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Thread: A Special Guest Zen of Creativity Chapter 12

  1. #1

    A Special Guest Zen of Creativity Chapter 12

    Greetings ALL!
    I have invited Kokuu, a scholar of words and a familiar voice around here to discuss Daido Loori’s Zen of Creativity, chapter 12, followed by Meitou’s prompt! ENJOY…
    _/\_
    Anne

    Here's Kokuu


    A monk asked Yunmen, “What are the words that transcend the Buddha and the Patriarchs?”
    Yunmen said, “Rice cake.”
    “clouds endless clouds climbing beyond
    ask nothing from words on a page”
    — Ikkyū Sōjun

    One of the first things that many people learn about Zen is that it is “a special transmission outside the teachings not depending on written words”.* This may be followed by the surprise that the history of Zen is filled with so many writings from numerous teachers!

    This is one of the paradoxes that sits at the heart of Zen. As soon as we name something, we miss its essence in trying to fix it into one form. Yet, as Dainin Katagiri Roshi said, you have to say something! And where would we be without all the words by Dōgen and the masters who came before or after him? How would our teachers communicate with us? Of course, we can learn much by following their example, but words are also quite useful at times!

    The answer to this paradox is the notion of the finger pointing at the moon. While words can never fully capture the true essence of Zen which is ‘just this’ in every moment, they can point us towards it just as the finger is not the moon but can show where it is in the sky. This is what the poets and priests have been trying to do since the beginning of Zen, and their words express the essence of their understanding and their practice. It is not for nothing that it remains a common practice for Zen teachers to write a death poem that pierces the great matter of life and death.

    It has often been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but a few well-chosen phrases can also point the way beyond form. As Zen artists, or would-be Zen artists, we look to capture a moment of suchness, and share that with others. This is the same with words or images.

    Just as in sumi-e paintings (the black and white paintings usually drawn in a single breath) what is presented is the bare essence of what is seen. Similarly, in haiku poetry and other Zen writing, each word counts and we do not try to completely flesh out the image but rather leave space for the writing to breathe. Zen teacher and writer Natalie Goldberg calls this writing down the bones.

    When we write from a Zen perspective, we often do this from personal experience, and based on our sense experience rather than phrase after phrase of conceptual ideas. Even when ideas need to be communicated, this is usually done in the form of metaphor, such as Dōgen’s heron poem in the examples below which has echoes of Dongshan Lianje’s lines in The Song of Precious Mirror Samadhi:

    The dharma of thusness is intimately transmitted by buddhas and ancestors.
    Now you have it; preserve it well.
    A silver bowl filled with snow, a heron hidden in the moon.

    Daido Loori Roshi gives a number of wonderful examples of Zen writings in The Zen of Creativity, and I wish to share one or two of my favourites with you in the hope it might provide further inspiration:

    Rahai (Bowing)

    A snowy heron
    on the snowfield
    where winter grass is unseen
    hides itself
    in its own figure.
    — Eihei Dōgen (1200-1253)

    My huts lies in the middle of a dense forest;
    Every year the green ivy grows longer.
    No news of the affairs of men,
    Only the occasional song of a woodcutter.
    The sun shines and I mend my robe;
    When the moon comes out I read Buddhist poems.
    I have nothing to report my friends.
    If you want to find the meaning, stop chasing after so many things.
    — Ryōkan (1758-1831)

    I came to this mountain
    looking for enlightenment.
    There was no enlightenment
    on the mountain.
    Whether laughing or crying
    all I hear is an echo
    from the other side of the mountain.
    — Soen Nakagawa (1907-1984)

    Three pencils arranged
    Three minutes
    Sambhogakaya, Nirmanakaya, Dharmakaya
    — Jack Kerouac (1922-1967)

    *this has often been attributed to Bodhidharma but in modern times is thought to have originated as separate phrases in Tang era China (8th and 9th centuries CE), and first appeared as a quatrain in the Song period (960–1279):

    教外別傳 A special [separate] transmission outside the teachings,
    不立文字 not depending on written words
    直指人心 īndirectly point to the human mind,
    見性成佛 see one‘s nature and become Buddha




    And here’s Meitou’s prompt

    Hello everyone and welcome to prompt 12.

    At the end of this chapter JDL mentions Zenga paintings. Zenga means literally 'Zen Painting' and is a term used to describe pen and ink paintings used as part of the Tea Ceremony and some of the Japanese Martial Arts. These paintings are characteristically simple and bold, combine both images and calligraphy and illustrate some aspect of Zen teaching. Historically all sorts of subjects have been used, but amongst the most common are enso, which we explored at the beginning of our project, and Mount Fuji.

    JDL also talks about Minor White's experimentation with combining text and photographic images, including inscribing poetry directly on the emulsion surface of film – this fascinated me but in this age of digital photography, not such an easily accessible practice.

    Instead, in this prompt I'd like to suggest that we could play with combinations of imagery and words in whatever medium you'd like.
    So this could be photographic images with text added afterwards directly to the image or within the framing, or text actually appearing within the subject photographed. It could be collage utilising text, painting, drawing, traditional Zenga or three dimensional work – outside, flower arranging etc.
    You may prefer to make the words themselves your main subject and the visual element could include how you present them – this could be wonderfully creative.

    You may want to write your own text, you may have some favourite teaching or poetry in mind, or you may be inspired by one of the beautiful pieces that Kokuu has included above.

    The traditional motifs of Zenga might inspire – enso, sticks, bamboo leaves, Mount Fuji

    I've often used words and images together in my sketchbooks both illustratively and as surface pattern, text-ure, graphic markings. I'll post some examples of those in the coming days, together with some traditional Zenga images that I've found on the internet. I've also played around with creating images of Mount Fuji and photographing them, it's an ongoing project which has been put aside for a while, I'll post a couple of those too.
    As usual don't be afraid to experiment, particularly with writing. Most importantly though – have fun!

    Deep bows from the three of us!

    Anne, Kokuu and Meitou


    we all sat today

  2. #2
    For years as an artist I have been fascinated by words used in combination with visual art. And learned that it was difficult for me to do successfully. The words didn't work with the aesthetic of the art or the vice versa. However, a few years ago I started a body of work that became the Rakusu Project, which has been mentioned before on the forum. I was deeply moved by the spare and sharp haiku of Santoka Taneda. I learned of him from one of Taigu's talks on this forum. ST's writings immediately resonated with me. The words were like a flash of lightening in their powerful direct impact. And so totally accessible.

    the moon rises
    I'm not waiting for anything

    I began illustrating his words on the paper rakusu I was sewing with the intent of putting together a performance, with a friend versed in theater reading his haiku. Here is an example. Although no words appear on the Rakusu itself the written haiku is displayed with the piece.

    slapping at flies slapping at mosquitoes slapping at myself 1 copyright.jpg
    slapping at flies
    slapping at mosquitoes
    slapping at myself

    This piece is made out of paper bags, trying to stay true to the humble nature of the real garment.

    There are artists I respect and enjoy their work who use words successfully with their art work. I will post some images later.

    Gassho
    Anne

    ~lahst~

  3. #3
    Sushi

    ———-



    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Cooperix View Post
    For years as an artist I have been fascinated by words used in combination with visual art. And learned that it was difficult for me to do successfully. The words didn't work with the aesthetic of the art or the vice versa. However, a few years ago I started a body of work that became the Rakusu Project, which has been mentioned before on the forum. I was deeply moved by the spare and sharp haiku of Santoka Taneda. I learned of him from one of Taigu's talks on this forum. ST's writings immediately resonated with me. The words were like a flash of lightening in their powerful direct impact. And so totally accessible.

    the moon rises
    I'm not waiting for anything

    I began illustrating his words on the paper rakusu I was sewing with the intent of putting together a performance, with a friend versed in theater reading his haiku. Here is an example. Although no words appear on the Rakusu itself the written haiku is displayed with the piece.

    slapping at flies slapping at mosquitoes slapping at myself 1 copyright.jpg
    slapping at flies
    slapping at mosquitoes
    slapping at myself

    This piece is made out of paper bags, trying to stay true to the humble nature of the real garment.

    There are artists I respect and enjoy their work who use words successfully with their art work. I will post some images later.

    Gassho
    Anne

    ~lahst~
    Anne, I so love this project as you know , and posted about it on Facebook without realising you were part of Treeleaf - enlightened by no other than Kokuu of course!

    I really like the use of words and images together, including words used as surface marks or designs without having any particular relevance to the subject. One of my many ongoing projects is a sketchbook I made using an old hardback DIY manual, the pages of which I prep with gesso then either paint/draw on, or make collages on. Sometimes I've allowed words to stay visible or half visible on the page.

    ch 12 coll 2 (1).jpg

    ch 12 coll 2 (2).jpg

    ch 12 coll 3.jpg

    Gassho
    Meitou
    sattodaylah
    命 Mei - life
    島 Tou - island

  5. #5
    Often an image stands on its own but I also enjoy images combined with text and sometimes use this in my art.
    I also find that when I write poetry an image will come to mind or the image might come first and the words follow.
    I think the way our minds work words and visuals are closely connected - also many artists have quite complicated concepts
    inspiring their work.
    I've just had to submit a brief for a current project and it does contain many words as I had to explain how the project related to 'false memory'.
    Part of the project will be to create a book of images/text. The text will be the words of a 'dream poem' I've connected in my mind to my father-in-law
    who I've never met (he was born in 1886 and is long deceased). I'll post images of the work/installation as it progresses. The work is entitled 'The Conjuror'
    and involves a fair bit of conjuring at the level of mystery/happenstance.
    Not sure if any of that relates to Zen!

    Will try to send a couple of images of previous work with text,

    (Love your images Anne and Meitou)

    Gassho,

    Jinyo
    Last edited by Jinyo; 02-10-2020 at 04:50 PM.

  6. #6
    Hello again,

    My friend, Allan Graham had just finished painting this when he died almost a year ago. We feel like it was his last word to the world, meaning at so many levels. It is 7' x 9', oil on canvas.

    skip1.jpg

    Another friend, Susan Myo On Linnell, very often uses words in her paintings. She is a Buddhist monk and teacher, so her words are haiku, koans or related to her practice. She also makes books another art form that celebrates the written word.

    https://www.susanmyoonlinnell.org/other

    bows.
    Anne

    ~lahst~

  7. #7
    Another friend, Susan Myo On Linnell, very often uses words in her paintings. She is a Buddhist monk and teacher, so her words are haiku, koans or related to her practice. She also makes books another art form that celebrates the written word.
    Oh, her work is wonderful! Thank you, Anne!

    I love this one of a Mitsu Suzuki haiku!

    https://www.susanmyoonlinnell.org/ot...aItem-ijrbobxc

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday-
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  8. #8

  9. #9
    Jishin,
    Focus! Indeed! Beautiful.

    Bows
    Anne

    ~lahst~

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Cooperix View Post
    Jishin,
    Focus! Indeed! Beautiful.

    Bows
    Anne

    ~lahst~
    Something I lack.

    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

  11. #11
    Hi all

    A couple of images I made last night, using some of Meitou's lovely artwork.

    As you doubtless know, I am better with words than visual art so like to borrow the latter to illustrate the former!

    Bodhidharma
    Haiku


    So happy this project is still ongoing.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday-
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  12. #12
    Thank you for keeping this alive!

    As someone, who kept a coral-reef in his living room, I needed a moment to fully appreciate your Sushi, Jishin ;-)
    I am fascinated by the different works you all posted, especially Meitou's DIY manual touched me.

    With storm and winter it's not easy for me to come up with something plant or garden related... We'll see.

    It doesn't really fit, but the prompt reminded me on ascii-art.

    Unknown artist:
    Code:
                               _
                            _ooOoo_
                           o8888888o
                           88" . "88
                           (| -_- |)
                           O\  =  /O
                        ____/`---'\____
                      .'  \\|     |//  `.
                     /  \\|||  :  |||//  \
                    /  _||||| -:- |||||_  \
                    |   | \\\  -  /'| |   |
                    | \_|  `\`---'//  |_/ |
                    \  .-\__ `-. -'__/-.  /
                  ___`. .'  /--.--\  `. .'___
               ."" '<  `.___\_<|>_/___.' _> \"".
              | | :  `- \`. ;`. _/; .'/ /  .' ; |
              \  \ `-.   \_\_`. _.'_/_/  -' _.' /
    ===========`-.`___`-.__\ \___  /__.-'_.'_.-'================
                            `=--=-'
    Gassho,
    Kotei sat/lah today.
    古庭 KoTei / Ralf

  13. #13

    A Special Guest Zen of Creativity Chapter 12

    Quote Originally Posted by Kotei View Post

    As someone, who kept a coral-reef in his living room, I needed a moment to fully appreciate your Sushi, Jishin ;-)
    Here is some more sushi.




    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__
    Last edited by Jishin; 02-11-2020 at 10:56 PM.

  14. #14
    And more sushi!





    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Kokuu View Post
    Hi all

    A couple of images I made last night, using some of Meitou's lovely artwork.

    As you doubtless know, I am better with words than visual art so like to borrow the latter to illustrate the former!

    Bodhidharma
    Haiku


    So happy this project is still ongoing.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday-
    Your haiku are inspiring - perhaps we could all choose one of your haiku that personally touches us and create an image to go with the words?



    Jinyo

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Cooperix View Post
    Hello again,

    My friend, Allan Graham had just finished painting this when he died almost a year ago. We feel like it was his last word to the world, meaning at so many levels. It is 7' x 9', oil on canvas.

    skip1.jpg

    Another friend, Susan Myo On Linnell, very often uses words in her paintings. She is a Buddhist monk and teacher, so her words are haiku, koans or related to her practice. She also makes books another art form that celebrates the written word.

    https://www.susanmyoonlinnell.org/other

    bows.
    Anne

    ~lahst~
    Thanks for the link - has given me some ideas!

    Gassho

    Jinyo

  17. #17

    A Special Guest Zen of Creativity Chapter 12

    Here is some recovery art. Had this for a while and it has held up amazingly well.

    The sun burns brightly when recovery lies at the center of it. AA stands for Alcoholics Anonymous. The triangle has the 3 important concepts of Unity, Recovery and Service of AA.

    Below it is a scroll with 3 key concepts from the Serenity Prayer that is often repeated in AA meetings (God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    Courage to change the things I can,
    and Wisdom to know the difference).



    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__
    Last edited by Jishin; 02-12-2020 at 02:26 PM.

  18. #18
    Amazing and moving Jishin,

    thanks for sharing,



    Jinyo

  19. #19
    Thank you Jinyo!

    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

  20. #20
    Part of the project will be to create a book of images/text. The text will be the words of a 'dream poem' I've connected in my mind to my father-in-law who I've never met (he was born in 1886 and is long deceased). I'll post images of the work/installation as it progresses. The work is entitled 'The Conjuror'
    I love the sounds of your project, Jinyo, and hope to see a lot more about it!


    Your haiku are inspiring - perhaps we could all choose one of your haiku that personally touches us and create an image to go with the words?
    You are very kind, but maybe we could choose a poem by Basho to work with?


    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday-
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  21. #21
    Member Onka's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2019
    Location
    Rural Queensland, Australia
    Dang! I've just discovered this bunch of threads. I gotst me some catchin' up yo do.
    Gassho
    Onka
    st
    On Ka
    穏 火
    aka Anna Kissed.
    No Gods No Masters.
    Life is too serious to be taken seriously.

  22. #22
    Again a wonderful response to this chapter, so much to admire and inspire here, I'm loving everything I see and read. Please everyone keep going, every one of you has made a meaningful contribution and I think we have enough material coming in to continue this chapter into another week. I do like the idea of choosing a Basho poem to work with ( but I also liked the idea of working with Kokuu's haiku!) perhaps those of us who want to could think about taking that forward next week?
    In the meantime, here are some more pages from sketchbooks, unplanned and done before this prompt was written, where words and drawings connected - I couldn't really say what came first in any of these, they just seemed to appear spontaneously, this happens a lot in my sketchbooks now, since I let go of the idea of sketchbook as showpiece, stopped worrying about wasting paper and materials, gave myself permission to play, and allowed anything to happen.

    Admire the courage of plants
    ch 12 drawing flower.jpg

    In Shamata
    ch 12 drawing.jpg

    The orchid knows
    ch 12 drawing orchid knows.jpg

    Gassho
    Meitou
    sattodaylah

    I just noticed those three titles work together !
    Last edited by Meitou; 02-15-2020 at 11:04 AM. Reason: Something I noticed after posting...
    命 Mei - life
    島 Tou - island

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