Sunday, November 8, 2009

Brush Sweeps Mind

In Chinese Brush Painting class, we always start with calligraphy, as is traditional. One practices the strokes in calligraphy, then applies them in painting.

Our teacher, Mr. Kwok Kay Choey, explains the composition and origin of the characters. Some are a teaching in themselves.


The radical on the left means "heart/mind"; the character on the right means "my." Together, it means "awakening." If you know your own heart and mind, you have awakened.


The top portion depicts reeds or branches and means "broom" or "sweep." In the middle, we see dust in a dustpan. At the bottom, "heart/mind." Your heart and mind swept clean of dust: that describes the state of enlightenment.

This reminds me always of a saying by Jakusho Kwong Roshi, a successor of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi: "breath sweeps mind." I have a CD set of talks by Jakusho Kwong which I am slowly making my way through. "Breath sweeps mind" is an often helpful gatha for me as I try to settle into meditation.

No Fear

I think of this concept now as "no more fear," because of Mr. Choey's explanation of the character. The top portion, "No," depicts a person carrying wood. All of the timber has been carried away from the hillside, there is "no more," it has been taken away. The bottom portion means "Fear": on the left, the heart/mind radical; on the left, the character for an owl with its two big eyes. I have to admit I'm not clear on this last part, so I will ask Mr. Choey for clarification and update this post later.

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