I intend to make a general presentation both for readers who are familiar and unfamiliar with the subject. I hope to expand the following ideas in later articles, and to be able to share with you the development of this project.
Our project takes inspiration from the legacy of the great philosopher, musician, poet and social revolutionary Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar or Shri Shri Anandamurti (India 1921-1990). More specifically, it takes inspiration from Renaissance Artists and Writers Association (RAWA), founded by this philosopher in 1958.
RAWA sees art as a way of self-realization and elevation of humanity. RAWA is part of a vast movement, also founded by Sarkar, whose roots go back to the perennial traditions of Tantra and Yoga.
It also takes inspiration from the legacy of worldwide art traditions and from other spiritual traditions of the world, as well as from the syntheses that arises in humanistic and scientific disciplines in current times.
Our vision, resources and proposals are nourished by this formidable living legacy.
Presumably this opens a huge field of study and experimentation.
Art and Spirituality
Art and Spirituality have been seen, throughout history, as paths towards the supreme experience of integration and transcendence, in which personal limits or the limits of ego start vanishing till our identity gets expanded. They have been considered as ways towards a communion with the other, and with the world.
Chinese artists longed to identify and establish a communion with the soul of the flower, the insect or the mountain. In this spirit, Zhou Mushi slept in a boat so that his dreams could be woven with the dreams of the lotus.
“To paint a flower it is necessary to become a flower.”
“The artist is a being in communion, his interiority communicates with the interiority of things.”
“Art is contemplation. It is the pleasure of the spirit that permeates Nature and glimpses the murmur that she herself is alive.”
“I grant that the artist does not perceive nature just as it appears, because his feelings reveal to him the inner truths that lie beneath the surface. What I am trying to render for you is more mysterious; it becomes entangled in the very roots of one’s being.”
The authentic religious or spiritual experience and the genuine work of art are only possible from the perspective of a non-dual consciousness; from a special state that transcends – in different degrees – the ordinary illusion of separation between subject and object, between the one who knows and the known.
Some statements from RAWA´s founder:
“The greater the touch with transcendentality, the greater the success of the artist.”
“Fine arts lead human beings to the transensory realm; hence sadhakas [spiritual aspirants] should not discourage fine arts; rather they should support them, directly or indirectly.”
-Prahbat Rainjan Sarkar (Shrii Shrii Anandamurti)
Art and Spirituality have been linked fields since the very beginning of human times. They come together as “unitive pathways.” In future articles we could go deeper into this fascinating cross-fertilization. For example, we can go a little bit into aspects such as: the artist as a spiritual aspirant, mission and challenges of the artist, art for personal and social transformation.
Such notions are easily found in any small or vast traditions of art and wisdom of the world. And in artists’ ideas and statements from all epochs. We are not doing any discovery, we only intend to rekindle Art´s fundamentals.
“These are thoughts of men of all times and all peoples; they are not originals, they are not mine alone …”
A word about our terms
It is important to grasp the fundamental terms, the pillars of this project.
-Spirituality: This can be understood as the full communion of the person with the world; also as the evolutionary development of the universe towards the Union. From an integral and psychological perspective it is associated with an expanded identity or a non-dualistic consciousness. In theological terms, spirituality makes reference to the union of God and humanity.
Putting it in a few words, it is to realize the synthesis of many in One, in one single form. The term spirituality could be equated to the term communion, unity, or to path or movement from the phenomenological multiplicity to the One.
Art: Very briefly we can say that Art is a human phenomenon, a human need to understand the universe and express it through shapes, colors, sounds, movements. Artists work with physical substances such as pigments, wood or stone, and with everything that is perceptible to our senses such as sound, colors, proportions, rhythms, etc. (the sensitive domain).
Likewise, navigate within the language of their own Art branch, such as music, dance, etc. (the language or symbolic domain), as well as with emotions and sometimes, in luminous moments, with very subtle intuitions (transcendental domain).
Artwork combines all these levels. In the Middle Ages, art was considered the union of spirit and matter, as subtle visions fused with perceptual expression. In previous times it was affirmed that art requires the whole man(ars requirit totum hominem is the Latin statement), which means it demands all the aptitudes or faculties of the artist.
Inspiration and ideas coming into action:
RAWA-Mexico and Library Anandam are jointly conceived as a real and virtual space for the study, reflection and practice of what we have called “the unitive pathways”.
Regarding art, we are looking for the following activities: drawing and painting classes, art exhibitions, artistic residences aimed at the Mexican people and to foreigners who want to develop their production and to get closer to Mexican art and culture and to our integrative vision, musical and poetry recitals, and a chorus. Our library is starting to specialize in Prehispanic and Latin American art. We also envision a Prabhat Samgiita circle where the participants can learn and sing together Samgiita songs.
Regarding integral development disciplines (physical, mental, spiritual) we want mainly to offer postural yoga classes and a space for learning and practicing meditation from all traditions. Small retreats, as well.
Library Anandam will be a consulting library and also a library aimed at academics, amateurs and people interested in our themes and the proposed objectives of the whole project. Children and adults are welcome.
One of the main activities that will take place in our library will be reading circles of all types and for all ages, in Spanish or in any other languages. We also imagine it within the current concept of “third place libraries.” Third place libraries refer to living spaces in which a community grows with a sense of belonging, a sort of “third home.” The “third place library” is really built by its users, who give their wealth.
In a future article we can present the themes that our library is handling – it is a thematic library, not a general library – for now, we can say that art and spirituality are the root or fundamental themes.
We understand the urgent need of art and cultural renaissance for the all-round progress of humanity, and we want to contribute even in the smallest way.
Book donations: since March 2017 Library Anandam has been receiving splendid and generous collections from the Library Francisco Xavier Clavijero (FXC) of the Universidad Iberoamericana, one of the most recognized private universities in Mexico, a Jesuit educational institution. We have also received their librarians’ advice.
We have also received book donations from several sympathizers and from two margiis. On our part, we have made donations from our own private book collections.
Cataloging, scanning and protecting the books: everything received so far has been cataloged according to the themes handled by our library and carefully kept waiting to be able to provide it to users within a suitable location that most probably will be in Mexico City. The covers and informational back covers of each copy have all been scanned to be integrated into the formal bibliographic record online.
We will soon start a reading circle, as part of the activities of Library Anandam. A good quorum of people, mostly art colleagues and friends, are interested. Reading circles will be one of the main activities to promote reading as a sort of satsaunga (sanskrit word that refers to an assembly of people who listen, speak and assimilate the truth, or the meeting and company of good souls with common interests).
We have been preparing and drafting a presentation of our project RAWA-Mexico. One of the main recipients of that document will be Universidad Iberoamericana, which has been providing great support in the last year and a half.
The University has also supported a variety of art workshops during the last five years. (I have embraced RAWA´s spirit even before this Project started to have more definition, and even before I met RAWA, many years ago!)
We think the university can be an ideal institution to continue supporting this project on a more formal basis. Hopefully, little by little we´ll be building a greater collaboration.