Sunyata Haiku Series, 2015

How we exist in the world has been the subject of many philosophical and spiritual debates. While there is no determinate answer as to how or why we exist, exploration of this concept requires an open mind and an acceptance that we may never be able to fully understand it. Inspired by one of the more esoteric teachings of Buddhism I explore the idea of sunyata (emptiness) in this series of paintings. Many people misunderstand sunyata to mean “nothingness,” which can hold a negative association for some people. On the contrary, sunyata is of positive significance. The realization of sunyata is the acceptance and realization that all existences are empty. It is taught that all existences are in a perpetual state of cessation that is constantly changing. All existences are relative to one another and there is no absolute, independent identity. With supreme wisdom, one can recognize that these rising and falling conditions only provide one with an illusion of existence. With each passing second, a new state of conditions occurs, and the previous conditions cease to exist. Eventually, this rising and falling cycle, the turning of the wheel of samsara, ends in complete calm: nirvana.

“Since there is no absolute self-nature thus every existence exhibits void-nature. Because it is void, there is no rising or falling. Since there is no rising nor falling, thus everything was originally in complete calmness. Its self-nature is nirvana.” Buddha

These paintings are a visual interpretation of my own attempt to understand this very complex view. Each one is titled with a haiku style poem, some of which inspired the painting attributed to it and some that were the product of the painting itself. 

Rising and falling illusions ever changing flux becomes extinct
Rising and falling/illusions ever changing/flux becomes extinct
Bare be the vessel serving purpose in absence void when occupied
Bare be the vessel/serving purpose in absence/void when occupied
Before the first breath cessation of existence after the last breath
Before the first breath/cessation of existence/after the last breath
Rain drops in a lake mirage of independence faces in a crowd
Rain drops in a lake/mirage of independence/faces in a crowd
That which was replaced ceded to time and being chaos remains calm
That which was replaced/ceded to time and being/chaos remains calm