Wednesday, March 16, 2011


What is the sound of one hand clapping? Don't ask me, I'm not a big clapper. Japanese Zen Master Hakuin ("shrouded in white"), however, asked this question pretty much of everyone he knew until he figured it out for himself. Born in 1686, he achieved enlightment by the time he was forty-one and spent the second forty years of his life trying to get all of his deciples there too. He was widely reknowned for his emphasis on the intense study of koans, a concept in Zen buddhism of meditating at length on an abstract concept or statement until you understand it. Between doing this all the time, he also mananged to make some of the greatest calligraphy drawings to come out of Japan for this period of time. His works are stunning in their illustrative and comical nature, as well as the ease and subtle strength of each brush stroke. His antromorphised animals are charming, especially the sumor wrestling rats. It's amazing how close this man's work, put to page over 300 years ago, manages to retain its relevance and beauty in a way most modern animation could never achieve.

If you're in the New Orleans area, the New Orleans Museum of Art is hosting an exhibit of Hakuin's work throughout this and next month. These and many other classic Hakuin pieces are on display, and frankly, the computer does not do them justice.

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