For the superficial mind art and meditation arc two distinct, mutually exclusive phenomena. They have no relationship with each other and, in fact, it is not rare to find in artist who scoffs at meditation and a regular meditator who shuns art as a source of great distraction.
For Lama AnagarikaGovinda it is not so. For him, as he says in one of his works "Art and meditation compensate and penetrate each other". In his opinion, art and religious life meet in a sphere of consciousness where no such distinction exists. He talks about religion as a living force that is capable of expressing its immense beauty in art. Similarly art becomes religion when it reaches its pinnacle. The poetic works of Kabir, the ineffably beautiful language of the Bible and serene charm of J.Krishnamurti's teachings-there are examples galore of how the true artist and the religious man eventually become one and the same person. The influence of religion on great poets like Milton, Shelly and Eliot proves the same point.
The beauty of Lama Govinda's work is that he has been able to deal with these profound issues with extraordinary clarity and lucidity. The reader never comes across indigestible philosophical jargon, nor is distracted by an unnecessary demonstration of intellectual pomposity. What you find in the book is sensitivity of a poet and keen observations of a prescient philosopher.
The goal of art and meditation, as the author truly says, is to attain supreme liberation. But this whole process is an insoluble mystery, for the mind has been heavily conditioned into falsenotions of not only art and meditation but also of a number of other aspects of life, making it almost impossible for it to see things as they arc. Anagarika Govinda's main aim seems to be to lift the veil of illusion that prevents direct perception of things as they are. In his attempt to bring home this fact, he often dons the mantle of a spiritual teacher constantly advocating union and condemning separation.
The author's prescription is simple but unfortunately it is too difficult for the modern man who is caught in an intellectual prison of his own making. To get out of this cage,' says the author,' man must give up himself, because only by this complete spiritual renunciation is broken down all his artificial limitations and inner hindrances.' He cannot emphasize this more strongly than when he says. 'The more the artist expresses him-self the nearer he comes to the others, because our real nature is that of egolessness (anatta) or unlimited emptiness (sunnata).'
Art and Meditation is the outcome of Lama Anagarika's meditations. He wants the readers to take his work as 'meditation problems.' as koans. If it leads to new visions, then the book has fulfilled its mission.
We hope this reprint of Art and Meditation by Lama Anagarika Govinda is accepted not only as a hook on an abstruse subject. But also as a book of life by one who was a child of life playing on its beaches and endeavouring to fathom its depths.
The following essays have come into existence during and after an exhibition of my paintings at Allahabad. Exhibition was held under the auspices of the Roerich Centre of Art and Culture. I first felt rather reluctant to include my meditation pictures in an exhibition which was meant for general public, unaccustomed to abstract art of this nature.
But to my surprise I found that just these abstract paintings became the focus of attraction in this exhibition. Again and again I was asked about my views on abstract art in its relationship to meditation, and the cultural background in which my work had developed.
In response to these questions which, as I felt, were the expression of a genuine interest of the public, I delivered some informal lectures. But it is due to the encouragement given Mr. R.C. Tondon of the Hindustani Academy that I have ventured to offer these lectures for publication. I am conscious of my shortcomings in expressing such delicate matters and subtle experiences in words.
I therefore must request the reader to take the result of my efforts as a mere hint towards something which he may experience himself if he tries to follow the indicated direction with patience and sympathy.
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