the artless arts of zen

The arts of Zen are not intended for utilitarian purposes, or for purely aesthetic enjoyment,
but are meant to train the mind, indeed, to bring it into contact with ultimate reality.

– D.T. Suzuki

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ensoThe Artless Arts of Zen:  Zen Aesthetic and Your Everyday Life
A retreat at Zen Mountain Monastery with John Stevens:  July 10-12

The creative process, like a spiritual journey, is intuitive, non-linear, and experiential.  It points us towards our essential nature, which is a reflection of the boundless creativity of the universe.  Zen Buddhism and, particularly, the Zen arts are a rich source of teachings to help us understand and cultivate our creativity.  They contain a treasure house of techniques and insight into the creative process.  And they point to a way of living that is simple, spontaneous, and vital.

Although Zen mind is expressed in many art forms, the primary vehicle for manifesting the Zen spirit is calligraphy and painting.  There are few teachers in the West more capable in transmitting the spirit of this artless art of Zen than John Stevens.  The main themes of Zen calligraphy and painting will be discussed and we will have a look at numerous examples of Zen art, past and present.  The afternoon sessions will be hands on.  We will brush most of the “one-word barriers” central to the Zen tradition: ichi (one), mu (no!), do (way), ku (empty), shin (heart), and others.  The characters themselves are simple to learn — most of them belong to the group of kanji taught to Japanese first graders — but profound in meaning from the Zen perspective.  There will also be a chance to practice brushing enso (Zen circles), paintings of Mount Fuji, and creating portraits of Bodhidharma.  At the conclusion of the retreat, each participant will brush a subject of his or her choosing on clean white paper to serve as an object of personal reflection — even a single brushwork perfectly reflects one’s state of mind.

From the Zen Mountain Monastery website.


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