Bohemian Buddhist Review

Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche's Abstract Art

"Let go . . . of creativity."
Let Go of Your Creativity
Rinpoche had some surprising words for the audience at an exhibit of his work, titled “Art as Spiritual Practice,” at the Shumei gallery in Crestone, Colorado. 
His wife, Elizabeth, gave a short talk on the connection between meditation and creativity in Rinpoche’s absence, who was on retreat. 

Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, a well-known and highly-respected meditation teacher in Western dharma circles, was quoted by his wife as saying, “The role of the artist is to stop creating and allow experience to unfold in a natural way – creative energy is innate and spontaneously present.” 

In other words, we don’t need to keep trying to “improve” our creative work – if we can work in a non-grasping mode. This advice amplifies that of many other creative teachers, i.e., get ego out of the way in order to let creativity flow. This could be likened to getting out of our linear left brains and into creative right brain. And the best, though not only, way to do this is through meditation.

While it’s much easier said than done, it’s a worthy and constantly-evolving challenge for artists and writers.  Dzigar Kontrul Rinpoche’s method, if one can call it that, is “creating without judgment.”  He takes his artistic discipline to mean just letting things be as he plays on canvas with a mixture of turpentine and oil paints, creating, destroying, then re-creating. 

The process is reminiscent of mandala sand painting, in which the final destruction of the work is akin to the “exhaustion of fixed concepts,” in dharma terms. 

“The mark of ‘non-creating’ is to see one’s work as not beautiful, not ugly.  With uncontrived creativity, everything is fresh and surprising, invigorating and fulfilling . . . but not in an egoistic way.” 

The playful creativity of Dzigar Kongtrul’s luminous, free-form artwork speaks for itself.


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