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Could Buddha be an artist?

Updated: Mar 24, 2022

Meera Srikant writes her view about the connection between spiritual enlightenment and being creative.

Does Enlightenment Permit Creativity?

Saikat is a tease. But this time, he proved to be a mind-reader too!

On 8th March, I woke up wondering why I am finding writing short stories a challenge. No topic grips me anymore. There are many drafts that I delete seeing no future for those stories!

And I thought it was because I was listening to many spiritual talks that tell me there is nothing other than me in this world! That no pain lasts. That we can observe our life from a distance and not be touched by any of it.

So, even wars look like movies being screened in a theatre. While the pain and hurt of the people do tear you apart, you also know soon this movie will end and another one will start! That what happens is predestined and you have no say in how it unravels.

That very afternoon, Saikat pinged to ask if I could write an article on this topic.

I was shocked at the coincidence!

Oh, just a moment. I am not putting myself in the enlightened category. But spirituality is a journey. When you see the ephemeral nature of the world, as you understand the transience of your own emotions, the impermanence of your situations, you realize that there is nothing that can give you pain or happiness outside of you. Then where is the story? Now, what is there to capture? It all seems so pointless!

And even if I write something, I have stopped craving for the world to read what I have written. Whether I write or not ceases to matter.

So, does the spiritual journey kill creativity? “Can Buddha be an artist or an author? Can Sri Ramakrishna write crime or romantic fiction?” he asked.

The question is not can they be creative but whether they want to be. And do they want to write or paint the mundane?

In the Carnatic music tradition, one of the greatest composers is Saint Thyagaraja. His North was Lord Ram and all his devotion expressed itself as compositions that are popular amongst the Carnatic music brethren – singers and connoisseurs alike. Apparently when the king asked the Saint to sing in his praise promising many riches, Thyagaraja turned to Ram and asked what wealth could equal the joy that chanting Ram’s name gave.

Of course, who doesn’t know about Meerabai? A princess, she spurned the luxury of her status and has written some of the most beautiful poetry. All of them express her love and devotion for Krishna. They are a beautiful example of creativity flowing from spirituality.

Kabir’s dohe are another example of how spirituality can kindle creativity and even the most profound is expressed in the simplest terms.

Being a dancer apart from indulging in writing, I can say for sure that emotions and expressions in Bharatanatyam cannot be genuine unless one feels them from the depth of one’s soul. That deep connect is not just of the artist with her own emotions but with something above and beyond.

When one connects with the higher energy, the source of creation, I feel the creative energy flows with greater strength. I humbly believe that even in simple things like cooking or more evolved issues like resolving a crisis, this spiritual connection directs one to produce the best results. Come to think of it, even creativity is spiritual. When an artist is in the prices off creating, he or she is totally in that moment, centered and with a single point focus. At that moment, name, fame or money does not matter. The world does not matter.

If only we pause to acknowledge its presence in our life and channelize it in every activity.

Maybe the themes that emerge from such an activity for the spiritually will not be popular, maybe they will not resonate with the larger population. But it moves those who have even an iota of inclination for that spiritual revelation to ecstasy. It evokes, even if only momentarily, a deep connect that allows the ordinary to experience the extraordinary.

Buddha did not need to paint or narrate stories. He could convey himself better through his silence. To explain the most abstract of ideas in a way that the masses can understand – can anything short of creativity enable this? Our scriptures are poetic outflows that aesthetically present the most complex of ideas in simple forms.

I feel creativity is like a tap. If you keep it open, it keeps flowing. If you stop, restarting is difficult. The enlightened are swimming in the sea. Why will they care for the trickle of a tap?

PS: I see the play of the spiritual energy in many aspects of my life. But it still hasn’t taught me to draw.

Meera Srikant is an author and a classical dancer.

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