May 20, 2014
The Great Creativity in Being Bodhisattvas

by Chris Fortin and Jaune Evans

Life—its essence/suchness—is creative. It is endless and vast creative possibility.

Photo: Valerie Boquet

Photo: Valerie Boquet

Just looking around, we can see the life force in its amazing dance of diverse forms and expressions. Bodhisattvas are an intimate embodiment of this aliveness, and it looks and feels like love. This naturally and spontaneously manifests as kindness and generosity, qualities that might come to mind first when we think about bodhisattvas.

But as they seek to save all beings from pain and suffering, bodhisattvas are essentially creative. It’s not that they have creativity; they are creativity. It is their essence.

In order to meet the enormous samsaric forces of global consumption and selfishness—climate change, rape/torture/maiming tactics of wars, mass starvation, cultural degradation, sexual violence, clear-cutting of the rainforest, fouling of rivers and oceans, and gouging of the mountains for gold—bodhisattvas will hear all the different cries of the world and manifest many creative responses.

Photo: Shundo David Haye

Photo: Shundo David Haye

Chief among such creative responses is joy, a powerful antidote to misery, pain and suffering. It is just one of a bodhisattva’s compassionate medicines; when applied directly, joy is able to heal deep wounds beyond our field of knowing.


Sharing Creative Joy in Daily Life

We never could have imagined the life that we are living. Offering our lives, our hearts, our practice as wholeheartedly as we can in each moment, life comes forward to meet us each moment. And if we are paying attention, it blows us away again and again. So much sorrow, so much beauty—how can we turn away? How can we not want to enter and join in, closer and closer to the one heart of the world, the heart of a bodhisattva, and let it find its creative expression through us?

In both of our own lives, we have found this wholehearted bodhisattva kinship practice to be at the heart of everyday activities like gardening; writing poetry; drawing and coloring; cooking; living with our families; and playing with our friends. Through working with veterans; hospice patients; indigenous people; trauma; addiction; and children, parents and lovers who have died, as well as working to stop the violence against Mother Earth, we seek to bring forth this bodhisattva kinship with others.

Photo: Chris Shelton

Photo: Chris Shelton

Also, in our friendship we have found a mutuality and synergy in relation to our exploration of “being bodhisattvas.” These words from Shantideva’s text, A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, inspire us to “give away” this mutuality and synergy as much as possible in all of our relations:

All the joy the world contains
Has come through wishing happiness for others.
All the misery the world contains
Has come through wanting pleasure for oneself.
(verse 8.129)

If I do not give away
My happiness for others’ pain,
Enlightenment will never be attained,
And even in samsara, joy will fly from me.
(verse 8.131)

As our life experiences have helped both of us understand, one of life’s great happinesses to be given away and shared with all beings is creativity.


Exploring the Possibilities in a Creative Practice Workshop

Photo: Clare Hollander

Photo: Clare Hollander

To celebrate and explore these ideas, we offer Being Bodhisattvas—A Creative Practice Workshop at Green Gulch Farm.

Because there is no true distinction between creativity and artistic expression, the workshop is not about having any particular artistic ability or interest. It is about exploring together the creativity that is in our nature and comes forth from our bodhisattva aspiration.

Photo: Renshin Bunce

Photo: Renshin Bunce

We need each other, and all things. We need the rolling hills of Green Gulch Farm, and the flowers and spinach in the garden. We need to explore and embody our belonging-ness and kinship with bodhisattvas, to laugh and play, to enter our sorrows and grieve. We need the temple bells and the song of the red-winged blackbirds calling from the zendo pond.

Sitting quietly; listening deeply; allowing ourselves to be touched by each other, by life and being alive; sharing our awakened hearts of bodhicitta and our wishes of happiness for others, we will find our creative expression. It can manifest through dialogue, storytelling, active imagination with color and form, and simply receiving and opening to the presence of ourselves as bodhisattvas—what an adventure!


CE credits are available, if desired, for MFTs, LCSWs, psychologists and nurses. For complete information on the workshop, and about Chris and Jaune, see Being Bodhisattvas—A Creative Practice Workshop on our website.

Joshua Sandeman
Arts & Culture, Features, Zen Practice

Medicine and the Dharma

Joshua Sandeman, a former SFZC resident, is a Nurse Practitioner based in Salem, Oregon. “Medicine puts me face-to-face with all manner of human suffering and it can be a challenge to take care of feelings of burnout, detachment, and despair."