Simple Is Best: Part Two
Zen Art

Simple Is Best: Part Two

Zen brushwork is abstract, suggestive, and two-dimensional. Zen gardening is concrete, direct, and three-dimensional. The best-known Zen garden is at Ryoan-ji in Kyoto. It is formed by rocks, moss, and sand. The arrangement of the rocks is carefully planned, but their placement seems perfectly natural—they are right where they should be. Since the garden incorporates … Continue reading

Simple Is Best
Zen Art

Simple Is Best

The guiding principle in Zen practice and its expression in art is: “Simple is best.” The best expression of Zen brushwork is the simplest form possible—a circle. Interpretation of the Zen circle, the enso, can be complex, profound, even convoluted. Or it does not have to be explained at all, only contemplated. Creation of an … Continue reading

Zen Horse
Zen Art

Zen Horse

For each New Year, Zen abbots typically brush a calligraphy or painting appropriate for that year’s zodiac animal on small paper boards (shikishi) that are distributed to each of the temple’s patrons. 2014 is the Year of the Horse. Goun, abbot of Zuigan-ji in Matsushima, was famed for his Zenga of zodiac animals. We have … Continue reading

Zen Ecology
Zen Art

Zen Ecology

In the gallery there is a calligraphy piece by Takeda Mokurai that reads, “Heaven is high, all the elements are in order.”  In other words, the cosmos is perfectly ordered so the best course of action for human beings is to let nature be. The Zen ideal is to interfere as little as possible with … Continue reading

Sit Still, Work Hard
Zen Art

Sit Still, Work Hard

The Rule of Saint Benedict states that ora et labora, “pray and work,” is the basis of Christian monasticism. Contemplation of the mysteries of faith must be combined with physical labor—for example, farming, brewing beer, making cheese, spinning wool. Prayer and work must be in balance. In Zen Buddhism, the guiding principle is “Sit still, … Continue reading