issue 21 autumn 03
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Free the Imagination

This issue of Dharma Life is devoted to the heart's yearning for the freedom promised by the imagination. But does this freedom mean escaping or arriving? Buddhism offers both perspectives. Imagination sets us free. It is the mind's capacity to expand beyond the everyday. It is the ability to experience more than can be said in concepts, perceive with the senses, or feel through the emotions.

Setting out on a spiritual path is often described as a journey. The rational teachings of Buddhism offer a map, but the language of the imagination - symbol, myth, poetry and image - describes the realms through which we pass. Nowhere is this clearer than in the tantric Buddhism of Tibet. Sangharakshita studied with Tibetan teachers who introduced him to tantric symbols, with their intimations of Enlightenment. In Image Conscious he reflects on how their secrets can be revealed.

In Firing on all chakras Akasati describes the journey which has led her to create rituals, with ancient sources and modern resonance, sometimes including 1,000 people. Maitreyabandhu contemplates a great painting with Sacred attention and enters the imaginative realm of the Renaissance master, Giovanni Bellini.

For Vishvapani, even Buddhist ways of seeing are acts of imagining. In Values of the heart he explores the cultural influences on western Buddhism, and argues that ultimately we need to be free even of these myths.

Homage to the mind's eyeManjusvaraBreaking ranksDanavira

As Franz Kafka wrote, in the search for freedom and truth: 'There is no need for you to leave the house. Stay at your table and listen. Don't even listen, just wait. Don't even wait, be completely quiet and alone. The world will offer itself to you to be unmasked; it can't do otherwise; in raptures it will writhe before you.' Blue Octavo Notebooks