a way that there is nothing that gives rise to a
bigger picture deluding us.The ear keeps hearing
sounds, but without the deceiving context. The eye still sees things – you can see men and women, but
without illusions.

It is a different experience than that of an
ordinary, unenlightened being (puthujjana), who
immediately thinks “this is good,” when he sees
something or, “this is no good,” when he sees
something else. The difference lies in that the
enlightened person doesn’t have feelings of agreement
or disagreement. This is where the enlightened person
is different from an ordinary one. This is the nature of
the change that takes place in enlightenment.

Have you ever experienced something like this?
Anybody can experience this! (Luang Por laughs…)



http://www.watnongpahpong.org/ebooks/li ... orries.pdf
“Happy is the man who has broken the chains which hurt the mind, and has given up worrying once and for all.” Ovid
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Re: Buddhism, Aesthetics, and Art

Postby PeterB » Thu Jan 06, 2011 12:30 pm

I think that the whole concept of Art ( with a capital A ) is a relatively recent one.
Last edited by PeterB on Thu Jan 06, 2011 12:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Buddhism, Aesthetics, and Art

Postby andre9999 » Thu Jan 06, 2011 12:36 pm

Wizard in the Forest wrote:If you think it doesn't strengthen attachment how would you define Aesthetics in a manner that doesn't express attachment?


Exactly the same way as our pointless discussion of music in the other thread. Just because something is nice doesn't mean you have to be attached to it. Correlation is not cause - just because you feel attachment to something doesn't mean the thing caused the attachment.

We choose our responses to our world - that's a huge part of the practice. It someone says something nice or mean, we learn to accept it for what it is and not cling to or avert from the feeling that arises. If we see Starry Night in a museum or a dog turd on the linoleum, the feelings that arise can be viewed with detachment as well.

And for the record, I don't see art in the layman precepts.
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Re: Buddhism, Aesthetics, and Art

Postby PeterB » Thu Jan 06, 2011 12:55 pm

Whatever one thinks of the Buddhist teacher Sangharakshita...and he is controversial...he makes the point very eloquently that we ignore our own cultural and artistic heritage at our own peril in terms of a balanced approach to spiritual # development.


# For want of a better word.
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Re: Buddhism, Aesthetics, and Art

Postby zavk » Fri Jan 07, 2011 5:33 am

PeterB wrote:Whatever one thinks of the Buddhist teacher Sangharakshita...and he is controversial...he makes the point very eloquently that we ignore our own cultural and artistic heritage at our own peril in terms of a balanced approach to spiritual # development.


# For want of a better word.


Ah yes, the controversies aside, I do enjoy reading Sangharakshita's writings about art and creativity. I think he makes some good points about the evocativeness of art and how, if one has the interest, we could steer our creative/artistic pursuits towards the gravitational pull of the Dhamma, so to speak. If anything, his good ol' fashion (and rather English) romanticism can be quite entertaining.

Also, quite incidentally, I've been reading up on the notion of the Golden Ratio, celebrated in both mathematics (and by extension, the various sciences) and the arts. Check out the wiki, there's quite a bit related to aesthetics. My curiosity about the Golden Ratio was prompted by my curiosity about the pineapple--the reasons of this are rather silly, so I won't bore you with the details... Anyway, this book I'm reading speculates that one reason why the pineapple fascinated European culture (from its discovery by Columbus right through to the nineteenth century) is because its form reflected what is called the Divine Proportion, another term for the Golden Ratio. The philosophical implications of Golden Ratio is called the Golden Mean. While discussions about this principle have largely been articulated in western contexts, it is a principle that is found across different cultures. The Buddhist principle of the Middle Way is said to be an analog of the Golden Mean, well, at least according to wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_mean

Just some suggestions for casual reading.... Sorry it doesn't quite address the issue of craving/attachment, but I think others have already raised some good points.
With metta,
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Re: Buddhism, Aesthetics, and Art

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Jan 08, 2011 5:40 am

zavk wrote:Also, quite incidentally, I've been reading up on the notion of the Golden Ratio, celebrated in both mathematics (and by extension, the various sciences) and the arts. Check out the wiki, there's quite a bit related to aesthetics. ... The philosophical implications of Golden Ratio is called the Golden Mean. While discussions about this principle have largely been articulated in western contexts, it is a principle that is found across different cultures. The Buddhist principle of the Middle Way is said to be an analog of the Golden Mean, well, at least according to wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_mean

Godel, Escher, Bach anyone?
:reading:
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Re: Buddhism, Aesthetics, and Art

Postby ground » Sat Jan 08, 2011 7:32 am

Wizard in the Forest wrote:What is your opinions on the idea of Art?

If you think it strengthens attachment, how does it do this?


No. It is not being mindful that strengthens attachment.

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Re: Buddhism, Aesthetics, and Art

Postby zavk » Sat Jan 08, 2011 7:33 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:Godel, Escher, Bach anyone?
:reading:
Kim


You're referring to the book of that title, I assume Kim? Haven't read it but would like to... eventually. Re: those individuals. Not familiar with the work of Godel and I can really only say that I have a general knowledge and appreciation of Bach. As for Escher, I remember the first time I encountered his work, in my early teens I think. I remember going, 'This is messing with my mind!' Though, truthfully, I probably used a ruder and much more emphatic word than 'messing'.

:smile:
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Re: Buddhism, Aesthetics, and Art

Postby ground » Sat Jan 08, 2011 10:10 am

I guess attachment to non-sentimental aesthetics and art may indicate an inclination towards the form realm. Attachment towards sentimental aesthetics and art an inclination towards the desire devine realm.

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