Introduction to the art
Picturing the beautiful mind
Many people who come on meditation retreats describe difficulty understanding the paintings at first. Let me try to help:
Try not to look in an analytical, focussed way, trying to figure them out. The simple, spacious style is intended to calm the mind or to appeal to a mind that is already calm through meditation. It is in the still, calm mind that a new inner reality can appear, like a reflection that brings our philosophical mind and our emotions together into something that goes beyond both. The paintings thus act like a mirror. We can look at them and see ourselves, our inner life or our inner potential. Perhaps the deepest way of looking at the pictures is to realise that their two-dimensional style leaves empty the third dimension, of depth – it is possible to perceive that depth as emptiness or space, in a sense looking through the pictures into another dimension of Mind.
It is important to understand that many of the pictures and words contain deliberate paradoxes to look out for otherwise these could be confusing. These paradoxes act to stop or open the mind, like a question. They are seeking to open the mind to the possibility of a different kind of reality in the mind where the limits of the material world do not apply. The celestial themes also help to open the mind to the possibility of such a magical inner reality, the qualities of the spiritual mind taking on the shape of the different characters and their relations or movements.
The Buddha is the embodiment of perfect Wisdom and Compassion, the Angel is Virtue and Samadhi, the child is both innocence and the body. The colours represent qualities of mind – blue is calm (that when established is represented as a fish), yellow is insight (that when it takes off takes the form of a bird), purple is compassion. The colours combined are these qualities combined. So the green earth is a foundation of calm and insight together, for example. The light of the mind and that of the world are the same. Hence yellow or gold represents both insight and heaven. Blue represents both peace and the sky.
Some pictures contain hidden figures that reveal themselves, like states of mind emerging. Some represent different dimensions of the mind crossing each other, in particular the dimensions of time and timelessness, the inner and outer worlds as merging into one in a transformation that is like heaven coming down to earth. This is like bringing head and heart together. We also avoid the pitfalls of either seeing our goal as aiming for the skies and losing the ground (in ‘eternalism’) or merely accepting a mundane existence (‘materialism’).
The triumph of the bright, virtuous mind over the darkness of greed, hatred or delusion is described as the light of day overcoming night.
“The sun glows by day, the moon by night, but all day and night shines the radiance of the awakened one.”
- Dhammapada, Verse 387
So I hope you can enjoy the pictures as a source of such reflection.
The creation of the artwork
Let me explain a little how the material on this website came about. In 2012 I had an accident and sustained a serious back injury. I had to lie down for many hours each day. I decided to draw some pictures to help me to explain the process of meditation to others. My early trials got a very favourable response from the lay people at Amaravati, both Asian and Western and I was offered a lot of materials. I had not painted since school days but I was inspired. It was like opening the flood-gates to a kind of celebration of the practice.
Now that I have largely recovered I look back at this creative phase with some affection and feel willing to share the work yet I hope it won't become something that people identify me with too much. I feel completely a monk at heart with a great love for the tradition of which I am a part so I hope nobody will take offence or doubt my intentions or sincerity. To me the refined pleasure of the spiritual life that many of the pictures try to capture is a stepping stone on the path to liberation. I wish you every happiness on your journey.