Zen Art

Zen Art in Greece

I participated in the International Art Seminar organized by Eamonn Devlin and Aikido of Athens from May 5–8 in Nafplio, Greece. I taught classes on Zen calligraphy, Misogi, and Aikido as well as giving three lectures, including one on Samurai Zen art. Other instructors were Janet Clift (Aikido), Michael Ibers (Aikido, Iaido, and theater), and Emilo Cardia (Aikido, substituting for Fujimoto Sensei who unfortunately could not attend because of serious illness.) It was a wonderful seminar on many levels.

Although most of the arts practiced during the seminar originated in Japan, not a single Japanese person was present.   Aikido, Iaido, and Zen calligraphy are part of international culture and meant to be practiced and appreciated by people everywhere. One of the most significant developments of modern times is that there is no longer an East or West spiritual divide. In nearly every country on earth, one has access to the wisdom of many spiritual disciplines. It does not matter anymore where a particular spiritual discipline originated. Disciplines such as Aikido and Zen calligraphy can be integrated into any culture.

The following week in Greece, I visited the Eastern Orthodox mountain monasteries in Meteora. This fantastic site, one of the spiritual centers of the world, is home to a number of monasteries and hermitages built on top of sheer rock pillar cliffs. The monasteries, the earliest dating from the 11th century, are the equal to anything constructed in Tibet or Bhutan. The two monasteries I visited, the Holy Monastery of Rousanou/St. Barbara and the Holy Monastery of St. Stephan, are occupied by nuns, and appear to be thriving (with new members drawn from different parts of the world, not only Greece.)

After Greece, I paid a visit to Felix Hess in Haren, the Netherlands.  Dr. Hess’s first Zenga were acquired from the Shambhala Zen Art Gallery, and in the ensuing years he established the Kaeru-an Zenga Collection, one of the best and most comprehensive Zenga collections outside of Japan.

The Sound of One Hand Hakuin exhibition opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on May 22. (Conveniently, the world did not come to an end the day before.) Unfortunately, this is the last stop of the exhibition, so see it if at all possible.

Scene from the Zen calligraphy workshop (credit: Nikolettadel)


A beaming John Stevens with the lady participants of the Aikido class. (credit: Nikolettadel)

The Meteora mountain monastery of Rousanou. (credit: John Stevens)