Saturday, January 21, 2006

Where art is part of integral yoga

Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram Natalia Kravtchenko, Vladimir Zaitsev
From ancient, miraculous stones build the steps of the future. Nicholas Roerich
CULTURE OF PEACE Edited by BAIDYANATH SARASWATI 1999, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts
Not only are the names of Rubens, Velazquez, Griboedov and many others immortalized in art, but also for their unforgettable advice in the field of statesmanship. Objects of art themselves very often were the best ambassadors, introducing peace and friendship. It is known that the exchange of art treasures prevented misunderstandings and was ahead of verbal agreements.
The remarkable results of art in education were proved by the experiments of Tagore in his university, Visva Bharati. All the programmes of this institution were based on unity and harmonious relationship with nature and development of the sense of beauty. A great deal of art and creativity is involved in the educational process of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, where it is considered the foundation for the intellectual and spiritual development of man. Here art is part of integral yoga and creativity is the active power in the evolution of man.
Considering the ‘culture of peace’ one should not forget the original experiments in the field of culture conducted by the great peace-builder Nicholas Roerich. At the end of the 1920s he established in the United States an international institute of art named Corona Mundi and a museum which were prototypes of contemporary academies of fine arts. Musicians, painters, poets, writers, architects, scientists were united in these creative communities under Roerich’s slogan ‘peace through culture’. Later this idea was extended in artistic activity in the preservation of cultural monuments and treasures of art. It finally materialized in the international memorandum, the ‘Roerich Pact’, signed by 54 countries in Gaag after World War II. For the first time cultural heritage was recognised not as a luxury, but as a necessary foundation for the spiritual being of mankind. For its humanism contemporaries named this project the ‘Red Cross of Culture’.
In the service of peace and spiritual principles, art and creativeness reach their highest self-expression. For the spiritually alive human being the value of art lies in its beautiful existence, in its great mystery, in its mighty transforming and purifying power (catharsis). Through art one discovers the whole universe of the human spirit, limitless spaces of human thoughts and feelings. At one moment through the charming sounds of music or rhythm of ancient chants one may be united with events going back to thousands and thousands of years ago. Art in its sublime forms and expressions gives us an opportunity of unforgettable experience, it reminds us of a different kind of reality, the origin of existence.
The process of creativity is comparable with the spiritual path (sadhana). In all fields of art meditative disciplines are a normal part of human experience and have a profound effect on artists. The insight born of these disciplines inspires a sense of participation, of identification with all life. In Russia there exists a system of inner discipline of the artist formed during the centuries. Most powerfully it was expressed in the art of icon painting.
Long before starting a painting, artist practises prayer and silence and maintains mental and emotional purity. These helped him to achieve the resonance, like a musical instrument, to be one with the subject of his painting.
There is a certain duty and responsibility of the artist towards his invisible ideal. In icon painting the main stress is on the expression of inner beauty, spiritual power, where they are considered limitless love and compassion. In the instructions to the artist we read: ‘Maintain the unity of your will. Do not listen with your ears but with the mind. Do not listen with the mind, but with the spirit. The spirit is an emptiness ready to receive all things.’
By stilling his heart, that is, shedding thoughts and emotions of his personal life, an individual can reflect on his heart-mind the power of High Consciousness (the holy spirit, tao, atman, etc.). The sense of another reality within allows the artist to find out new artistic and technical solutions. So in some old Chinese paintings one may discover that what seemed to be empty was never vacant. Obviously the artist was able to suggest aliveness in unfilled surfaces and employ empty space in ways which are extremely daring. Poetically it can be illustrated in the following lines:
Stillness — a transparent mirror for celestial reflections.
Stillness — a morning song forgotten by mankind.
Stillness — the sound of eternity amidst the cries of the earth.
Stillness — the invisible door to the silence.

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