A wall painting of the Buddha’s mother inside the Buddha Dordenma statue, photographed during Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s visit to the site, Bhutan, June 2016. Photo by Ven. Roger Kunsang.

Can creating art be a Dharma practice?

Lama Zopa Rinpoche discussed this in 2005. Here is what he said:

“The first thing to think about,” explained Rinpoche, “is one’s attitude. The purpose of making the painting or of creating any work of art should only be to benefit others. One should do the artwork to pacify all one’s wrong concepts and disturbing emotional thoughts. While creating, one should keep a motivation of purifying negative karma and actualizing the good heart, loving kindness, bodhichitta, and, in fact, the whole path to enlightenment. By transforming one’s attitude into Dharma, one integrates one’s art with Dharma.”

A photo of a Buddha statue with lights around it taken at Buddha Amitabha Pure Land. Photo by Chris Majors.

Rinpoche continued, “The second thing is the art itself. One should make objects that have a spiritual meaning. One can represent bodhisattvas’ life stories or the Buddha’s life story, showing how they practiced patience and perseverance for the happiness of other sentient beings. One could paint the life stories of great holy beings and present the ways they sacrificed their lives for other sentient beings by practicing renunciation, bodhichitta, and emptiness. One could show how they were always aware of karma. One could use art to show how happiness results from good actions and suffering from negative actions. [This] … is the integration of art with Dharma.”

Ani Wy painting the face of the Buddha during a visit of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Penang, Malaysia, April 2016. Photo by Ven. Roger Kunsang.

Rinpoche concluded, “At the beginning of every day, one should pray like this: Due to all my past and future merits, may anyone who sees, touches, or remembers this painting (or other object) never be born in the lower realms. May all disturbing spirit harms and obscurations be purified. May they achieve enlightenment as soon as possible by actualizing the whole path and may they have joy and happiness in their hearts.”

Lama Zopa Rinpoche examines a painting of Namtose at the National Museum of Bhutan, Paro, Bhutan, May 2016. Photo by Ven. Losang Sherab.

Find the original teaching here:

Lama Zopa Rinpoche is the spiritual director of the Foundation for the Preservation of Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), a Tibetan Buddhist organization dedicated to the transmission of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition and values worldwide through teaching, meditation and community service.