MY CREATIVITY IS a thirty-year journey. I was raised a Hindu in a Hindu family, a very poor family but from the beginning of my life I painted Indian gods and goddesses. My first drawing was when I was seven and I sold it for 5 rupees. I believe my life’s journey started in that moment.
I was raised in Karnataka, a place of great cultural integrity, festivals of art, creativity, religion. I studied first temple architecture at Bangalore University. I studied mythological measurement. I realised that each god has a measurement and a symmetry, and I use that same technique in drawing right now. It gives the image energy. Then I studied modern sculpture, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Rodin, but I always returned to the solidity of traditional Indian architectural design. That’s why we believe in temples. In a way our Indian civilisation began in temples, and that solidity is important, it is a basic concept of our mind.
When I was a student every weekend I kept travelling from place to place to sketch temples. Crowds followed me whilst I worked, and then I sold the paintings. I travelled to Brihadeshwara temple in Thanjavur, to the temples at Belur, Halebidu and Hampi, to the Badami cave temple, and also to the Ajanta and Ellora caves. This gave me huge clarity.
You know in our culture temples provide everything – creativity, food, sleep. You can draw, eat, rest. So God gave me everything in a temple – I was very happy, I was just playing with my life. After my graduation I needed to take a break. I travelled through the whole of India. In that one year India gave me much more. I wanted to know about small India. Again, I stayed in ashrams, and visited temples. I became a traveller-man. I developed spiritually. I learned to work with mantras. The thirty-two forms of Ganesha Shloka remain a favourite mantra, as does Gayatri Mantra, and the Narayani Namostute. Try them, they will give you spiritual circulation and your mind refreshment.
I discovered the book by Osho, India My Love: Fragments of a Golden Past. And I then met the Osho community and became an Osho disciple. In this book I was struck by the sentence, ‘Creativity is the greatest rebellion in existence.’ This was what I needed. I surrendered myself to my guru. You know in the Hindu tradition it is said that every human being is born twice, once from the body of the mother and then again born with your guru. In 2008, when my path really started, Osho gave me a new name: Dhyan Passika. Dhyan means meditation.
I realised in the last ten years I had created two hundred and eighty-five sculptures. I turned to drawing and painting, and in 2012 I started to paint the gods seriously. With Osho I can travel through my inner soul. Where is god when you make a work of art? We need balance and meditation when we make art. When I do Vipassana meditation in Dharamsala it helps me to realise that our body is a spiritual laboratory. I put the empty canvas in my meditation hall. I go into a silent sitting. I feel the vibration of the canvas. I feel it metaphysically. I see past lives. The colours and colour-combinations come from meditation. My paintings reflect the everyday experiences of my spiritual life. For example, I went to a Hanuman temple, and I love the Ramayana story of Hanuman. When I listen to this story, I feel that I am Hanuman. It is all to do with focus, and being present. Now – I am talking to you here. At the moment of drawing I am absolutely focused on the answer to the painting. Each element, you, me, has a supporting role. You ask why I paint such large canvases – because God is a huge concept, and in Indian temples traditionally gods and goddesses are made as oversized idols. When I paint, I close my eyes in my meditation hall and it is like seeing the vibration of a Van Gogh painting. By the way, I feel his vibration is very close to Hindu painting. We might be in very different places geographically, but we are all one planet, one Mother Earth. We all know each other.
Perhaps the concept of my paintings comes from past lives. This is eastern culture, and we are connected to its root. I feel very close to the work of Alex Grey: he experiences the divine through the psychedelic experience. But in India, in temples, we have these psychedelic experiences every day and we don’t need drugs to feel them. In India we have gods like drugs and medicine. For example, when we worship using the arti fire ritual we get the same result. Or if you go to Rishikesh, you just need to sit by the Ganga river, simply close your eyes, and have the same experience. Such is the vibration. Within all this, we are a very grounded culture, though. When I was a baby my mother showed me the moon. She said, ‘The moon is your friend.’ From then on I saw Shiva and the moon all the time. Every day we revere the sun with a namaskar. Every day, always with God. Everything is God. Nature is God. In Dharamsala I am always close to nature. My friends are my trees. They don’t expect anything from me, they only expect love. When you visit the same trees and tell them you love them, then after fifteen days you can actually see the quality of the trees, their God-nature.
My journey is my journey, I am with Shiva. My journey is my contribution to God. Now I am thirty-nine. In Dharamsala I have my studio next to Namgyal Monastery, the Dalai Lama’s temple in McLeod Ganj. But as you know so many masters are drawn to Dharamsala. In Dharamsala there is the beginning of the Himalaya. In India when you enter a temple, on the first step you bow and put both hands on your forehead – a namaste. Dharamsala is like the first step to the Himalayas. And so many masters come here to meditate and worship, pushing this energy up and up – not just the Dalai Lama. My advice to anyone starting on their spiritual path: remember that you can approach so many masters, but the path is always within. Buddha, Osho, Sadhguru… the nature of God is simply within, not in a book or a discourse. You need an experience of life like you need water. But a book, like a painting, will only give you the sight of water – it will not quench your thirst. You must write your own book.
Summer group exhibition NEW YORK, Time Square, OMPP World Organisation For Peace Solo exhibition 6th to 12th September 2021 at Jehangir Art Gallery MUMBAI India
MARCH 2021 Dhyan Passika MONK