Wednesday, November 9, 2016

drum the cycle of birth and death

I do not often tie this 8-fold path interlacement pattern into the back of a shamanic frame drum since the thongs that anchor the ring must be pulled out of alignment to make the design.

Feels risky to unbalance something in order to bring it into balance.  Yet I understand the Buddha said that following the 8-fold path of right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration was like swimming upstream.  A path for those who want little from the world, not for those who want much.

I sold this drum to a collector of my work whose drums carry some of my best paintings. So I wasn't surprised when she said, "Please paint this."  But I had a moment of failing courage when she added,  "I have been dreaming about this drum and I am not going to tell you what I saw.  I want to know what you see."

When I begin to paint a drum I do nothing.  I sit, sometimes for days, just gazing into the drum's face--looking for something to be looking back at me.  And there she was. this old lady in the blue cloak of that world trimmed with the red material of this world.   Can you begin to see her in the lower left portion of the unpainted drum face?

Next I saw the rim of a tea cup in her lap.  A quite large tea cup that had a baby sitting inside.

So the images of birth and death have appeared.  Yet for my drum paintings to "click" they have to tell a story.  Or rather, I need to see the story the drum wants to tell me.  Like seeing the whole picture of a Journey Oracle card instead of just a corner view.

I looked for a long time before this creature appeared.

Here is the whole story.  Birth and death are riding on Turtle.  This creature represents the indigenous view that creation is resting on the back of a turtle.  And this creation, in Buddhist terms, is Samsara, the wheel of endless rebirth.  But why the tea cup?  Because the tea cup is a particular kind of container.  Its use is framed by rules and rituals. We are each born into a particular lived world that is framed by rules and rituals.  And believing in those rules and rituals creates delusion, which can lead to suffering.

So one side of this drum is an image of our lived suffering and joy, the cycles of birth and death.  The other side of the drum is a path for liberation from suffering.

But of course, the thing about a path is that it doesn't take you anywhere unless you follow it.