The Art of Buddhism (excerpt
from The Art of Living)
|Today, the quality
of Buddhist music has deteriorated. We are short of talented
people, not only Buddhist artists with creative talents.
Therefore, a Buddhist artist has to be profoundly learned
for only then can he or she truly teach others and convey
truth, goodness, beauty and wisdom. Ancient masters with
high spiritual achievements composed Buddhist musical
lyrics, but because the minds of today's people who chant
them are not pure, their expression of them is also not
pure. Spiritually, they have yet to achieve a state of
awakening and are thus unable to move us. The artistic
decline is caused by the lack of talented practitioners,
it does not mean that Buddhism lacks artistic substance.
who has been to China and visited the Dunhuang murals
or the Yungang grottoes, or the stone sutra texts found
in Fangshan County, Beijing, knows how magnificent Chinese
Buddhist artworks can be. The stone sutras were found
in the years after the Cultural Revolution and are more
extensive than the Great Buddhist Canon. Some of the sutras
were translated at a later time than those in the Great
Buddhist Canon. Fortunately,
in the Fangshan site. The stone slabs are carved on both
sides with each beautiful character the size of a thumb.
The entire project took four hundred years to complete,
equal in scale to the building of the Great Wall. This
recently discovered collection includes tens of thousands
of stone slabs stored in seven caves. At present, only
two of the caves are open to the public. We were filled
with awe and admiration when we saw these stone sutras
and could not help but admire our ancestors for having
preserved such a legacy for us.
and museums are separated. However, the system of Buddhist
universities is similar to a combination of school and
museum, for the art forms are educational, not just
artistic. They exhibit inspiration and wisdom not discernable
by average people. For example, when people see the
many images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, they conclude
that Buddhists worship many deities and therefore Buddhism
is a religion and one of low standards at that.
believe that an advanced religion worships only one
god. They do not understand that Buddhism is not a religion,
that we do not worship the images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas
but rather we regard them as teaching aids, which help
us to understand the different methods of cultivation.
One single image or method is insufficient to represent
all phenomena in our world, so Buddhism uses many kinds
of artistic works to represent them. Once we have understood
the educational significance of Buddhist artistry, we
will naturally give rise to admiration and appreciation.
Buddhas symbolize our virtuous nature. All Bodhisattvas
and Arhats symbolize the virtue of practice. Without the
virtue of practice, the innate virtuous nature cannot
be revealed. This complementary relationship is why the
Buddha Table includes both Buddha and Bodhisattva images.
The Buddha represents original nature and the Bodhisattvas
represent the application of this nature. This original
nature is empty, as it has no set form. All creations
or form arise from this original nature and once there
is form, there is application. The Buddha represents the
original nature and the Bodhisattvas represent form and
application. This is why in the Flower Adornment Sutra,
the Buddha does not comment on the teachings, for the
original nature that is empty has nothing to say. But
the Bodhisattvas do have something to say since they apply
the principles. Not only is the original nature unexplained
but also no thoughts arise from it. The saying that ¡§Whenever
I open my mouth I blunder; whenever I have an idea I am
wrong¡¨ is said in terms of original nature represented
by one Buddha. Why are there two Bodhisattvas to represent
application? The infinite and innumerable form and application
are divided into two categories; wisdom and practice or
understanding and behavior. Practice corresponds with
understanding. Understanding is the principle and practice
is the application.
Stone Guanyin at Longmen
Height: 13.3 cm (43 ft 7 in)
in Buddhism serves as a teaching aid. Even the offerings are educational.