Guest Column: Art and Buddhism

Credit: Enlightenment & Purrsuasion, by Uriél Dana & Gage Taylor (died 2000). © 1999-2017 Uriél Dana.

by Uriél Danā, Contributing Editor


Tibetan Buddhism was introduced to the West in the 1960’s. It was significant for changing the pattern of keeping mystical knowledge secret.

This New American Dharma (a term coined by Llama Surya Das) began making available any knowledge that would help humanity empower itself spiritually. My own introduction to Buddhism began as a child when a sleeping disorder began a decades old practice of Tibetan Dream Yoga.

The tools of Tibetan Buddhism and The Ageless Wisdom are not new age. I prefer to think of them as “new edge”.

Many of these ideas are the foundations of quantum physics and Vajrayana Buddhism, commonly known as Buddhist Tantra.

One of the most basic yet profound truths of the ageless wisdom is “energy follows thought”. This has been rephrased many ways; thoughts are things, you are what you think about, you create your own reality, etc. Each of us is a vehicle for universal energy. This energy manifests itself as light and is formless. It is our thoughts, beliefs, and intentions that give that energy form.

Buddhism follows a slightly different formula; kindness in thoughts creates energy. If you add a sense of service to something larger than yourself, you’ve added the wings of intention.

As applied to making art, “the energy you hold when you create stays in that thing forever. You can make a beautiful painting but if you were angry when you painted it that is what people will feel when they look at it.”

I apprenticed as a painter for four years with the late Gage Taylor (d.2000) and we collaborated together for nearly two decades. As this kind of synergy is rare among artists, we were invited to travel as guests of the U.S. State Department former Arts America Program. We visited places with an anti-American sentiment and worked with hundreds of artists.

During this time, Gage Taylor and I observed impeccably painted work collect dust on walls, and we observed paintings rendered with unbelievably poor skill sell like crazy.Without fail, when we met the non-selling artists, they were angry at the world and felt the world owed them a living.

When we met a successful artist, we would encounted someone who was joyful, loved what he was doing, loved people, and was filled with gratitude. Each also had a sense of service to something larger than themselves.These two conflicting attitudes were manifestations of each artists power of intention.

“Intention” is what we have when we combine our desire with a sense of purpose, consciously or not, to accomplish a goal.

The more clear our sense of service, the more dynamic our intentions become.

The stronger the light coming through us becomes, the stronger the purpose, and the faster our thoughts manifest themselves.

When the conscious mind has one intention and the subconscious mind has another, we create whichever intention carries the stronger emotional charge.

Collectors can feel the artist’s intention in artwork. To stand in front of a painting in which the artist has mastered the “flow” allows the looker to feel in telepathic communion with that artist. (There is no word for this in English. In Sanskrit, it is known as the “rasa.”)

One of our galleries in Beverly Hills taught us this in what is now a humorous example. In 1987, Gage Taylor and I were enticed to move to Hawaii by what was at the time the largest grossing gallery in the world. Five days after we got there, our gallery was on “60 Minutes” for fraud! This gallery also had a year’s worth of our work that they would not give back.

We tried to keep to our regular painting schedule, stay out of fear, and not think about how living in the islands was like throwing money into a volcano. We always had more than one of our collaborative paintings going at a time and each of us worked on the work regularly.

There was one painting in particular that every time I would work on I would be thinking, “It’s really beautiful here, but can we afford it”?

When Gage was working on that very same painting, (unbeknownst to me), he was also thinking, “it’s beautiful here, but can we afford it”?

When the painting went to the gallery in Beverly Hills, several people who stood in front of that painting said out loud, almost in trance, “It’s very beautiful, but can I afford it?” It became such a mantra for that painting that our gallery called us to see what was going on? (This is where you go into a meditation and edit the script.)

Several months later, Gage and I decided to do a little experiment with the principles of success that we had so often shared with artists. Prior to this time, our collaborations were in Gage’s style and signed with both our full names… names recognized by collectors.

Combining both of our styles,we entered a major national competition in Bellevue, Washington. We signed this painting with the new name TAYLOR-DANA. A new look, a new signature, a new synergy was born. We were accepted.

The entire time the exhibit was up, we kept repeating to ourselves, “We really want this painting to sell in Bellevue, Washington”. Well, it did not sell until a few months after the show.

Only when a couple from Bellevue, Washington came to Hawaii on vacation did the painting sell. Even though they lived a few blocks from the exhibit! They had never seen our painting until they visited our studio months later!