Creativity – Q.332

Q: What happens to creativity (writing painting music… ) when you awake from the dream of dualism ?  

A (Peter): What happens to waves when they are known to be nothing but water? Do all waves lose their distinctiveness? Do they suddenly freeze mid-motion?

 It is an error to believe that either there is a blank, distinctionless ‘non-duality’ or a rich, exciting, variegated universe. There is only consciousness and every exciting, beautiful thing – gross and subtle – is an expression of it. The painting, the act of painting, the impulse to paint, the paint, the brush, the painter are all an expression of the secondless, non-dual consciousness.

A (Ramesam): An excellent question that really touches the heart of Non-duality.

And who can answer it better than an Artist and an accomplished Non-dual Teacher, Rupert Spira!

 In the finality of the things you come to understand that Love, Beauty, Art and so on, which are all expressions of Creativity, whenever and wherever they may occur, are just synonyms for Consciousness.

 Rupert discusses with Chris Hebard the convergence of Art, Beauty, Intelligence and Non-dual Consciousness taking as examples the Poetry of William Blake and another poet, Paintings of Cezanne, landscapes in nature and also Ceramic Art by himself. The beauty of this dialog haunts you forever and so does the way the conversation is ended with the reading of the Poem “The Unknowable Reality of Things” – a poem about writing poems.  Chris refers in their talk to the beauty of a Concerto or a feminine figure too. Thus all forms of creativity get covered by them.

 Here is the link to the July 2009 Interview of Rupert by Chris Hebard on the subject of Art and Consciousness (about 47:30 min):

 It will be presumptuous to add anything more if one watches the above Video and enjoys it fully dissolving oneself into the scene savoring – at least as much as I did – each word spoken there.

 But if some words of explanation are still needed, however tasteless they maybe, well, here they are. 

 Creativity does not happen in duality as you seem to have assumed in posing this question.  It is not a particular “person with a name and form” that creates.  You see, you may have the most colorful and technologically sophisticated telephone sitting on your table. If there is no human being talking through it, you can hardly expect any sensible conversation to happen. The instrument cannot think of a word by itself, forget about any creative expression emerging out of it.  The human body is not superior to or better than any of those gadgets. Otherwise, even corpses should have been able to write poetry or create wall paintings. So to say that the body and its identifying descriptors of a ‘personality’ write poems, do paintings or sculpts art is basically wrong. Creativity comes from the formless and nameless Consciousness. Art is Consciousness expressing Itself unimpeded by all those fallacious appearances of a “Me” or “I”. The body is merely a tool through which Consciousness speaks when the ‘ego’ is absent.

 In ancient India of Vedic period, it was more customary not to make “authorship” claims for any ‘creative’ work by an individual person in deference to this understanding.

 The Chicago Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi talks of “flow” when a person is not conscious of himself/herself and acts in total dissolution of his personality within a situation. Such an action, whether in sports or art, turns out to be highly creative and shines as the best of their creed. On the other hand actions done by a person highly ‘conscious of himself and keeps a ‘me and my ego’ at center stage will be effortful and are usually beset with problems.

[This is not any pejorative comment on the present day society which has developed a set of norms of IPR and assignment of credits to persons as a means of providing sustenance to individuals within the prevailing economic rubric.  The whole social structure is based on a different logic at the present day unlike in the olden times.]

 So let us be clear that all expressions of creativity emerge from Consciousness and not a ‘person.’ It is not a question of ‘before or after’ enlightenment.  In fact, the moments of ‘creative activity’ can be considered to be glimpses of Oneness manifesting through that individual when (s)he is not lost in the dream of a separate ‘self’.

A (Meenakshi): To start with, awakening from the dream of dualism is only through knowledge. There is no other awakening. Realization, nirvANa, awakening etc are the ubiquitous terms which attract people, though these are figurative terms. The real awakening is cognitive. 

 Once we wake up from sleep, we have a cognitive appreciation of dream being unreal. Nothing else happens. We do not literally kill the ‘dream tiger’ or destroy the dream world. We negate it as unreal.

 After gaining knowledge, one understands with conviction that one is the ultimate truth. The reality is here and now. There is no seeker left since the seeker himself is the sought. 

 What happens to the world then? Unlike the dream world which vanishes, the waking world continues. One’s bank account, spouse, property, job etc all still exist. If one is living a life of a recluse, then his few possessions continue, along with the world. There is no change in the external world. It is as it was before. 

 Creativity will not diminish. What one does out of it, might or might not change. An artist may choose to continue his art form. At this stage, though his creativity is the same, his appreciation of Ishvara as the total may help him more in his art. He admires the total in a dew drop, in a musical note, in the stroke of a brush, in every word and meaning. This helps him express his resourcefulness even more.

 On the other hand, one who has come to cognize the truth may choose to discontinue his art. Post knowledge one may choose to live a life of a recluse which is traditionally called vidvat sanyAsa (e.g. Ramana Maharshi, Swami Tapovanam). Some may choose a philanthropic work instead. Others might take to teaching what they have learnt.

 Creativity will remain as such but the willingness to unmask the talent may subside.

A (Sitara): As I am not an artist, I would like to refer to an enlightened one who is: Rupert Spira. On his website there are lots of talks on art. One in particular, I think, is worth reading regarding this question:

A (Dhanya): What happens?   If the question is what happens to the creativity of the individual who is either a writer, a painter or a musician, then my answer would be, “I don’t know.”  No one can say with certainty what the future will bring.

 However if you are asking in a more general way—which is what I think you are doing—then I would say nothing happens. 

 Creativity, as you call it—being a good writer, a painter, a musician—all of these are considered to be vibhutis, i.e. glories of the Lord, glories of the creation, of duality.

 If one is endowed with one or many of these skills it is considered to be an aspect of one’s prarabdha karma (the karmas which brought one into this birth and which will follow one through to one’s death).

 On a practical note, it seems to me that if one continues on with these activities, one will become even more skilled in a sense, or let’s say one’s creativity would be less inhibited.

 What I have seen with my own eyes is that jnanis seem to become even more focused and more effective at whatever actions they are doing because their minds aren’t getting in the way.  Not that their minds aren’t functioning, because they are, but rather because the exhausting mental chatter of a mind obsessed with pursuing likes and dislikes has calmed down and subsided.

 If one recognizes ‘all of this is myself,’ and at the same time acknowledges that duality is the play of the Lord, and that from the point of view of action, one is an integrated into that play or flow, then it seems to me that the attitude would be, ‘Whatever happens will happen,’ which would include making music, art, or writing.  One goes along with it, watching in wonder and marveling all the way, knowing it is all the Lord’s glory.

A (Dennis): My immediate response would be that enlightenment entails the realization who-you-really-are is responsible for the appearance of the entire ‘creation’. Man’s petty attempts to write music or literature, or use pigments to make marks on paper, pale into insignificance in the vastness of this vision. Practically speaking also, one does not acquire skills that were not there before. One’s body and mind were determined by prArabdha karma and this will work its way out until the death of the body. The key point about enlightenment is that all of this is now known to be so. One mitigating factor which might influence things could be that one’s mental and emotional impediments tend to diminish so that there might be more freedom of expression and consequently the appearance of an increase in creativity. But, again, this is not really of any consequence in the scale of things.

But here is a link to an extensive comment on this topic posted to NDHighlights the same day you sent the question: I suspect this might give you more of the sort of answer you were expecting (hoping?) to hear.

4 thoughts on “Creativity – Q.332

  1. What happens to creativity (writing painting music… ) when you awake from the dream of dualism ?

    You are not dreaming the universe.
    You are the Parabrahman and the Parabrahman never sleeps.
    If the Parabrahman never sleeps, how can you be dreaming?

    Something is sleeping, dreaming, waking, striving to become enlightened, writing, painting, composing or playing music etc, but it is not you. It may be someone who you believe you are. The jnanis say: You are not who you think you are.

    You can’t change anything. When you no longer identify with the one who is writing, painting, composing and playing music etc… all that continues unchanged. Jnanis say, regarding their old self: I let it do what it likes. I am completely separate from it.

    Many gods, avatars, saints, gurus, rishis, shankaracharyas and others have come to world, but none of them have ever changed anything. It is a gigantic mechanism and mechanisms repeat and repeat and repeat. Prakriti is like the stage machinery in a theatre, when the wheels and cogs turn… the scenes magically change, at least to the audience, but to the stage hands, to those behind the scenes… they have seen it all before, many times. The play is usually performed in exactly the same way each night, each performance. Eternal recurrence.

    Plays are performed again and again. The theatre of the Universe is beginningless and endless. All one can do is not to identify with any part in it. You are neither the part, nor the actor, nor the critic, nor the audience, nor the producer, nor the director, nor the owner, nor even the playwright. You are outside the theatre. So how can you change anything going on inside it? As long as you have some residual desire to see a show, you occasionally may come into it as the audience.

    The play about a writer, or a painter, or a musician… will go on with or without you.
    It doesn’t make any difference to you. You are not affected by either its creation or its dissolution, or its eternal continuance.

    Best wishes


    • As I read the Note of Yehan, it appears to swing between duality and Non-duality, thus creating a confusing mix of views.

      The first two paras reflect Non-duality. But then, it says in the third para: “Jnanis say,……….: I let it do what it likes. I am completely separate from it.” That means there are more than one – Jnani and a completely separate body. This is duality.

      The last three paragraphs also have some shades of Advaita, but posit a “beginingless” and “endless” “mechanism” of Prakriti. This shows that the author appears to believe in a more powerful and unstoppable Prakriti! This is NOT Advaita.
      The Advaita teaching is categorical that the phantasmagoria of the apparent world ends on Self-realization.

      The concluding para is also a confused statement and in reality does not answer directly the original Question posed at Q: 332. Further, it throws the reader into an eternal helplessness in spite of ‘you’ and irrespective of ‘you.’ This, again, is NOT Advaita.

      What is the message that the Commentator, Yehan likes to communicate? Would (s)he like to check his references and sources for consistency and also bear in mind that this Web Site is about Non-duality and not about any other philosophies before committing some stray opinions for public gaze?

  2. Sri Ramesam

    You appear to doubt the sources upon which my comment is based, whether they are Advaita or other philosophies or stray opinions? All the sources were from Nisargadatta, and for your interest and evaluation some of them are revealed below. Do you consider Nisargadatta’s teachings to be pure enough Advaita for this web site?

    You play the trick, common to many disreputable politicians, of changing the words of your opponent and then criticizing those, and not the original. You may observe that the words: ‘ a completely separate body’ and ‘ an eternal helplessness ‘ are entirely your own superimpositions which completely change what was said. I suspect you have no experience of Prakriti, otherwise you would not doubt its powerfulness. When Prakriti ‘turns’ you hear a sound of the wrath of God, which the Bhagavad Gita indicates is none other than Visnu. Of course Visnu is part of the illusion, but in the illusion, in comparison to the jivatman you have become, you may feel he has great power and yourself none? You are mistaken… the final paragraph does directly answer the question: All creativity is part of the divine lila which has nothing to do with the genuine Self.

    Here are the Nisargadatta quotations…

    *** Theatre – Play – Show ***

    It is all lila (play), you have nothing to do with it.

    The world is but a show, glittering and empty. It is, and yet is not. It is there as long as I want to see it and take part in it. When I cease caring, it dissolves. It has no cause and serves no purpose. It just happens when we are absent-minded.

    All the difficulties in one’s life should be merely watched like something in a play. When one scene is finished, another scene takes place. The entire play does not take place anywhere but in yourself. Ultimately the scenes that take place are merely movements in your own consciousness.

    Consciousness has kept you entranced in the play of the world. Enquire about consciousness and what is the source of it.

    During the waking hours you are as if on the stage playing a role. But what are you when the play is over? You are what you are. What you were before the play began, you remain when it is over. The performance may be splendid or clumsy, but you are not in it, you merely watch it, with interest and sympathy. Keep in mind all the time that you are only watching while the play…… going on.

    How did the show start? There is no reason, no cause, no purpose. It is spontaneously happening. No one is working deliberately. This play is just happening. You are not playing a part. When you are ignorant you think you are playing a part in this manifest world. You have to understand that the principle which you are using to talk, to move about, and operate in this world, is not you.

    Plays are written, planned and rehearsed, but the world just sprouts into being out of nothing and returns to nothing. Whatever is done, is done on the stage. Joy and sorrow, life and death, they are all real to the man in bondage. To me they are all in the show, as unreal as the show itself. I perceive the world just like you, but you believe yourself to be in it, while I see it as an iridescent drop in the vast expanse of consciousness.

    Consciousness itself is the source of all the mischief, because once you start having this consciousness then that is the seed of wanting everything, more and more wants.

    Everyone creates a world for himself and lives in it, imprisoned by one’s ignorance. All we have to do is to deny reality to our prison. You have projected onto yourself a world of your own imagination, based on memories, on desires, and fears, and you have imprisoned yourself in it. Break the spell and be free. This world is painted by you on the screen of consciousness, and is entirely your own private world. You need not free yourself of a world that does not exist, except in your own imagination! Realize that there is nobody to force the world on you, that it is due to the habit of taking the imaginary to be real.

    Everything will happen, you have no control over it. It is a misconception to think I can control what I do. Whatever happens, happens by itself. There are so many ways in which consciousness entertains itself, many different forms, abilities, capacities are functioning, but the functioning is merely to entertain itself. When it is tired, it rests in sleep, when awake it needs some kind of entertainment, some movement, some doing.

    The mind is both the actor and the stage. All is of the mind, and you are not the mind. The mind is born and reborn, not you. The mind creates the world and all the wonderful variety of it. Just like in a good play you have all sorts of characters and situations, so you need a little of everything to make a world.

    Nobody suffers in a play? Unless one identifies himself with it. Do not identify yourself with the world and you will not suffer.

    You are pure light appearing as a picture on the screen and also becoming one with it. All is in the picture exposed on the cinema screen, nothing is in the light, including what you take yourself to be, the person. You are the light only.

    You are not of the world. You are not even in the world. The world is not. You alone are.

    The end of illusion comes when you catch hold of that principle, that consciousness, which moves about in various disguises. You will see this principle as a snake, as a buffalo, and then as something else.

    Your pure state is winding up the show.

    *** Individuality ***

    There is only life. There is nobody who lives a life.

    All life is universal life, it has nothing to do with an individual. There is no sense in taking pride in whatever ‘I’ know or ‘I’ have done in life.You are not the body, you do not have a personality, you are the universal life. This is all universal life. If you consider yourself some particular individual you will suffer.

    *** Change ***

    Out of the manifest consciousness, the material world is created…..the eternal Parabrahman, the eternal Brahman, in which this play is always going on.

    No one can change the world in the smallest degree, not even sages. Whatever happens, happens. During the millions of years that the world has been in existence there have been thousands of avatars, but not one of them has been able to do anything to change the natural course of events in the world.

    You cannot change the world before changing yourself. It is neither necessary nor possible to change others. But if you change yourself you will find that no other change is needed. To change the picture you merely change the film, you do not attack the cinema screen.

    *** Prakriti and Illusion ***

    Krishna said: “I have put these various beings on the top of a machine of this illusion. They are mechanically going round”

    The original illusion, which is without words, will not stop acting. You cannot remove the original illusion… has to continue. Subsequent illusions you can remove, but not the original illusion. The original Maya has no colour, no shape, nothing at all. You cannot conceive of that original Maya.

    This Maya does not operate independently…..we, you and it, are partners. Will you dare divorce yourself from this Maya? No, you will accept that Maya. That ego, that “I am” so and so, is very difficult to get rid of, but the ego cannot touch one who really understands (Cit).

    *** Beginningless and Endless ***

    This manifestation is beginningless. The consciousness is experiencing its manifestation. Who is manifesting through all the great incarnations? Who is manifesting through the donkeys and pigs? All is consciousness only. In the world of consciousness this manifestation is going on continually.

    The Unmanifest and the manifest can never be together. The Unmanifest ever exists, but this manifest knowingness arises and departs. Manifestation needs time and space. The state of beingness is termed as God. The godly state is the entire manifestation. It is my state in experiencing. It is duality. But my Unmanifest state is non-dual, and in that state there is no experiencing and manifestation. As soon as the Unmanifest became the manifest a state of duality arose, and everything that takes place in the manifest is time-bound. Whatever has been produced will ultimately take its end and go back into the state from which it came.

    This manifestation is Self-effulgent, Self-created. But you are still wanting to modify something, so you are not finished with it.

    *** A few extra concepts specially for Ramesan from Nisargadatta ***

    Life serves to break down mental pride. We must realize how poor and powerless we are. As long as we delude ourselves by what we imagine ourselves to be, to know, to have, to do, we are in a sad plight indeed. Only in complete self-negation there is a chance to discover our real being.

    Be nothing, know nothing, have nothing. This is the only life worth living, the only happiness worth having.

    Life appears merely as a series of entertainments. When you understand this you will come to the end of spirituality. Take this advice: better not be trapped in the spiritual knowledge business, have a nice time, a good life, be of service to others, and in due course, when the time is ripe, you will die.

    Best wishes

    • Hello Yehan,

      At the outset, it needs to be seen that Q: 332 is very specific and is about “Creativity” getting expressed in different art forms (mentioned in the parenthesis) and not about “Creation.” Has this point not been missed?

      2. “I Am That” compilation by M. Frydman of the dialogues of Maharaj is an immensely readable and clear expression at an introductory level of Non-duality. The later day dialogues of the Maharaj presented in “I Am Unborn”, “The Ultimate Medicine” etc. books shine Advaita in glorious stellar brilliance.

      While one may read and get a feel “I have understood” at a thought level, understanding them as fact (paraphrasing JK), is altogether a different thing.

      3. We could discuss Maharaj’s teaching in depth in a spirit of ‘learning’ if one comes with a question for clarification; if, one is, however, interested only to teach and or confront, well, does the matter not stop here?


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