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Beauty as a Gateway to Wisdom

by Srivati

You searched for SANGHARAKSHITA

... degree.

There is also this area of paradox that we have been looking at. I find that, and this is a very
interesting area for me at the moment, there is a particular poetic form called a ghazal, which
I don’t know much about. Manjusvara introduced some of those to us on a writing retreat, and
that poem I read in the beginning is a ghazal. And I believe they are a Sufi style. And they are
couplets, they don’t necessarily have any connections with any other couplet, and that
unleashes something in me, it allows me to express what I don’t know. You have a series of
couplets you know. Little two liners where, or even within the couplet, where there isn’t
necessarily an obvious connection, I get to say what I don’t know. I get to express my
uncertainty, I get to express my confusion. And then I know it better. So I find that very
useful as well.

So the truth is, if we are talking about how the arts perhaps can lead towards truth. The truth is
I am scared. I’ve set myself on a path now, a particular aspect of a path I’ve been on for a
while, that I don’t know where it’s going to take me. (A bit like this talk really.) It’s not neat
and tidy. But I’ve got the wisdom of others to guide me and I’ve got the great works of art I
can refer to guide me as well. And also increasingly in the FWBO, there is more and more
support, and appreciation of the arts as a practise. Because although Sangharakshita is a
writer, and is a great appreciator of the arts, it’s not always been the case in the FWBO that
people have been encouraged to engage deeply in their arts practise, and that is different now.
So, I’m interested in transformation, I’m interested in the truth, and I think that the arts could
help that in the following ways.

I think the arts can help transform me and other people. Because I think they speak to our
emotions. Because they speak to our emotions and our minds, through our imaginations. I
think I would define an imagination, which we’ve all got despite what some of you might
think, you’ve all got an imagination. I think an imagination is like a heart-mind. It is where
they come together. And I think through the arts, which come from the imagination and speak
to the imagination, we can strengthen the imagination. And interestingly, Sangharakshita
correlates the imaginative faculty with shraddha or faith. So that is a faculty we need to
develop if we want to realize our goals. Also connected with that if that the arts can transform
us, because they work on the level of desire. We are all desirous beings. We all desire and
want different things. That’s a fact of our human nature. I think, because the arts appeal to our
desire, we can actually use them. We can get utilitarian with the aesthetic. To refine and
strengthen what our desires are and where they are pointing to.

Gampopa’s definition of wisdom is ‘analytical appreciative understanding’. And I think that
is lovely. That it is not just analysis, It’s pranja as something we all know by now. It’s that
there is wisdom and compassion in it. And I think the arts can help us cultivate that
appreciative aspect.

The other thought I’ve got noted down here is: I think there is a great potential in the arts for
us to learn generosity. I think the arts are a potential of communicating the Dharma very
effectively. Those of you who have seen certain rupas by certain order members, or who have
read certain… I will give you specific examples: Ananda’s poems to Vajrasattva has been a
great source of inspiration to me. It is very beautiful. But there are also indirect things that
FWBO practising Buddhists are creating which also connect with our hearts. Lalitaraja, or
Julia Clark’s dance communicates interconnectedness. You can probably all think of your
own example, whereby we can learn, through the arts, where people could perhaps be
connected with the Dharma who hadn’t come across it before. So generosity, and the practise
of generosity or dana is important, and Ratnasambava is one of my yidams. And I am just
starting to realize that I might be starting to discover a different way to be generous. A
different way to give.

Because the world needs Truth. I want to develop the ability to the see the truth in myself, so I
can share it. Whatever little glimmers or little mini-insights I might get, I’d like to share those.
We need the truth because of the suffering that is in the world. The fact of suffering is part of
that truth. So I want to develop a wise heart and a kind mind. I want to wake up, basically.

So I am going to finish with a quote, from the last verse of a poem by William Stafford.
William Stafford is an American poet (again introduced to me by Manjusvara and Ananda).
Who proves to me (as if I needed any proof of it), you know, that Buddhists don’t have a
monopoly on truth. And here’s one, he has a wise mind, or a wise heart and a kind mind. And
one thing that I would like to tell you that he has said that I find very useful in terms of
developing a writing practise, is his idea of the Golden Thread. He talks about where do you
start from, in terms of making art. Well, you start by picking up the end of a golden thread.
Which is any detail you give your attention to. You know, cause art isn’t all squeaky, clean
and shiny. Sometimes it’s raw. Sometimes it’s painful. But if you pick up that end of the
thread and just follow it through without pulling to tightly or letting go, it’ll lead you through,
I think he quotes Blake, ‘The Gates of Jerusalem’. So he’s talking about finding a way
towards truth by following where our attention goes, wholeheartedly.

So the verse is from a poem called, A Ritual to Read to One Another, Which some of you
will know.

‘For it is important that awake people be awake.
Or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give – yes or no, or maybe –
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.’

Thank you.

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