What is art?84

What is art? Art is simplicity in the body, purity in the vital, clarity in the mind, beauty in the heart and immortality in the soul.

Art is at once evolution and revolution. Evolution is a slow, steady and unerring flight towards the ever-transcending Beyond. Revolution is a dauntless, sleepless and priceless fight against ignorance-supremacy.

Art can be a striking idea, a soaring ideal, an illumining dream, a fulfilling reality and, finally, an everlasting victory.

Art conceives and achieves. Today art conceives a tearing cry. Tomorrow art achieves a beaming smile.

What does the artist do? The artist watches the outer life. He discovers the inner life. He liberates the human life. He manifests the divine life. He fulfils the supreme Life. The outer life is a searching hope. The inner life is a daring promise. The human life is an uncertain experiment. The divine life is a certain experience. The supreme Life is an abiding realisation.

The seeker-artist has his sacred art-secrets. During his artwork, if he prays to God in silence, he feels God’s Presence above him; if he meditates, he feels God’s Presence in the inmost recesses of his heart. If he takes his art as the living expression of his dedicated service, then he feels God’s Presence with him all the time; sleeplessly he feels God’s Presence within and without. If, while doing his artwork, he can love God and can feel that God the Creator and God the Creation are both in his art — like the obverse and reverse of the same coin — then he sees and feels unmistakably that God is all for him, him alone. And if the seeker-artist becomes the perfect prototype of God by virtue of his art, then he tells the world that he is only for God the Truth, God the Supreme Artist, who is his own Eternity’s Silence-Height and his own Infinity’s Sound-Delight.

Art and thought are two neighbouring worlds. The artist has an easy access to the thought-world. A wise artist simplifies his complicating thoughts. A foolish artist multiplies his teeming thoughts. A soulful artist immortalises his illumining thoughts.

Art is human, art is divine. The artist, in his human art, wants nothing but success. He wants the rest of the world to be far behind him. He wants the rest of the world to extol him to the skies for his grandiose achievements. The artist, in his divine art, wants nothing but progress. He wants to make progress with the entire humanity. He wants to march along the road of progress with every human being in a oneness-smile. He does not want even one individual soul to lag behind. He wants all to run fast, faster, fastest towards the Destined Goal. Success is a short and sinking breath, whereas progress is a long and enduring breath. The human in us cries for success. The divine in us cries for progress. It is our progress — slow, steady and unerring — that can make us see and feel at every moment the Kingdom of Heaven’s Delight within us.

Art is beauty. Beauty is divinity. Divinity is reality. Reality comes to us in two forms. Or you can say that we approach reality in two ways — with either our desire-bound life or our aspiration-free life. Each individual has both aspects, but when the individual grows into a seeker, he shuns the desire-life and accepts and welcomes the aspiration-life. In his desire-life, what he wanted was the love of power. Now, in his aspiration-life, what he wants is the power of love. The power of love transforms, illumines and immortalises the seeker. But the love of power destroys his inner capacities and his genuine longing for truth, beauty, light and delight.

Self-offering is the greatest of all arts. Self-offering is at once universal oneness-discovery and transcendental fulness-mastery. He who serves, he who offers himself unreservedly and unconditionally, deserves everything the world has and is, nay, everything that God Himself has and is. When he serves, what he offers to the world at large is perfection-joy, and what he deserves is nothing short of satisfaction-peace. Joy awakens the sleeping human in us. Peace fulfils the hungry human in us.

The human artist, the divine artist and the Supreme Artist. The human artist quite often does not have a specific goal or a high lofty ideal. The divine artist sees the goal within and without, but at times it is not within his easy reach; it is sometimes difficult for him to manifest the goal that he sees all around him. He can discover the goal deep within him, but he finds it difficult to bring it to the fore and manifest it due to lack of receptivity on the part of the receivers. The supreme Artist is an ocean of wisdom. Infinity’s wisdom is always at his disposal. He has all the answers — provided, of course, we ask him the right questions. When we dive deep within, we discover that there is and can be only one question in the entire universe, and that question is: “Have you?” The immediate answer is: “Not only do I have but I eternally am. Not only do I have the Reality Supreme, but I eternally am that Reality Supreme. I eternally am man the ascending cry and God the descending Smile.” This is all the Supreme Artist is: man the ascending cry and God the descending Smile. He has also discovered the supreme Truth that man is the evolving God and God is the perfect man.

Art is, after all, talent. Talent is something that our mind has to explain, our heart has to attain and our soul has to ascertain. If we do not have any talents, then let us try to consecrate ourselves. In the near or distant future, our consecration will grow into talents.

84. University of Washington; Seattle, Washington, USA, 8 May 1980. Sri Chinmoy was invited as a Visiting Lecturer by the School of Art, University of Washington.