"Painting a picture, the painter, and a painted picture all constituted a single reality; religion and art ultimately converged in the holistic view that mirrored the self and the world.
From this, Dogen drew a striking conclusion—entirely different from the traditional interpretation—that the painted cake alone could satisfy hunger, or to put it differently, unless we ate the painted cake, we could never satisfy our hunger. . . Life and art, truth and the imagination are never bifurcated but constitute a total reality in which the spring is realized as a painted picture via the plum blossoms and the painter’s striving. The painted picture “allows the plum blossoms to exert the spring” and thereby the spring “enters the [plum] tree."
The painted cake of thusness is not a metonym. Since it is reality, it has the power "to bring us into line with our experience of totality". This power erases any demarcation between reality and illusion; has multiple meanings (is multidimensional); interfuses the symbol and the symbolized so that "likeness" is "thusness"; expresses emptiness since it is the power of realization; expresses transformative concepts in the soteriological milieu to avoid dualistic notions of bifurcation; triggers religio-philosophical imagination; interprets the transcendental/static in terms of the realizational/dynamic; expresses analogy as identity; expresses discontinuous continuity (is multidirectional)."
Dogen: On Meditation And Thinking
"Beneath the creation of any piece of art, two interrelated instincts are at work. One is the instinct for expression, to convey a view of life (which in turn arises from the basic attempt to find meaning, to 'contemplate' the world). It is from this attempt to find meaning, to contemplate life that art and literature came into being in the first place.
The second is the desire for pleasure, to experience 'beauty'. This may seem, superficially, to be at variance with the instinct for self-expression, but in fact the active expression of a view of life results in fulfillment and pleasure, which is heightened to the degree one partakes of and expresses truth. This 'contemplation' entails, of course, an act of selection in terms of a particular work of art, taking a particular scene of human life as it unfolds before one and empathizing, knowing, understanding, feeling it as a part of one's own experience.
It is from this contemplation and expression that the extreme pleasure afforded by art derives, a pleasure that results from the pursuit of, and experiencing of reality. Thus 'artistic' in this context may mean more or less the same as 'religious'; when an artist produces a work, his awareness expands in every direction and is amplified, assimilating the vast and profound truth of life in a way impossible in ordinary, everyday activity. The act of artistic expression thus becomes a statement of the universal, and as such is an act of worship in the deepest sense. It is characteristic of art that the contemplation of life that is its prime objective also carries with it the elevation and joy of a profound religious experience, the joy that arises with the growth of truth in the mind of the artist.
Seen in this light, when a work of art is an expression of truth, the distinction between didactic art and 'art for art's sake' becomes blurred or disappears altogether; in the same way, art 'for the sake of the self' and art 'for the sake of an ideal' fuse together and become art expressing the universal."
Brushmarks of Infinity, Translated by John Bester Pgs. 30-31
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