Zen culture

chanoyu_nobukoChanoyu par N. Matsumiya, tea master

Buddhism, transmitted from India to the North, has permeated Chinese, Korean and Japanese culture. Painting, calligraphy, flower arranging, tea ceremony, stone and moss gardens, are all artistic expressions that blend intimately with the Zen tradition in Japan, and fill one with wonder through their simplicity of means and spontaneity of action.
A simple cup of tea, clear and lucid words, a single leaf on a branch, the play of rocks on gravel, provide the intuitive understanding of the impermanence of all phenomena. As with the cry of the crow announcing winter, the artistic gift serves the Way. The practice of non-duality, the return to the source, forgetting oneself, and silence, become expressions of everyday life, and the arts are part of this. Human being's creative works leave no traces.
The creation of monastic gardens stimulates contemplation. The most famous dry garden is the one at Ryoan-ji in Kyoto. The miniaturizations of the monk, Musô (1275-1351), blend together trees, moss, rocks and water, and its powerful imagery awakens a desire to stroll within its bounds.
The origin of Ikebana is kyoka (the offering of flowers at Buddhist temples), which developed in the sixth century in China, spreading later to Japan. Nowadays, it is secularized and includes many schools in Japan and the West.
The monk Sennô-Rikkyu (1522-1591) had a profound influence on the tea ceremony. Zen monks, through their relationships with the nobility, developed a way of serving tea (cha-no-yu) by creating a space that appealed to humility. Tranquility, purity and reverence have become virtues of this way.
Since the Chinese era, the art of calligraphy has been used to copy and to transmit Buddhist sutras. Thus, in the seventh century in Japan, the prince Shotoku, the first patron of Buddhism, calligraphied the commentaries on the Lotus Sutra.
From 1600 to today, Zen masters have created zenga - a form of Zen teaching recreating most often the great themes of this tradition; dharma poems and words are calligraphied with bold strokes of the brush.

Inès Doshin Igelnick.

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