Learned circles have positively concluded that the infallible purpose of the advancement of knowledge, namely austerities, study of the Vedas, sacrifice, chanting of hymns and charity, culminates in the transcendental descriptions of the Lord, who is defined in choice poetry.

S.B. 1 -5-22

Human intellect is developed for advancement of learning in art, science, philosophy, physics, chemistry, psychology, economics, politics, etc. By culture of such knowledge the human society can attain perfection of life. This perfection of life culminates in the realization of the Supreme Being, Visnu. The śruti therefore directs that those who are actually
advanced in learning should aspire for the service of Lord Visnu. (..)
When advancement of knowledge is applied in the service of the Lord, the whole process
becomes absolute. The Personality of Godhead and His transcendental name, fame, glory, etc., are all non different from Him. Therefore, all the sages and devotees of the Lord
have recommended that the subject matter of art, science, philosophy, physics, chemistry, psychology and all other branches of knowledge should be wholly and solely applied in
the service of the Lord. Art, literature, poetry, painting, etc., may be used in glorifying the Lord. The fiction writers, poets and celebrated literature are generally engaged in writing
of sensuous subjects, but if they turn towards the service of the Lord they can describe the transcendental pastimes of the Lord. (..)
Real utilization of advanced knowledge is to establish the glories of the Lord, and that is the real import. Scientific knowledge engaged in the service of the Lord and all similar activities are all factually hari-kirtana, or glorification of the Lord.

Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

The arts have been utilized throughout history to transform the hearts of humanity: politically, socially, and in practically every possible way. Being a swami, I’d like to focus on
spiritual transformation.
The origin of the arts has a very spiritual foundation. In India, the concept of yoga is to harmonize, our body and all of its senses, our mind, our words, with the living force, the atma or the soul and then to connect the atma with the supreme atma or God. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna tells that he is the intelligence of the intelligent, the strength of the strong and the ability in everyone. It is one– from that one supreme source of everything thatexists, who has many names, who has appeared in many religions, who, in Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna tells that he is providing the light of the sun, the air that we breathe, the rain, the earth, the food. Patram pushpam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya payachati.
Srila Prabhupada, my guru, in 1969 he was in London and a journalist asked him, “Swamiji, why have you come to England?” And he said that, “The British ruled over India for well over a century, and took from India, bringing to London, so much of the wealth. But you forgot our most precious wealth, our culture. And I have come to give you what you forgot to take.” And he inspired so many people in this spirit of utilizing the God-given talents that we have as an offering of gratitude (…). Art engages the senses, the mind, and has the power to transform the heart.

Radhanath Swami

The gift of artistic temperament in an individual is naturally seen as one of the greatest gifts and is worth every effort to develop to the highest degree possible. This esthetic fulfillment also obliges that individual, to use their achievement for the good of all sentient beings and to impart their realizations to the new generations according to their capacity.
It is further believed here, that most human beings possess this creative nature of various kinds and degrees and are capable, in association with such gifted artists, of fully discovering it in their own self and thus empowering their own spiritual growth according to their desire. It is the desire of this writer to explore and test this grand theory of Importance and Power of Beauty and of pure esthetic development, for the world and all individual beings.

Baradraj Das

“We were given work space in “Swamiji’s art studio”, which consisted of the tiny living room in his upstairs apartment. There, just after Swamiji’s morning class breakfast prasad, we spent our days. Swamiji would work and sleep in one room, and the other room, the living room, was the art studio. There, Jadurani sat painting in one corner. Gaurasundara and I sat on the floor painting in another corner. The atmosphere was delightful and intimate, as Swamiji would watch our work and often give encouragement and guidance. He seemed to enjoy walking in and out of the art studio, many times a day, looking at our work, and giving directives”.
Govinda dasi

A group exhibition of work by artists contributing to the Krishna Consciousness Movement from its earliest days to the present

Inspired by “Swamiji’s art studio”, this exhibition focuses on how art has been an important means for friends and devotees to make creative contributions to the Krishna Consciousness Movement throughout the years. Many of Srila Prabhupada’s original followers were in fact artists and contributed to the movement through a variety of media. Not by coincidence, in the beginning Srila Prabhupada was offered residence in Harvey Cohen’s art studio on the Bowery where news of his presence quickly spread and people began to stop by in the evening to chant with him. This congregation consisted of mostly local musicians and artists. Among poets, Allen Ginsberg’s contributions were many, including his appreciation in the first edition of Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad Gita printed by McMillian. There was The Happening Album: Krishna Consciousness produced by Alan Kallman that inspired the Beatles to chant Hare Krishna, and Jonas Mekas’ experimental movie entitled Hare Krishna 1966. Govinda dasi, Gaurasundara, Jadurani, Baradvaj and many others were fundamental in the production of painting for the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. Syamasundara carved the first Jagannath deity in the western world. Mukunda organised the Mantra Rock Dance in which the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin with the Big Brothers and Holding Company played. In the 1967 another art film, Hare Krishna, with music of Ravi Shankar was produce by “A Giorgio Film” in San Francisco. Srila Prabhupada encouraged many aspects of the same art of expressing one’s most intimate and loving sentiment of devotion. Of those innumerable contributions we have selected some from the early days in New York along with works from contemporary artists in connection with Bibliothe’ Contemporary Art Gallery in Rome.
The Bhakti Center is the perfect venue for the Matchless Gifts exhibition.

Located on the Lower East Side not far from where Swamiji’s art studio was situated on 26 Second Avenue, surrounded by dozens of contemporary art galleries and the New Museum, it offers the opportunity for contemporary artists to share in a reality of spiritual knowledge, beauty and love.

E.B.