Born in Tibet in 1939, Chögyam Trungpa was recognized in infancy as the reincarnate abbot of the Surmang group of monasteries. In 1959, he was forced by the Chinese invasion to flee Tibet for India, where the Dalai Lama appointed him the spiritual advisor to the Young Lama's Home School. In 1963 he travelled to England, where he studied for several years at Oxford University. Chögyam Trungpa came to North America in 1970, and over the next fifteen years founded a network of several hundred Buddhist meditation centers throughout the United States and Canada. He died in 1987. He was a prolific author, with over two dozen books in English. His books have been translated into more than a dozen European and Oriental languages. Among his best-selling works on spirituality and meditation are Shambhala: the Sacred Path of the Warrior and Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism.

Chögyam Trungpa was also an artist and a poet. At the Naropa University, which he and his students founded in 1974, he brought together a dynamic group of writers, dancers, musicians, and visual artists and encouraged the development of a contemplative approach to the arts, one which blended aspects of both Eastern and Western art. Chögyam Trungpa created a number of paintings in the style of Tibetan thangkas, as well as several hundred black and white calligraphies in the Oriental style, a number of which were published in The Art of Calligraphy: Joining Heaven and Earth. His teachings on art and aesthetics were compiled and published in the 1996 publication Dharma Art. The essay, which appears below, is taken from Visual Dharma: The Buddhist Art of Tibet, the 1975 catalogue that accompanied an exhibition of Tibetan art held at the M.I.T. Hayden Gallery.