Monday, October 3, 2016

Carpe Diem #1071 brush (zen-calligraphy)

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Today another nice regular prompt in which I love to share with you the tool that is mostly used by the so-called Zen Calligrapher, the brush. The art of calligraphy is an ancient way of meditation and contemplation.
In ancient Japan the technique, or art, of zen calligraphy has been brought to a level of perfection which we cannot find on other places on our globe. To inspire you I have chosen to share a You Tube video in which a few examples of writing with a brush are shown.

Japanese calligraphy was influenced by, and influenced, Zen thought. For any particular piece of paper, the calligrapher has but one chance to create with the brush. The brush strokes cannot be corrected, and even a lack of confidence shows up to the work. The calligrapher must concentrate and be fluid in execution. The brush writes a statement about the calligrapher at a moment in time (see: Hitsuzendo, the Zen way of the brush). Through Zen, Japanese calligraphy absorbed a distinct Japanese aesthetic often symbolized by the "enso" or circle of enlightenment.
Zen calligraphy is practiced by Buddhist monks and most shodou or shodo practitioners. To write Zen calligraphy with mastery, one must clear one's mind an let the letters flow out of themselves, not practice and make a tremendous effort. This state of mind was called the "mushin" ("no mind state")
by the Japanese philosopher Nishida Kitaro. It is based on the principle of Zen Buddhism, which stresses a connection to the spiritual rather than the physical.

Before Japanese tea cermonies (which are connected to Zen Buddhism), one is to look at a work of "shodo (shodou) to clear one's mind. This is considered an essential step in the preparation for a tea cermony. (source: wikipedia)

Tokonoma in which we can see a calligraphy, this is the "shodo" to clear the mind before attending a tea ceremony 
a charcoal drawing
in the tokonoma

koan of life

© Chèvrefeuille

young monk
brush in hand one with nature
writes Mu

© Chèvrefeuille

One of the most popular Ichijikan (One -word barriers) in Zen calligraphy is that of Mu(無), which can be translated as nothing or nothingness. This Mu probably is the best known Koan in the Zen Buddhist tradition, and to penetrate on its true meaning, the endeavor in the practice of Zazen or Zen sitting is essential. By the same means, Zen calligraphy must be understood as a realization of this practice, since the Zen calligrapher manifests in his art not just mere technical ability, but his No Mind ( Mushin). So by the gate of Zazen practice, the calligrapher can enter into the practice of Zensho (Zen calligraphy).

This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until October 8th at noon  (CET). I will try to publish our next episode, our first Universal Jane, later on. For now ... have fun!


  1. Carpe Diem Challenge # 1071 Brush:

    ink black night
    with a brush stroke
    stars disappear