The Embodiment of Bliss
The experience of enlightenment can never be described in words; it is most eﬀectively conveyed through art. Kukai, the founder of Tantric Buddhism in Japan, taught:
The Truth transcends forms but without relying on forms it cannot be
realized. With a single glance at an icon it is possible to become Buddha.
Just like falling in love at ﬁrst sight, enlightened art imparts a kind of esthetic shock, a thrill that brings the viewer to a state of bliss. And just like love, it is impossible to adequately explain that feeling. Such a blissful state is described as raku, a term that means ‘physical enjoyment’ ‘a sense of peace’ ‘spiritual awakening’ and ‘liberation from mundane thoughts and actions.’ Raku is another term for the experience of enlightenment, but it is an enlightenment that must be embodied. Enlightened art is a teaching vehicle, an act of devotion, a vision of a higher reality. Enlightened art, for the most part, is not created by professional artists. It is created by Buddhist masters, Shinto shamans, Confucian gentlemen, mountain wizards, samurai warriors, master crafts people, and folk heroes. The art ranges from formal, detailed Buddhist paintings to the simplest of all shapes, a Zen circle. The subject matter can embrace any activity, and depict any scene, from the mundane to the celestial. The message can be laugh-out-loud funny or deeply contemplative. In this exhibition, we have many wonderful examples of enlightened art to enthrall, inspire, instruct, and encourage us.