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      Creative dharma: where did the dharma come from?


      Considering creativity in relation to dharma, a question that occurred was, where did the dharma come from?. Ideas, and dharma is essentially an idea,  come from somewhere and we call this  process creativity; ideas don’t exist and then they do. From a creative psychology perspective the process of creativity is unconscious connections made in the brian from disparate source material that then can arise in the conscious mind as a moment of insight or inspiration. We can make an assumption then that leading up to his awakening Gautama’s unconscious was processing information he had been feeding in about how to live, and eventually the insight, what we now call dharma, was released into his consciousness. Having become awake to the significance of this insight he was then able to pass it on to others.


      This then is the creativity at the heart of dharma. If dharma itself is the result of creativity why is there so little expression of the usefulness of the creative process within traditional dharma teachings? Where is the encouragement to undertake creative activities? To develop creative thinking? This gives credence to Stephen Bachelor’s insights into Gautama’s teachings being task based activities to be undertaken rather than truths to be understood. Hence the four task model as opposed to the four noble truths. Gautama would have recognised the central role of creativity in his own insight and as a creative thinker would have seen the value of creative approaches to what he had become awakened to. It seems counterintuitive to suggest such a creative thinker would present his ideas as dogma, indeed his persistence is suggesting to followers essentially look  ‘this works for me, try it for yourself’ is entirely consistent with this creative approach. Perhaps he did encourage creative endeavours but these teachings have not been preserved as such?


      Dharma as presented by Stephen Bachelor is suggestive of process rather than outcome. We are not to become an end product but will remain a work in progress. As he points out this presents a problem with enlightenment as a goal, if once attained there is nothing else to do. However if having ‘woken’ the process continues, it would be a staging post rather than a goal. To continue the analogy, what is done when awake is more purposefully beneficial than that done when asleep.


      Accepting dharma as a process is not necessarily accepting it is a creative process; creativity implies change. Is there a directive from Gautama to change and adapt the dharma? If the most important insight of Gautama relates to the underlying pattern of experience then one of these patterns is the creative experience. if we are to repeat useful/skilful patterns rather than non useful/non skilful patterns – to break habits – then perhaps creative activity is a useful pattern which can help this process.


      I am aware that these thoughts raise more questions than they answer. Perhaps this questioning is useful in itself? I would be very interested to hear other ideas on creative approaches to dharma. Please do leave a comment if you feel minded.


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