Spirituality and art

School of Visual Arts; New York, New York, USA 8 October 1975

Spirituality is realisation, realisation of one’s universal oneness with the Absolute Reality. Art is manifestation, manifestation of the Cosmic Consciousness which each human being embodies. Spirituality is transcendental Joy. Art is universal Beauty. Joy is the source; Beauty is the source. We came into this existence from boundless joy. In joy we grow and, at the end of our journey’s close, into joy we shall retire. This joy we experience only when we live in the soul, in the world of the real Reality. If we live in the outer world, our life is nothing but excruciating pangs.

Spirituality is the essence of an ideal. This ideal illumines the world, the world that cries to elevate its consciousness. Art is the expression of an idea. This idea inspires the world to dive deep within and to move forward constantly. Spirituality is an upward movement and art is a forward movement. Spirituality is a soaring bird and art is a running athlete.

Spirituality has a friend: aspiration. Art has a friend: inspiration. Our aspiration-friend tells us that when we reach our Destined Goal we not only see the face of our Goal but we also grow into the very image of our Goal. Our inspiration-friend tells us to run forward, for there is the Goal. That Goal is awaiting us. At God’s choice Hour we are destined to reach that Goal.

A seeker tells his artist-friend, “Not this, not this, my friend. Something else here on earth and there in Heaven.” The artist-friend tells the seeker, “This is it. This is the thing that you actually want. I have precisely what you want.”

There is real spirituality and false spirituality, real art and false art. Real art does not imitate anything, not even nature. Real art does not imitate; it only represents. Real spirituality does not reject anything; it only accepts and transforms. Real spirituality is not asceticism. It does not advocate living in hermit caves. Real spirituality is based on vision. Real spirituality tells us to accept life and to transform the undivine in life. Today’s imperfection need not be the imperfection of tomorrow. Tomorrow’s perfection can dawn provided we cry soulfully, ceaselessly and unconditionally for illumining light.

Human art and divine art. The human art is social and commercial success. The divine art is constant outer and inner progress. Success stimulates us. Progress energises and immortalises us. Success is a short-lived life. Progress is an abiding life. Success can easily be followed by frustration, and inside frustration looms large destruction. But when we make progress in our inner and outer life, we feel a sense of satisfaction. Progress is of paramount importance in our life here on earth.

The human artist and the divine artist. The human artist has an aim: greatness. The divine artist has a goal: goodness. Greatness consciously or unconsciously creates supremacy. If I have greatness, I must needs be much higher than you. This is the only way I can exercise supremacy and lord it over you. Goodness does not do this. If I have goodness, I can establish my inseparable oneness with you. But if I am higher than you, then I cannot establish my oneness with you on the same footing. To the desire-loving world, God is great. To the aspiration-loving world, God is good. A divine artist always tries to establish oneness with art, music and poetry. He feels that it is oneness that can offer satisfaction, not separativity or a sense of duality.

With your kind permission I wish to say a few words about my own art. I have been a seeker from the dawn of my life, praying and meditating to realise the ever-transcending Reality. I have been serving seekers regardless of their religion for many years. Service is an outer manifestation of the divinity within us. Inner divinity can easily be manifested through soulful art. My art, which has been on display here at your school for the past few days, is another form of my service to all of aspiring mankind.