Haiga and Haiku. Part 2.

The images and text are from Haiku, Volume 1, Eastern Culture by R. H. Blyth, published by Hokuseido in Japan. No year of copyright.

The following text is from the book. Bold passages are intended for emphasis and are not part of the original text.

The picture of Eno’s enlightenment (seen below)


is a very strange one, in that it lacks the violence and grimness of Zenga, Zen paintings. It is not fanciful, I think, to see in the quiet sweetness of this picture, so inward in its quality, something which was to develop into haiga, something that belongs rather to Jodo and Shin than Zen. We may contrast his enlightenment with that of St. Paul. The subdued feeling of Shuai Weng’s picture is far from the thunder and lightning on the way to Damascus. Yet Eno’s listening to the words of the Diamond Sutra meant as much for the culture and religion of Japan as did St. Paul’s conversion for those of Europe. Eno gave to Chinese and Japanese Zen its direction towards practicality which resulted in their application to haiku and the Way of Haiku in daily life. The verse (composed within the haiga) is

The bundle is carried firmly on his shoulder;
Before him, this way home has no obstructions.
“Awaken the mind without fixing it anywhere”,
And he knows the house where the firewood burns.

The first line is the practical life, the second has symbolic meaning. The third is the line of the Diamond Sutra that he hears as he stands outside the house to which he has brought the firewood. The last again has a symbolic meaning, but the literal and symbolic are not really different here.

The handwriting (shown in the work below) says

Form is emptiness


This remarkable sentence, summing up in three words (four Chinese characters) the whole of Mahayana Buddhism, comes, like that of “Awaken the mind without fixing it anywhere”, from the Diamond Sutra. The writing is by Takuan a Japanese 17th century master of Zen. This “Form is emptiness” is the invisible seed which grew into what we call Eastern Culture. This is illustrated by Takuan’s calligraphy itself. Writing, like everything else, when it is being done perfectly, is performed with the awakened Mind, without any desire  of perfection, without any aim; it is done ‘meaninglessly’. When we look at the handwriting, when we follow, dynamically and creatively the course of the brush, so definite and yet so yielding, we realize that the form of the characters is a no-form. Statically, nothing exists at all; there is no writer, no brush, nothing written, only movement. And this movement is a no-movement, for to paraphrase Roshi;

A movement that can be moved (in speech or thought) is not an eternal movement.

Again, we have in this handwriting a perfect example of the “law” of “liberty”. The form of the characters is absolutely fixed; yet the writer is absolutely free.

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