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RELIGION AND ART

 

It has been and still is the opinion of people in general that there is little relationship between religion and art. However, this is a greatly mistaken idea. It is the very mission of art to elevate man's awareness, to enrich his daily life so it is pleasurable and meaningful. When we look upon lovely flowers in spring, colorful leaves in autumn, and the beauty of the seas and mountains as seen through the eyes of and expressed by those who have artistic talents, we can gain inexpressible joy from them.

It is not too much to say that paradise on earth, the goal we are striving to reach, is "a world of art." We often refer to it as a world in which truth, virtue and beauty abound, and art is a manifestation of beauty. Why is it, then, that this important facet of life has so long been ignored?

In olden days many high priests exhibited wonderful talents in the fields of art; some painted, others sculpted, and still others designed temples. Of them all, the most outstanding, I believe, was Prince Shotoku.*

The temple Horyu-ji in Nara, which was his masterpiece, is still in existence, with all its wonderful pictures and sculptures intact. It is hard to realize that this superb architectural beauty was created 1300 years ago. I am sure everyone who has seen Horyu-ji will agree with me about this.

It was in later years that many saints and great priests appeared and spread their spiritual teachings while living very simply, even ascetically. I think this contributed to the general thinking that art and religion bore little relation to one another. There may have been truth and virtue in the way tnese saints lived, but certainly there was no beauty.

In this sense, I am going to advocate beauty as much as possible.

 

January 25th, 1949

 


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