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  • Writer's pictureJohn McQuade

Contemplative Art and Liberation: How it works (#1)

Updated: Mar 20

By: John McQuade



“ When the warrior-students experience an environment where the dralas are present , where reality is present, where the possibilities of sanity are always there they can appreciate the mountains, the clouds, sky, sunshine, trees, flowers, brooks…intensely bright red and blue, brilliant white and orange …when you are fully gentle, without arrogance and without aggression you see the brilliance of the universe. You develop true perception of the universe”


Chogyam Trungpa. Shambhala: Sacred Path of the Warrior


This teaching can be understood as presenting the connection of contemplative art and Dharma realization. Contemplative Dharma Art Realization.


It can be understood in a linear path way of realisation. It seems the opening is presented later in the teaching: “When you are fully gentle” and so forth. Finally there is the grand realization: “brilliance of the universe. True perception of the universe”


What is not presented in this particular presentation of the Dharma teaching is the way of opening “gentleness, without arrogance and without aggression”. This is a ground/opening for the realization. In the Shambhala and Buddhist traditions this would include meditation practice and other ways of “processing” toward these qualities of openness.


The contemplative way with “gentleness without aggression” is somewhat retrospective. The contemplative way, through the practice of synchronization, puts the conventional discursive, emotional and conceptual mind “ on hold”. It is not in play. The contemplative way engages the senses and phenomenal world. This engagement is a harmonisation of senses, phenomenal world and mind experience. This harmonization discloses the sensibility of the contemplative mind experience. It is calm, cool, clear. It is at ease but very alert. There is a suspended free floating quality of being sustained with a delicate effort of attention. There is a basic sustained space of stillness. There is a vivid clarity and through that clarity the phenomenal world is tremendously enriched: the reds are redder.


Also, this text presents the environment of these openings: “the dralas are present, reality is present…” This teaching is a little ambiguous: it seems to be both path and fruition. It seems this environment is the context of the realization but also invoked through the manifestation of gentleness, non-aggression and so forth. It specifically mentions the presence of dralas. A formal translation of dra-la is “beyond or above aggression.” Often the Shambhala teachings associate drala with ordingary magic. Beyond aggression and ordinary magic are two sides of the same coin. Contemplative art is the practice of ordinary magic.


Then there is the Realization. This is presented in somewhat absolute/universal and relative/phenomenal terms. We have already presented the all-inclusive View: the Universe.


There are also the phenomenal engagements: the primary sense contacts of colors and the sensibility contacts of the phenomenal world: clouds, mountains, trees, flowers, brooks and so forth.


Engaging the intrinsic gathering, intimacy and play of the Universe and the phenomenal world manifestations as not-two is the contemplative art practice and realization.

With this View the contemplative artists engage a more direct skill- full means as a more direct realization. They begin with the fruition of the holistic realization/path. They begin with “intensely bright red and blue…mountains, sky, sunshine, trees, flowers, brooks…” They begin with the fruition of what is presented in a liner presentation of the path. Contemplative art is a fruition practice.


They first train in the basic contact with the elemental forms and sense manifestation of the phenomenal reality: intensity of colors and so forth. Then they enter the fields of perception: the sensibilities of the fluid, magical phenomenal world: flowers, sunshine, sky, mountains and so forth.

The contemplative art ways work through fruition as path and realization. They start with natural realization.This is a direct way. Through this direct phenomenal way the contemplative artists engage and to a degree realize “the brilliance of the universe…true perception of the universe”

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