I’ve been thinking lately that there are three qualities to development in the path to Nirvana:- dhyana, loving kindness and appreciation. I’ve included above a definition of appreciation that I found on my Mac. The two aspects of appreciation that I think are important for the journey to Nirvana are gratitude and aesthetic sensitivity.
The first one that I’d like to draw attention to is gratitude. This comes out of the attitude of expecting nothing. So there is nothing to complain about. Only to be grateful for. The idea is certainly around that true wealth comes from being grateful. And if you have nothing you appreciate everything. This extends naturally into being appreciative of what one already has. Making a best use of one’s resources, of all resources including planetary resources. Gratitude combined with understanding. A gardener in Eden.
The second is sensitive understanding of the aesthetic value of something. Padmavajra in his commentary on The Diamond Sutra contrasts this with usage, i.e. seeing something through the lens of what use it has to you. Seeing someone as they are. Dane Rudhyar in his “An Astrological Triptych” evaluated the astrological signs as gifts of the spirit. Whether or not you think that astrology has any validity, the idea that each person brings in to life some kind of gift, leads us to deep connection. And this reminds us of Buddha’s exclamation upon enlightenment “Wonder of wonder all beings are already enlightened.”
There’s a further aspect to this sensitive appreciation, which is more like artistic appreciation. In the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, the author suggests that you copy some pictures upside down. This enables the artist to break through the part of the brain that preconceives and to draw what is seen without interpretation. And in the best artistic portraits we see deep inner qualities of the subject shine through.
We see this from some Zen masters that have shared their paintings and their poetry. So maybe we should have some kind of aesthetic cultivation as part of our practise, an artistic cultivation that leads to appreciation of all of life. Who knows what that might be for us, perhaps it is poetry, dance, playing a musical instrument, drawing or even going out into nature for a walk. Whatever it is, it should take us into pure appreciation that extends into all of life.
So I write this for you.
Like the dew drop in the morning light
The work done while asleep at night
Like the cat with its idle rub
Each moment of eternal love
Like this oasis in deepest space
I like into your face
And wonder at who you are