Meditation Captured on Canvas?

Posted on September 23, 2012 by


Kongtrul Jigme Namgyel is not your typical artist. Born and raised in Northern India, he grew up receiving extensive training in all aspects of Buddhist philosophy and practice. In the year of 1989, Namgyel moved to the U.S. with his family and soon after became a professor of Buddhist philosophy at the Narope Institute.

Along with being a gifted painter, he is also practiced in the Tibetan arts of calligraphy, music, and ritual dance. What brings these interests all together is their ability to express the natural state of mind. In his paintings, Namgyel aims to capture the creative expressions of the mind when in deep meditation.

“For me, painting is a means to express the truth one discovers through meditation. The essential practice of meditation is to allow the mind to express itself freely without fear or judgment. In each moment of awareness we encounter impressions of the outer world through our sense perceptions as well as our inner world of thoughts, feelings and emotions. When we are able to let this incredible array of experience be, without trying to reject what we fear or pull in what we are attracted to—when we relax into experience without trying to manipulate it in any way—we have a complete experience of mind, naked and unaltered. Painting, when it is free of such notions as beauty and ugliness or should and shouldn’t, can be used to express this complete experience of mind. When art evolves from this understanding it provides the possibility for those who see it to also experience the unfabricated nature of their own mind.” -Kingtrul Jigme Namgyel

Namgyel is opening a temporary exhibition in Boulder, CO this coming week (Sept. 27). His paintings clearly demonstrate the abstract elements of art. It is interesting to note that they are inspired by meditation and the freedom of creativity that comes from it. Wanting to see his works for myself, I began looking through his online gallery, Expecting to experience the feelings of confusion and wonderment I usually receive when looking at other popular works of abstract art (such as the works of Picasso), I instead began to feel very calm and at peace.

Granted, this could be the effects of caffeine withdrawal working against me, yet I couldn’t help but make the comparison between these feelings and the ones I imagine to be connected to meditation. Through the work of art, Namgyel provides visual insight into this tradition and reinforces a positive image of Buddhism and meditative practices.

What better way to reinforce this image than through visual arts? Paintings were designed to send a message, and they are messages that are purchased and displayed in homes, businesses, stores, and museums. Namgyel simply puts the truth on canvas then shows the world. He keeps it no secret that the images are linked to the truth the mind sees when it is practicing meditation and this serves as a reminder to the viewers of the differing religious practices in the world, as well as leaving them with a sense of calm reflection.


Posted in: Buddhism