Chimen's Heart

During the exhibition Belles Lettres the Altered Esthetics Gallery, I did a live performance and installation shedding light onto the nature of language, enlightenment, and emptiness.

The Heart Sutra, or prajna paramita, is one of the most prominent sutras in Mahayana Buddhism. It's direct meaning translates as "Heart of the Perfection to the Transcendent Wisdom. The sutra recites the liberation of the bodhisattva through realization to as the nature of emptiness in all compounded things, including the five aggregates which compose us, that being form, feeling, cognition, volition, and consciousness. Thus with nothing to be attained, the bodhisattva finds liberation in perceiving direct reality without any attachment.

I've folded the Heart Sutra into a lotus in respect towards the monk Chimen whom had a man ask him "What is a lotus flower before it emerges above the surface?" and Chimen replied "A Lotus Blossom" The man then asked Chimen "Well what is a lotus after it surfaces" and Chimen replied "Lotus Petals"

The man was most likely not asking Chimen a gardening question. Buddhism regards the lotus flower as complete, that is not necessarily pure as it is born from the muck, but in that it has nothing left out in its entirety. We all inherently have this complete nature accessible at all times but limiting doubts, insecurities and misconceptions block our experience of this completeness. The man was really asking chimen before one has realized their true self-nature what are they? and Chimen responds that they are already complete in that stage of chrysalis and though the visualization of totality is dreamed, it remains only a figurative ideal construct that may cause one to miss their full lotus life in the meantime.

After the lotus emerges Chimen declares that it is lotus petals, that is the individual petals, each composing and composed of the entirety. Knowing this also sheds clairvoyance on the impermanent existence that is of being a perishable form and also inherently empty. Chimen is responding by saying after this big "illuminating realization" one must let go of that as well and watch the "dream" fall away, paying close attentiveness to every petals release into a beginningless past and a beginningless future.

I've thus unfolded the lotus blossom to reveal the crease pattern that composes a lotus and also the completion, that is the decomposition of the lotus blossoms petals. Taking oil I've painted an enso, a Buddhist meditation manifestation resembling emptiness as the paper is not empty enough but with the emptying of an ink filled brush the paper becomes a container for the circular figure of "perfection" which symbolizes the countenance before birth and yet the ultimate goal, a shape without beginning or end, the present moment, a goal and a starting point.