"How does one create an ecological artwork that doesn’t make more waste in the world?" asked composer and interdisciplinary artist Meredith Monk in conjunction with her 2013 music-theater piece, On Behalf of Nature. What is the artist’s role if not—in the words of poet Gary Snyder—to be “a spokesperson for non-human entities communicating to the human realm through dance or song?” Monk meets Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman to converse publicly--for the first time --about ephemerality, karma, and the place where Buddhism, artistic expression, and environmental concerns intersect. Presented in December 2018 with the Garrison Institute and the Rubin Museum.

In this brief clip from the Artist and Buddhist Contemplatives gathering at The Garrison Institute in 2015, Tenzin Choegyal offers an example of singing "from one mountain to the other mountain." He picks up one syllable, OM, and takes it where he wants spontaneously, letting the breath carry it.

This video is a compilation of excerpts from a concert by Tenzin Choegyal with Rubin Kodheli, Rick Patrick and Jesse Paris Smith. It was given as part of the Artist and Buddhist Contemplatives gathering at the Garrison Institute in 2015. A blog on Tenzin and his music and activism can be found on the Garrison Institute website.

Artist Meredith Monk spoke about Art as Spiritual Practice at the Artist and Buddhist Contemplatives gathering at the Garrison Institute in 2015. A beautiful blog about Meredith’s practice can be found on the Garrison Institute website.

Photo by Julieta Cervantes

Robert Thurman began his talk at the Artist and Buddhist Contemplatives gathering by giving a gorgeous, impromptu description of the origin of the sanskrit seed syllable "A." Meredith Monk had just opened the event at the Garrison Institute by inviting everyone into a circle to vocalize "A" as a group. He then gave a gorgeous prepared talk about compassionate wisdom bliss as the material of the artist.

"A 'heroic' biography of John Cage and his 'awakening through Zen Buddhism'—'a kind of love story' about a brilliant American pioneer of the creative arts who transformed himself and his culture." ~The New York Times on Where the Heart Beats

Kay Larson was the the art critic for New York Magazine for fourteen years and has been a frequent contributor to the New York Times. In 1994, she entered Zen practice at a Buddhist monastery in upstate New York. She offered this talk on John Cage at the first Artist and Buddhist Contemplatives gathering in June 2012 at Poets House in New York City ahead of her then-forthcoming book.

The Artist and Buddhist Contemplatives Project: Recommended Reading
At both gatherings, participants were asked ahead of time to list the resources which have been the greatest source of inspiration in their art and Buddhist practices.
note: some books were recommended by multiple people. In this case recommendations are attributed to whichever person came first alphabetically; for example, Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind was recommended several times but the book only appears under one person’s name as a recommendation.

Janine Antoni
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron
Going to Pieces without Falling Apart by Mark Epstein
Open to Desire:  Embracing a Lust for Life, Insights from Buddhism and Psychotherapy by Mark Epstein
Seeking the Heart of Wisdom: The Path of Insight Meditation by Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein
A Gradual Awakening by Stephen Levine
Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama by Daniel Goleman
Be Here Now by Ram Dass
Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing, and Dying by Ram Dass
Touching Enlightenment: Finding Realization in the Body by Reginald A. Ray
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle
Buddhism Without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening by Stephen Batchelor
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszent
Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O'Donahue
My Body, the Buddhist by Deborah Hay & Susan Foster
The Invisible Actor by Yoshi Oida and Lorna Marshall
The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World by David Abram
Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B Rosenburg
Jung on Active Imagination by Carl Jung
The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses by Juhani Pallasmaa

Jacquelynn Baas
Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art by Jacquelynn Baas and Mary Jane Jacob
Smile of the Buddha: Eastern Philosophy and Western Art from Monet to Today by Jacquelynn Baas
Learning Mind: Experience into Art by Mary Jane Jacob and Jacquelynn Baas
Before Zen: The Nothing of American Dada by Jacquelynn Baas
East-West Interchanges in American Art: A Long and Tumultuous Relationship, ed. Cynthia Mills. Available PDF:

Lillian Ball
One Dharma by Joseph Goldstein
Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World by Stephen Batchelor

Diane Bertolo
Silence by John Cage
A Year from Monday by John Cage
Conversing with Cage by Richard Kostelanetz
The Everyday: Documents in Contemporary Art edited by Stephen Johnstone
Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972by Lucy Lippard
What We Want Is Free: Generosity And Exchange In Recent Art (S U N Y Series in Postmodern Culture)  edited by Ted Purves
The Species of Spaces and Other Places by Georges Perec
Tantra Song: Tantric Painting from Rajasthan by André Padoux
Ree Morton: Works 1971-1977 by Diana Baldon, Sabine Folie and Ree Morton
Ree Morton: At the Still Point of the Turning World by Lucy Lippard, Joao Ribas, Allan Schwartzman and Cornelia H. Butler
Annette Messager: Word for Word
Marcel Broodthaers (monograph)
The Art of Richard Tuttle (monograph)
Odyssey to Freedom in Sixty Four Steps by Gelek Rinpoche
Becoming Your Own Therapist; An Introduction to the Buddhist Way of Thought by Lama Yeshe
A Flash of Lightning in the Dark of Night: A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life  by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs by Robert Beer
The mandala. Sacred circle in tibetan buddhism by Martin Brauen
Cartographies of Time: A History of the Timeline by Daniel Rosenberg and Anthony Grafton

Christina Campanella
Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees by Lawrence Weschler
Essays Before a Sonata by Charles Ives
Where the Heart Beats by Kay Larson

Carla Duarte
The Music of Painting by Peter Vergo
Anni Albers: On Weaving
Whole Cloth by Mildred Constantine
Buddhist Stupas in Asia by Bill Wassman
Meredith Monk: Inner Voice by Babeth M. VanLoo
Music of Philip Glass
Art of Richard Serra, Gabriel Orozco, Ann Hamilton, Louise Bourgeois, Agnes Martin, Gordon Matta Clark, Josef Beuys, Robert Smithson.
On Being Krista Tippett

Kathryn Fanelli
Unlimiting Mind: The Radically Experiential Psychology of Buddhism Andrew Olendzki

Fredericka Foster
Six Lectures on Drawing by William Kentridge
Reasons for Knocking at an Empty House: Writings 1973-1994 by Bill Viola
Wassily Kandinsky
Mary Oliver, as are Gary Snyder and Jane Hirshfield.  
The Studio Reader: On the Space of Artists by Mary Jane Jacob
Suzi Gablik

Max Gimblett
I Am That by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
The Gods by Alain
Tagore: The Mystic Poets Series by Rabindranath Tagore and Swami Adiswarananda
The World of Zen by Nancy Wilson Ross
The Three Pillars of Zen by Roshi Philip Kapleau
With Medhananda on the Shores of Infinity by Medhananda
New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton
The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard
The Sword of No-Sword by John Stevens
Centering by M.C. Richards

Mary Jane Jacob
Dewey for Artists  by Mary Jane Jacob

Suzanne Joelson
ABC reaDing List
Arendt, Hannah: Men In Dark Times
Brecht, Bertold:  Brecht on Theatre
Camus, Albert:  The Stranger
Dalai Lama: The Heart Sutra
Eagleton, Terry: Literary Theory: An Introduction
Foucault, Michael: The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences  
Gombrich, E.H. The Sense of Order: A Study in the Psychology of Decorative Art
Hejinian, Lyn: Language of Inquiry
Irigaray, Luce: This Sex Which is Not One
Joyce, James:  Ulysses
Krauss, Rosalind & Yve Alain Bois:  Formless: A User’s Guide
Lewis, George E.: A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music
Morrison, Toni: Beloved
Nelson, Maggie: The Argonauts
Ortega y Gasset, Jose:  The Dehumanization of Art and other Essays
Proust,  Marcel:  Remembrance of Things Past
Quine, W.V.: Quiddities: An Intermittently Philosophical Dictionary
Rankine, Claudia: Citizen
Stein, Gertrude: The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
Tillman, Lynn: What would Lynn Tillman Do?
Unamuno, Miguel de: Tragic Sense of Life
Virilio, Paul:  The Vision Machine (Perspectives)
Winnicott , W.D: Playing and Reality
X, Malcolm: The Autobiography of Malcolm X
Yeats, W.B. The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats
Zorn, John:  Arcana

Susie Neilson
We Can Be Buddhas by Bob Thurman
Habits of Happiness by Matthieu Ricard
The Surprising Science of Happiness by Dan Gilbert
(These are All TED Talks)

Rick Patrick
Leila Hadley Luce 
Tenzin Choegyhl

Ernesto Pujol
Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit
A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Chrysanne Stathacos
Into the Heart of Life by Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo
Tsultrum Allione
China Galland

Suzy Sureck
The Third Mind, American Artists Contemplate Asia, Guggenheim Museum,
 Grain of Emptiness, Buddhism inspired Contemporary Art, Brauen +Jacobs, Ed. 
To Life: Eco art in Pursuit of a Sustainable Planet by L. Weintraub
Ecoventions, Current Art to Transform Ecologies by S. Spaid
Beyond Green, Toward a Sustainable Art, Smart Museum of Art, ICI
The Clock of the Long Now by Stewart Brand
Einstein’s Dreams, First by Alan Lightman
Stories from the Nerve Bible by Laurie Anderson 
6 years, The Dematerialization of the Art Object,. by Lucy Lippard
Books by Trungpa Rimpoche and Pema Chodron

Tattfoo Tan
Conversations Before the End of Time by Suzi Gablik

Riva Weinstein
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg
Zen of Seeing: Seeing/Drawing as Meditation by Frederick Franck
Art As a Way: A Return to the Spiritual Roots by Frederick Franck

Katarina Weslien
Moments of Being by Virginia Wolf
The Waves by Virginia Woolf
Public talks and transcripts of J. Krishnamurti
Faith by Sharon Salzberg
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India (Vintage Departures)
Between Friends: The Correspondence of Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy 1949-1975 by Hannah Arendt, Mary McCarthy and Carol Brightman
Words of Light by Eduardo Cadava
The I-Ching
Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot
The Language of Inquiry by Lyn Hejinian
Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India by Diana L. Eck
Banaras by Diana L. Eck
Fanny and Alexander by Ingmar Bergman

Artist and Buddhist Contemplatives online archive

Before the first gathering in 2012, we began an archive of Buddhist art resources. We haven’t had the capacity to update it, but there are some real gems. If you would like to volunteer to update it and develop it, or have ideas about how to expand it, please send an email!