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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 28 | volume V | September-October, 2002



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                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 28September-October, 2002
Essays

Zen in the Japanese arts

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p. 1
Draško Mitrikjeski

     According to the Buddhist legend, one day Buddha entered the assembly hall where monks were gathered to receive the instructions and, instead of delivering a sermon or organizing the practice, he simply lifted a flower. The monks were confused. Only Kasyapa smiled upon which Buddha acknowledged his enlightenment. Zen Buddhists believe that at that moment the Dharma was transmitted from Buddha to Kasyapa. Therefore, they consider Kasyapa as their First Patriarch and the founder of their lineage. But, what did Kasyapa realize? This is the question that is most difficult to answer. Even Paul Williams, one of the foremost Buddhist scholars, said, “What Mahakasyapa understood I, alas, do not know!” (113). Zen Buddhists insist that the transmission of Dharma is outside the Scriptures, not dependent on books and letters. This statement makes speaking of Zen almost impossible. Yet, it is not impossible to point at it. Of course, the warning that needs to be given here is that, at best, the explanation could serve as a finger pointing to the moon but it will not be the moon itself.
     Attempting to point at Zen or, to explain indirectly what Zen is, I would like to discuss briefly a few Buddhist doctrines that influenced it and then to discuss several artistic expressions of the Zen masters.
     In any form of Buddhism, the key issue is the suffering and the goal is the elimination of the suffering. Therefore, I would like to approach three doctrines (or, rather, the evolution of one doctrine in three stages) that influenced Zen, focusing on the understanding of the origin of the suffering and the best means to eliminate it. First of all, Zen is one branch of a wide movement in Buddhism that is commonly known under the name – Mahahana. One of the key concepts of all Mahayana schools is the doctrine of sunyata or emptiness. This doctrine was first developed in the body of literature commonly known as Prajnaparamita, or the Perfection of Wisdom. A work by the second century Indian monk Nagarjuna, Mulamadhyamakakarika (The fundamental verses of the Middle Way), was the philosophical summary of the Prajnaparamita literature and the doctrine of emptiness was established as the central Buddhist tenet. The doctrine of emptiness, in short, says that no phenomenon has independent existence. But, that means literally – no phenomenon has independent existence, including the mind, the empty space, the Buddha, the






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