Accuracy and Precision

As I mentioned in the previous post, I am interested in the principles of Shambhala Art. This blog begins to clarify my understanding of these teachings, specifically on the point of directness. I hope this writing will be of some benefit to others also investigating these principles.

Page one of True Perception: The Path of Dharma Art describes dharma art as art that springs from

“…an attitude of directness and unself-conciousness in one’s creative work.”

I readily understand what is meant by “attitude”. My attitude refers to my thoughts; my thoughts establish my attitude toward experience and activity.

The term “directness” is not immediately clear to me except as a tautology. But I reread the section on Great Eastern Sun and can understand directness to be the Eastern direction or “the place you see when you can open your eyes and look fearlessly ahead of you.”

I understand directness to be characterized as precise, as concerned with what is pertinent, and as not entertaining extraneous thoughts. Directness also implies accuracy, being able to determine which thoughts are pertinent and which are irrelevant, between the skillful and unskillful.

Using Buddhist terminology, I understand an attitude of directness to be a state of mind characterized by bodhichitta (accuracy) and discriminating awareness (precision).

But what about unself-conciousness? This term seems to have different connotations in different spheres. From Wikipedia, being self-conscious can mean being overly concerned with one’s appearance or manner, but it can also mean being aware of one’s self as a self, which has positive philosophical implications. Chogyam Trungpa famously advocated a particular style of dress for himself and his students, suggesting a concern for one’s appearance, but he also warned that shyness is a form of aggression. I’ve been going back and forth over what unself-conciousness could mean without coming to a conclusion.

Today I was listening to a lecture on Literary Theory by Professor Fry where he related an anecdote about Guy de Maupassant as a metaphor for understanding semiotics and deconstruction. The 19th century writer is said to have taken his lunch in a restaurant located in the Eiffel Tower, not because he enjoyed the food but because it was the only place where he would not have to see the tower itself. Professor Fry explained that by placing oneself on the vertical axis of selection, not only is the syntagmatic structure made visible, but the paradigmatic dimension is made invisible.

Perhaps, unself-conciousness is achieved by wholly embodying the axis of self, which sounds like a description of meditation practice.

The meaning of “in one’s creative work” is certainly in one’s entire life. True Perception states several times that dharma art is not merely painting or playing music or writing, but is how one lives life. Dharma art happens in every moment.


the state of mind that creates dharma art:

  • precisely discriminates between skillful and unskillful thoughts,
  • aims accurately toward compassion for self and others, and
  • wholly embodies the experience of self
twenty-four seven.

Putting it all together in my own word this way is a useful mnemonic. These are three aspects I can return to and practice daily as I involve myself in creative activity.

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