what is the self that expresses in self-expression?


This page links to the only place we are aware of that offers an approach to art and creativity in the context of Zen:  Zen Mountain Monastery.  We’d be grateful for info on any other courses and workshops within this context. Please contact us with links.

John Daido Loori – author, artist, Zen Master – was the founder and abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery in Mount Tremper, New York. Under Daido Loori’s direction, Zen Mountain Monastery grew to be one of the leading Zen monasteries in America, widely noted for its unique way of integrating art and Zen practice. Daido Loori was also an award winning photographer and videographer, with dozens of exhibitions to his credit and a successful career in both commercial and art photography.


John Daido Loori: Hearing with the Eye

Hearing With The Eye
John Daido Loori


In Zen, we say that each one of us is already a Buddha, a thoroughly enlightened being.  It’s the same with art.  Each one of us is already an artist, whether we realize it or not.  In fact, it doesn’t matter whether we realize it – this truth of perfection is still there.  Engaging the creative process is a way of getting in touch with this truth, and to let it function in all areas of our lives.

If I was asked to get rid of the Zen aesthetic and just keep one quality necessary to create art, I would say it’s trust.  When you learn to trust yourself implicitly, you no longer need to prove something through your art.  You simply allow it to come out, to be as it is.  This is when creating art becomes effortless.  It happens just as you grow your hair.  It grows.

Naturalness, spontaneity, and playfulness are all aspects of the ordinary mind that catches a glimpse of the world of things just as they are.  To live this life fully means to see all of it.  The doorway to this experience is the creative process.  Please delve deeply into it.  Give it a chance to do what it is capable of doing.  Engage it fully with the whole body and mind.  If you do, sooner or later, this limitless way of being will be your own.  It will never make sense, and you’ll never be able to explain it to anybody, but you will experience it, and by so doing, you will make it real.

– John Daido Loori, The Zen of Creativity


The Zen of Creativity by John Daido Loori

The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating Your Artistic Life
John Daido Loori


Our creativity and spirituality share a common source. From its inception, training at Zen Mountain Monastery has included the study of both the traditional Zen arts, as well as contemporary art forms, to delve deep into the self. Art practice deals with the elements of the creative process: the artist and the tools, the relationships between artist and subject, artist and object, and object and audience. Together, these interactions show us that creativity is an inherent human process, not distinct from life itself.

In the training program of the Mountains and Rivers Order, the Zen arts are taken up as a powerful and subtle way of realizing the Buddha Way in one’s own creative expression. The implicit question, What is the self that is expressed in self-expression?  not only addresses the creative process but the ultimate nature of reality itself.

Source: Mountains and Rivers website


Jacqueline Baas: Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art

Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art
Jacquelyn Baas


One has not understood until one has forgotten it.
– D. T. Suzuki

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