Haiga and Haiku. Part 3.

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 interesting thing about Sengai’s picture of Tokusan and Ryuytan (below)


is the lack of beauty in the faces of the two people, and in the picture as a whole. Even if they had actually been a handsome couple, it would have been necessary to show them thus, because the picture is insisting on their deadly earnestness, on their souls, not on their appearance.  … Just as Zen is more important than beauty, so the significance of the subject is more important than the skill or technique in haiga. The verse printed in the haiga is:

Enlighten the Mind
Of the past, the present, the future.
Blow out the paper lantern,
And Mt. Kongo turns to ashes.

The picture of A Papa on a Pine Branch, below,


ascribed to the Chinese artist Mokkei, shows the direct application of Zen to art. Dr. D. T. Suzuki writes of this picture,

Is the pa-pa bird a kind of crow? It perches on an old pine tree symbolic of unbending strength. It seems to be looking down at something. The life of the universe pulsates through him, while quietness rules the enveloping nature. Here truly asserts the ancient spirit of solitude. This is when God has not yet given his fiat to the darkness of the unborn earth. To understand the working of the spirit in this, is not it the end of the Zen discipline?

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