The Art of Doing

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Zen master Tetsuo was so famous for his brush painting that many people came to him just to study art. He always used to tell prospective students, “You must remember the saying, ‘If you want to avoid depending on society, don’t let critism and praise disturb your heart.’ When you can cultivate your art without leaving any mundanity at all in your chest, then mind and technique will naturally mature, and you will eventually be able to arrive at the subtleties. This is the way out of darkness into light.”

Once a distinguished Confucian scholar and statesman came to visit Tetsuo. Observing the Zen master executing a painting, the scholar noted that every move of the master’s arm and brush was in conformity with classical principals of calligraphy. When he remarked upon this, the Zen master explained, “In terms of correctness of mind, calligraphy and painting are one. When I make a painting. If so much as one cane of bamboo or one leaf on a tree is even slightly off from the way the stroke should be, I tear the whole thing up and throw it away, then put aside my brush, sit quietly, and clarify mind.

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