Artistic principles and aesthetic ideals of Zen


Aesthetic  principles of Zen and its

Table 1. Artistic principles and aesthetic ideals of Zen
in the Structure of Primordial Essences and Phenomenal Worlds

(Completeness and unity of all richness,
sublimity and spiritual
level of emotional experience).
Social World
The Four Sublime
States of Buddhism
1. Loving-kindness
or benevolence
2. Compassion
3. Empathetic joy
4. Equanimity
Sympathetic resonance
with environment
Shintō sencibility to
“the vitality and mood of things”
The pathos of things
Refined sensitivity to things
Sensitivity to ephemera
“The ‘ahh-ness’ of things”
Immediate emotional
reaction “Oh”
An empathy toward things
Emotional receptivity Heightens
appreciation of beauty
Beauty of impermanence
Sensitivity to the unavoidable transience
Gentle sadness about transience.


Deep sense of pathos
Transversal deep beauty
Sad and poignant beauty

(Emptiness–as the source for the endless possibilities, as unknown treasure and bottomless mystery).
Symbolic World
Indeterminacy of meaning
Chan Buddhism concept no-mind (C.wuxin; J.mushin)
– free, spontaneous mind that is related to “deep”, “shadowy-ness”, formless, “dimness” “enigma”, “profound mysterious” of “myriad things”.
Mysterious profundity
Subtle profundity
sad beauty
Hints at a meaning
Profound grace and subtlety


(Reality as it is)
External reality
Awakening and approval of universal creative spirit of nature and ultimate essence of truth, innate
beauty (bi) and harmony (wa)

Unity of truth and beauty.
Genuineness of asthetic and cosmic creativity.
Tranquility and creative
Furyu (“wind and stream”)
Free and extravagant spirit.
Creative forces of the Nature.
Fūryū -“the most elegant and refined simplicity.
Myo – the mysterious inner state which is related to post- enlightenment
playful sense of wonder.
Fueki Ryuko –
constancy  and change
Enso – enlightenment, satory, elegance, universal strength.
Creative contemplative mood, refined aesthetic sensitivity
and subtle attentiveness.
Beyond beauty and ugliness.


Internal Reality
(Interconnection of
all things,  generating
innate fabric
and “suchness”
of the Being)
Objective World
The object and subject
in their natural
and self-worth.
Austere, rustic
Rustic simplicity
Stark beauty
solitary beauty.
proud loneliness
Concentration of
inner strength.
upon ego
and material world.
Deliverance from
Getting rid of excess,
redundant and pretence
Three Buddhist characteristics
of all existence and beings:
1. Impermanence: transience
2. Unsatisfactoriness or suffering: imperfect,
incomplete, asymmetry,
roughness, flawed beauty
3. Non-self: austerity,
modesty, humility,
serene melancholy

Palpable sense of the passage of time.
Imperfection incomplete.
Non-attachment Loneliness
and Tranquility
Simplicity, naturalness
Simple, subtle, and
unobtrusive beauty
(Inner freedom as a way to overcome variability fragility and irreversibility, as a chance to master time)
Inner world
Individual attitude
Unique subjective view toward an objects. The unity of object  and   subject internal life.
Desolate, subtle beauty
Archaic, natural patina, “rust” and aging.
Patina and wear as
evidence of impermanence.
Serenity that comes with age.
Pensive sheen of antiquity. Serenity impermanence.
Elegant withering
Subtle melancholy feeling. Intuition.
Perfection of imperfection
Authenticity intimacy
Tranquility, aloneness, deep solitude esolateness.
Existential loneliness.
Receptive state of mind.
Uniqueness of human experience
Loneliness as liberation from a commonness
Contemplation of the “bloom of time”, its flows and creations


 Table 2. Manifestation of Zen aesthetic principles in painting







Table 3. Manifestation of principles of Zen aesthetics in daily life







Table 4. Manifestation of Zen aesthetic principles in Haiku poetry

A monk sips morning tea, it’s quiet, the chrysanthemum’s flowering.
Matsuo Bashō (1644 – 1694)

Scent of plum blossoms
on the misty mountain path a big rising sun
Matsuo Bashō

Ballet in the air!―
two butterflies, twice white, meet, mate, unite.
Matsuo Basho

My eyes, having observed
everything, returned
to the white chrysanthemums.
Kosugi Isshō (1652 – 1688)

Covered with the flowers,
Instantly I’d like to die
In this dream of ours!
Ochi Etsujin (1655 – 1739)

see how the wild violets bloom within the forbidden fences!
Shida Yaba (1662 – 1740)

A white swan parts the cherry-petalled pond
with her motionless breast.
Roka (1671-1703)

Wild roses in bloom
–so like a pathway in,
or toward, my home village.
Yosa Buson (1716 – 1783)

Blossoms on the pear tree, lighten by the moonlight, and there
a woman is reading a letter.
Yosa Buson

With sorrow while coming
upon the hill
– flowering wild roses.
Yosa Buson

Listening to the moon,
gazing at the croaking of frogs in a field of ripe rice.
Yosa Buson

To my eyes how delightful
the fan of my beloved is,
in complete white.
Yosa Buson

To reveal the flower
Of your heart
Sway, you summer grove.
Tagami Kikusha-Ni (1753-1826)

To reveal the flower
Of your heart
Sway, you summer grove.
Tagami Kikusha-Ni

Morning glories –
in the evening we delight
in the buds.
Tagami Kikusha-Ni

Blossoms at night,
and the faces of people
moved by music.
Kobayashi Issa (1763 – 1828)

In the thicket’s shade
a woman by herself
singing the rice-planting song.
Kobayashi Issa

In these latter-day,
Degenerate times,
Cherry-blossoms everywhere!
Kobayashi Issa

Overdressed for
my thatched hut:
a peony blossoms.
Kobayashi Issa

Peonies blossom;
the world is full of fibbers.
Kobayashi Issa

fanning out its tail
in the spring breeze,
see—a peacock!
Masaoki Shiki

As thunder recedes
a lone tree stands illuminated in sunlight:
applauded by cicadas
Masaoka Shiki

Entangled with
the scattering cherry blossoms—
the wings of birds!
Masaoki Shiki

Murmurs follow the hay cart this blossoming summer day.
Ippekiro Nakatsuka (1887–1946).

Girls gather sprouts of rice: reflections of the water flicker
on the backs of their hats.
Kyoshi Takahama (1874 –1959)

Falling snowflakes’
glitter tinsels the sea.
Inahata Teiko (b.1931)

Snow-obscured heights,
mist-shrouded slopes:
this spring evening.
Ilio Sōgi (1421–1502)

Soundlessly they go,
the herons passing by: arrows of snow
filling the sky.
Yamazaki Sōkan (1465–1553)

A fallen blossom
returning to the bough,
I thought-
But no, a butterfly.
Arakida Moritake (1473– 1549)

In my hut this spring
there is nothing –
there is everything
Sodo (1641-1715)

A hill without a name
Veiled in morning mist.
Matsuo Bashō 

The sea darkening,
the voices of the wild ducks:
my mysterious companions!
Matsuo Basho

In the dense mist
what is being shouted
between hill and boat?
Matsuo Basho

The sea darkens —
Faintly white
A wild duck’s call
Matsuo Basho

From time to time
The clouds give rest
To the moon-beholders.
Matsuo Bashō

Harvest moon . . .
smoke goes creeping
over the water.
Hattori Ransetsu (1654 – 1707)

Useless dreams, alas!
Over desolate fields
winds whisper as they pass.
Uejima Onitsura (1661 – 1738)

like the shadows of crows
cast by a lonely moon.
Kaga no Chiyo
(1703 – 1775)

Ah butterfly,
what dreams do you ply
with your beautiful wings?
Kaga no Chiyo

Hazy moonlight —
someone is standing
among the pear trees.
Yosa Buson (1716 – 1783)

the sound of the bell
as it leaves the bell.
Yosa Buson

Light of the moon
Moves west, flowers’ shadows
Creep eastward.
Yosa Buson

In pale moonlight
the wisteria’s scent
comes from far away.
Yosa Buson

Spring stirs the clouds
in the sky’s teabowl.
Tagami Kikusha-Ni

A giant firefly:
That way, this way,
that way, this –
and it passes by.
Kobayashi Issa

Composedly he sits
contemplating the mountains–
the worthy frog!
Kobayashi Issa

The woman
leads into the mist
low-tide beach
Kobayashi Issa

Summer night–
even the stars
are whispering to
each other.
Kobayashi Issa

Rowing through
out of the mist
the wide sea.
Masaoka Shiki

A gold bug –
I hurl into the darkness
and feel the depth of night.
Takahama Kyoshi

Pulling light
from the other world . . .
the Milky Way
Yatsuka Ishihara (1919–1998)


How I long to see
among the morning flowers the face of God.
Matsuo Bashō (1644 – 1694)

How admirable!
to see lightning and not think life is fleeting.
Matsuo Bashō

shatters the darkness―
the night heron’s shriek.
Matsuo Basho

Seek on high bare trails sky-reflecting
Mountain-top jewels.
Matsuo Bashō

A flash of lightning:
Into the gloom
Goes the heron’s cry.
Matsuo Bashō

White cloud of mist
above white
cherry-blossoms. . .
Dawn-shining mountains.
Matsuo Bashō

Ple bells die out.
The fragrant blossoms remain.
A perfect evening!
Matsuo Bashō

Wake! The sky is light!
let us to the road
again . . .
Companion butterfly!
Matsuo Bashō

Snow whispering down
All day long earth has vanished
Leaving only sky.
Naito Joso (1662–1704)

I hung the moon on various
branches of the pine
Tachibana Hokushi (1665-1718)

From the mind
of a single, long vine
one hundred opening lives.
Kaga no Chiyo

The temple bells grow silent
but the blossoms provide
their incense―
A perfect evening!
Matsuo Basho

The winter river;
down it come floating
flowers offered to Buddha.
Yosa Buson

My only creed–
The mountain of treasure.
The six-petaled flowers of snow.
Tagami Kikusha-Ni

For a while
I forget there are sins – this cool moon.
Tagami Kikusha-Ni

A lovely thing to see:
through the paper window’s hole,
the Galaxy.
Kobayashi Issa

Trusting the Buddha,
good and bad,
I bid farewell To the departing year.
Kobayashi Issa

A world of dew,
and within every dewdrop
a world of struggle
Kobayashi Issa

Buddha Law,
in leaf dew.
Kobayashi Issa

O snail
Climb Mount Fuji,
But slowly, slowly!
Kobayaski Issa

Under the image of Buddha
all these spring flowers seem a little tiresome.
Kobayashi Issa

In this world
we walk on the roof of hell, gazing at flowers.
IKobayashi Issa

No sky, no land:
just snow eternally falling.
Kajiwara Hashin (1864-?)

In the coolness
gods and Buddhas
dwell as neighbors.
Masaoki Shiki

I turn my back
on Buddha and face
the cool moon.
Masaoki Shiki

Silently observing
the bottomless mountain lake:
water lilies.
Inahata Teiko

Blizzards here on earth, blizzards of stars in the sky.
Inahata Teiko

Winter solitude–
in a world of one color
the sound of wind.
Matsuo Bashō
(1644 – 1694)Spring rain
leaking through the roof
dripping from the wasps’ nest.
Matsuo Bashō

Awake at night-
the sound of the water jar
cracking in the cold.
Matsuo Bashō

Cold night: the wild duck,
sick, falls from the sky
and sleeps awhile.
Matsuo Bashō

Coolness of the melons
flecked with mud
in the morning dew.
Matsuo Bashō

Moonless night…
a powerful wind embraces
the ancient cedars.
Matsuo Bashō

Moonlight slanting
through the bamboo grove;
a cuckoo crying.
Matsuo Bashō

It has rained enough
to turn the stubble
on the field black.
Matsuo Bashō

A wild sea—
stretching to Sado Isle
the Milky Way
Matsuo Bashō

Sea darkens
calls of the wild ducks
go faintly white
Matsuo Bashō

This road:
no one to go with
autumn dusk
Matsuo Bashō

The lillies!
The stems, just as they are, the flowers, just as they are.
Matsuo Bashō

First snow
falling on the half-finished bridge.
Matsuo Bashō

Snowy morning–
one crow
after another.
Matsuo Bashō

The pine-tree of Karasaki
More dim and vague than
the cherry-blossom.
Matsuo Bashō

Around the town
the smells of things –
summer moon.
Nozawa Bonchō

At an eagle’s nest
on dead camphor branches
the sun goes down.
Nozawa Bonchō

Throwing away the ashes,
The white plum-blossoms
Became cloudy.
Nozawa Bonchō

a single chestnut leaf glides on brilliant water
Ryuin (?-1690)

The bitter winter wind
ends here
with the frozen sea
Ikenishi Gonsui

An autumn eve;
There is joy too,
In loneliness.
Yosa Buson

A harsh-rasping saw…
music of cold-poverty
in the winter midnight
Yosa Buson

Washing the hoe–
ripples on the water;
far off, wild ducks.
Yosa Buson

Fruitless blossoms
Are beaten by the rain
In the melon fields.
Yosa Buson

The moon
and just myself remain.
evening coolness on the bridge.
Tagami Kikusha-Ni

Even wearing a staw raincoat
I like to travel –
rain on the blossoms
Tagami Kikusha-Ni

Autumn wind –
mountain’s shadow
Kobayashi Issa

Everything I touch
with tenderness, alas,
pricks like a bramble.
Kobayashi Issa

Over the wintry
forest, winds howl in rage
with no leaves to blow.
Natsume Soseki
(1867 – 1916)

The crow has flown away:
swaying in the evening sun, a leafless tree.
Natsume Soseki

At the full moon’s
rising, the silver-plumed reeds tremble
Masaoki Shiki

Night; and once again,
the while I wait for you,
cold wind turns into rain.
Masaoka Shiki

After the thunder-shower
one tree in evening sunlight a cicada’s cry
Masaoka Shiki

The moon
hovering above the snow-capped mountains
rained down hailstones.
Sekitei Hara

The frozen moon,
the frozen lake:
two oval mirrors
reflecting each other.
Hashimoto Takako




Painting by Morikawa Kyoriku

Kareeda ni
karasu no tomarikeri
aki no kure.

On a bare branch
a crow is perched
– autumn evening.
Matsuo Bashō


Furuike ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu no oto.

Old pond,
frog jumps in
– splash.
Matsuo Bashō

Life: a solitary butterfly
swaying unsteadily on
a slender stalk of grass,
nothing more. But so exquisite!
Nishiyama Soin

The dragonfly
can’t quite land
on that blade of grass.
Matsuo Bashō

The pine tree of Shiogoshi
Trickles all night long
Shiny drops of moonlight.
Matsuo Bashō

Autumn moonlight–
a worm digs silently
into the chestnut.
Matsuo Bashō

A bee
staggers out
of the peony.
Matsuo Bashō

Atop the mushroom
who knows from where
a leaf!
Matsuo Bashō

Heat waves shimmering
one or two inches
above the dead grass.
Matsuo Bashō
First whiteSnow of fall
just enough to bend
the leaves
Of faded daffodils.
Matsuo Bashō

Mountain-rose petals
falling, falling, falling now
. . . Waterfall music.
Matsuo Bashō

No one
walks along this path
this autumn evening.
Matsuo Bashō

The year’s first day …
thoughts come,
and with them, loneliness;
dusk approaches.
Matsuo Basho

The first soft snow:
leaves of the awed jonquil bow low.
Matsuo Basho

Like a heavy fragrance
snow-flakes settle:
lilies on rocks
Matsuo Basho

Now the swinging bridge
Is quieted with creepers
Like our tendrilled life.
Matsuo Bashō

Dead my old fine hopes
And dry my dreaming but still…
Iris, blue each spring.
Ume Shuushiki

I go,
you stay;
two autumns.
Yosa Buson

Before the white chrysanthemum
the scissors hesitate
a moment.
Yosa Buson

Lighting one candle
with another candle–
spring evening.
Yosa Buson

Blow of an ax,
pine scent,
the winter woods.
Yosa Buson

My arm for a pillow,
I really like myself
under the hazy moon.
Yosa Buson

Evening wind:
water laps
the heron’s legs.
Yosa Buson

Not quite dark yet
and the stars shining
above the withered fields.
Yosa Buson

This being alone
may even be a kind
of happy autumn dusk.
Yosa Buson

Winter rain on moss
soundlessly recalls those
happy by gone days.
Yosa BusonThis world
we pass on a rush leaf –
not one thing.
Tagami Kikusha-NiThe first firefly…
But he got away and I…
Air in my fingers.
Kobayashi IssaA huge frog and I,
staring at each other,
neither of us moves.
Kobayashi Issa

Ducks bobbing on the water-are they also, tonight, hoping to get lucky?
Kobayashi Issa

At sunset this fall
Evening, I wrote on a wall:
I’ve gone on ahead.
Kobayashi Issa

Dew evaporates
And all our world is dew
. . . so dear,
So fresh, so fleeting.
Kobayashi Issa

my fishing line –
the summer moon.
Kaga no Chiyo

My life, –
How much more of it remains?
The night is brief.
Masaoka Shiki

First autumn morning
the mirror I stare into
shows my father’s face.
Murakami Kijo
(1865 – 1938)

Winter waves
roil their own shadows
Tominaga Fûsei

Pale mountain sky:
cherry petals play
as they tumble earthward.
Kusama Tokihiko



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