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The zen principles in relation to the zen garden

Japanese Zen gardens were originally inspired by sumi-e ink paintings and garden designs brought over from China after the re-establishment of diplomatic relations during the Kamakura and Muromachi periods. Essential elements of these imports, such as the use of negative space, simplicity, rusticity, understatement and yugen the expression of deep mysteryare all invoked in Zen gardens.

It is important to remember, however, that while many things — from garden designs to electronics — have been imported to Japan, the nation has excelled at developing them to a level that often surpasses the originals.

Though many of the concepts important in Japanese culture are not unique to either Zen or Japan, they are definitely more prevalent and powerful here. Also, symmetrical compositions are eschewed in favor of a taut yet fragile balance that takes a lifetime to perfect.

  1. Shibui literally means bitter tasting. Nature itself is full of beauty and harmonious relationships that are asymmetrical yet balanced.
  2. Both have a part in Zen music.
  3. It is primarily a melodic instrument an open, vertical flute and is extremely difficult to play; the performer gently coaxes the tones out of the instrument, producing an incredible variety of timbre and pitch gradation. Physical spaces are an inseparable reflection of mental states.
  4. Although aesthetic tastes may vary, most people aspire to elegance and simplicity , two of the hardest attributes to accomplish.
  5. Each sound has its own rhythmic point in space time, and is not thought of as part of a pattern based on fixed clock time; it is itself and not related to any imaginary superimposed pattern. It lies in being able to express, at the level of artistry, the realization of that ultimate standpoint from which "anything goes" and at which "all things are on one suchness.

Zen gardens tend to be rather small, with the tiniest ones, called bonseki, created in small trays similar to bonsai another import from China. There are several types of Zen gardens, the most prominent being the dry rock type, called karesansui, literally meaning dry-mountain-and-water gardens. Gravel and rocks have been used to denote sacred areas of Japan since time immemorial, so the development of rock gardens to express Zen thought was an easy transition.

These gardens seek to replicate the deep calm of pristine nature in a highly stylized manner. Water is often represented with sand or pebbles; mountains with stone; and islands with masses of moss or rock material.

  • Subtlety The importance of not revealing everything in a single impression;
  • Both have a part in Zen music;
  • In graphic design too asymmetrical balance is a dynamic, beautiful thing;
  • Roughly stated, noise is heard, music is listened to; this is not a general definition, but the subjectivism should be clear;
  • In the name of Zen, he has forsaken his earlier and promising work with the "prepared piano," to confront audiences with Ampex taperecorders simultaneously bellowing forth random noises.

An excellent example of this type of garden can be seen at Tenryuji Temple, the first of the five great Zen temples of Kyoto. This arrangement refers to a Zen fable about fish that had the strength and willpower to swim up a waterfall. At the top, they metamorphosed into dragons. The story is supposed to inspire inner strength and discipline, central to Zen training.

As part of the Zen daily ritual, this garden is raked in the image of a flowing river, complete with detailed water eddies. The power of this garden, however, emerges from its silence and ability to still the mind.

The garden of Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto, created in 1499, is one of the oldest and the most photographed examples of Zen rock gardens. The wall that frames this small rectangle of raked white pebbles sets the tone of wabi sabi, expressing humble simplicity and the passage of time. Within the rectangle, 15 stones are arranged in seemingly random groups amid small ripples of circularly raked gravel.

This wall is low enough to screen out the busy surroundings while allowing the greenery beyond to be incorporated into the composition. Zen priests often used distant mountains and views as design elements in their tiny gardens, a principle called shakkei borrowed scenery.

In these gardens, minimalism is played out to the extreme and then broken by an artistic flourish or individuality typical of Zen, bringing a smile to even the most jaded viewer.

  • In the name of Zen, he has forsaken his earlier and promising work with the "prepared piano," to confront audiences with Ampex taperecorders simultaneously bellowing forth random noises;
  • The Wabi-Sabi values of rusticity, elegance, quiet taste and refined beauty have been inspiring Japanese artists for centuries, and artists continue to be inspired by these values to this day;
  • Austerity The concept of koko stresses the importance of absence and omission;
  • The power of this garden, however, emerges from its silence and ability to still the mind;
  • So Zen leaves space open for co-creation;
  • The wall that frames this small rectangle of raked white pebbles sets the tone of wabi sabi, expressing humble simplicity and the passage of time.

The abundant and varied moss that has accumulated over the years is a successful joint venture of man and nature. This is also a stroll garden, another type of Zen garden, that attempts to create the illusion of a long journey within a limited space, which, in this case, wraps around a pond.

  1. Simplicity Exemplified by the concept of kanso, simplicity suggests that beauty and usefulness should not be expressed excessively; it is not necessary to gloat or to decorate exorbitantly.
  2. The difference between noise and music is in the approach of the audience.
  3. As might be expected, violent reactions have issued from conservative quarters, and Alan Watts was moved to protest 1959.
  4. Zen, with its millenary tradition, inspired in the rhythms of nature, meditation and silence, is indubitably a good starting point for those who wish to reflect upon ideal harmonic designs, in this manner, attributing space not only with an aesthetic dimension but also a liveable one. Sounds take their being from silence and return to it.
  5. They are places of meditation.

This concept was adapted by the Chinese, who punctuated their stroll gardens with symbols of the Buddhist universe, purifying the mind with each encounter. The sukiya aesthetics that blossomed along with the art of wabi-sabi tea had a significant influence on architecture and garden design as well. This symbiotic relationship can be seen in the Katsura Detached Palace in Kyoto, which is more a collection of tea huts in a lovely garden than a palace.

The rooms are sparsely decorated so the focus remains on the garden.

Zen & the Japanese Arts

The humble materials used, such as wood, bamboo and reed, are meant to please but not impress. Zen also influenced another garden type, the tiny tsubo 3. The challenge here is to bring the infinite wilderness into a tiny space.

Japanese rock garden

The views into these gardens are cropped like a frame crops a photo, allowing a glimpse that may hint at the great outdoors, without ever showing the smallness of the space in its entirety.

Understanding the mind and nature is a hallmark of Zen.

The zen principles in relation to the zen garden

Nature is studied deeply and manipulated to its essence in Zen gardens. A young bonsai pine is raised at the verge of starvation, given just enough water to survive but not enough to grow. The roots are trimmed to slow its growth and train it in a certain direction.

The nature of the Zen mind

As the tree matures, branches are tied downward, imitating the drooping branches of an old tree, and then lifted at the very tips in order to express vitality.

Nature is edited to perfection, and then perfection is edited back to nature, as when a priest sprinkles dry leaves on a freshly raked garden to break its perfection.

Garr Reynolds

These precious Zen gardens in Japan are the essential counterpoint to its chaotic cities and concrete-covered cities. So how does one rise above the din of one to see the other? In Zen, there is a word for the art of seeing only what you want to see, with pure eyes. It is called mitate.