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Lions Roar : May 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2006 9 WHEN I’M ON THE ROAD with editor-in-chief Melvin McLeod and people find out we publish the Shambhala Sun, the response we invariably get is: “Oh, I love the Shambhala Sun,” followed quickly by, “It’s so beautiful!” Then, of course, they say wonderful things about an article or two that had special mean- ing for them. When this happens, I steal a glance at Melvin to see if this love expressed for the art and de- sign before the words bothers him. In fact, he thinks it’s great, because he understands that art and design are integral to the Sun’s mission of presenting genu- ine dharma. In fact, the art itself is dharma. The Sun was founded in 1978 by the Tibetan Bud- dhist meditation master Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. In addition to being widely acknowledged as a pio- neer in the presentation of dharma in the West, Trungpa Rinpoche was also well known for his ap- preciation of Western art and poetry, and for being a practicing artist in a number of disciplines. He coined two phrases to describe the relationship of art and the Buddhist teachings: “visual dharma” and “dhar- ma art.” Trungpa Rinpoche’s teachings on art and the artistic enterprise are among his most provocative and profound streams of teaching. In a nutshell, he taught that dharma art is the activity of nonaggres- sion, or egolessness, and that when we approach the phenomenal world in this way, we see that even the most common thing is sacred, indeed luminous. Things stand as powerful symbols of themselves when we don’t cloud the space with preconceptions. Liza Matthews, the art director of the Shambhala Sun, worked closely with Trungpa Rinpoche during the development of the dharma art teachings. She has been the Sun’s designer since its inception. An ac- complished artist in her own right, Liza has been a photographer for many years and her photos appear in the magazine regularly. She also is accomplished in the art of Japanese flower arranging, or ikebana, a central discipline practiced by her dharma teacher. Liza studied a discipline of dharma art called “ob- ject arrangement” with Chögyam Trungpa, which involves placing everyday objects on a sheet of paper, applying mindfulness to the arrangement, accessing our innate and intuitive sense of awareness and de- sign. In fact, that’s what Liza does in every issue of the Shambhala Sun. One of the things I most appreciate about her is that she understands that the sense of the words and the way the magazine looks are completely inseparable; one has to reflect the other. And she is able to make it so, page after page. So, you have in your hands our teaching issue, where the beauty of the dharma is demonstrated on every page by the way the magazine is designed and illustrated. We have some excellent teachings in these pages on a num- ber of the most important terms and principles of the dharma. Whether you’re a beginner or a longtime prac- titioner of Buddhism, you’ll find these very helpful. But words, after all, are just “fingers pointing at the moon.” The art and design may point more directly. Because we value the physical object of the Sun in this way, because we want you to enjoy its beauty as much as its writing, as of this issue we are mailing the magazine to subscribers in a plastic wrap. We have re- ceived many complaints from subscribers over the years about copies of the Sun arriving damaged. We send out hundreds of replacement copies annually, and I’m sure there are many times that number of readers who re- ceive damaged copies and don’t let us know. With all the printing and shipping we’ll save, we feel the use of the wrap is a net gain environmentally. And we want you to enjoy the dharma art that is the Shambhala Sun exactly as Liza has created it. The downside is that I’ll still have to worry about Melvin’s feelings. James Gimian Publisher Editorial: Visual Dharma