Zen in the Arts (Allan Watts) & new paintings

Here it is: a new fragment from the beautiful (and for artists, useful) essay of Watts… and also some of the paintings I`ve finished (or almost) lately…

” Absence of hurry also involves a certain lack of interference with the natural course of events, especially when it is felt that the natural course follows principles which are not foreign to human intelligence. For, as we have seen, the Taoist mentality makes, or forces, nothing but “grows” everything. When human reason is seen to be an expression of the same spontaneuous balance of yang and yinas the natural universe, man’s action upon his environment is not felt as a conflict, an action from outside. thus the difference between forcing and growing cannot be expressed in terms of specific directions as to what should or should not be done, for the difference lies primarily in the quality and feeling of the action. The difficulty of describing these things for Western ears is that people in a hurry cannot feel.

The expression of this whole atitude in the arts is perhaps best approacehd through painting and poetry.


Although it may seem that the arts of Zen are confined to the more refined expressions of culture, it should be remembered that almost every profession and craft is known in Japan as a do, that is, a Tao or Way, not unlike what used to be known in the west as a “mystery”. To some extent, every do was at one time a lay method of learning the principles which are embodied in Taoism, Zen, and Confucianism, even as modern Masonry is a survival from times when the craft of the mason was a means of initiation into a spiritual tradition. Even in modern Osaka some of the older merchants follow a do or way of commerce based upon shingaku-a system of psychology closely related to Zen.


After the persecution of Chinese Buddhism in 845, Zen was for some time not only the dominant form of Buddhism but also the most powerful spiritual influence in the growth of Chinese culture. this influence was at its heights during the Southern SUNG dynasty (1127-1279), and during this time the Zen monasteries became leading centers of Chinese scholarship. Lay scholars, confucian and Taoist alike, visited them for periods of study, and Zen monks in turn familiarized themselves with Chinese classical studies. Since writing and poetry were among the chief preoccupations of Chinese scholars, and since the Chinese way of painting is closely akin to writing, the roles of scholar, artist, and poet were not widely separated. the Chinese gentleman-scholar was not a specialist, and it was quite against the nature of the Zen monk to confine his interests and activities to purely “religious” affairs. The result was a tremendous cross-fertilization of philosophical, scholarly, poetic, and artistic pursuits in which the Zen and Taoist feeling for “naturalness” became the dominant note. It was during the same period that Eisai and Dogen came from Japan to return with Zen to their own country, to be followed by an incessant stream of Japanese scholar-monks eager to take home not only Zen but every other aspect of Chinese culture. Shiploads of monks, amounting almost to flating monasteries, plied between China and Japon, carrying not only sutras and Chinese classical books, but also tea, silk, pottery, incense, paintings, drugs, musical instruments and every refinement of Chinese culture-not to mention Chinese artists and craftsmen.”


(c) Copyright for the images Dan Iordache, 2009


2 responses to “Zen in the Arts (Allan Watts) & new paintings

  1. Pingback: Zen in the Arts (Allan Watts) & new paintings

  2. Greatings, Thanks for article. Everytime like to read you.

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