Zen Masters-Clown Figures - ZEN AND THE COMIC SPIRIT Conrad...

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Unformatted text preview: ZEN AND THE COMIC SPIRIT Conrad Hyers Self-portrait in the image of Pu—tai H A KUIN g \V I THE WESTMINSTER PRESS 1 PHILADELPHIA v . ' ' “ | i I. '44 5"" x I i . ,II-“x'f' E I E I TWO Zen Masters and Clown Figures Monk: ‘During my travels since leaving Chang—an, I have never struck anyone with my staff} Chao-chou.‘ ' That proves that the stag you were , carrying was too short.' i TRANSMISSION OF THE LAMP One of the first impressions that one receives in reading tales of the often unorthodox lives and ways of many Zen masters is the peculiar correspondence between these figures and that of the clown. Regardless of the problem of authenticity, and the separation of legend from fact, this image is too common and consistent to be dismissed as simply a popular embellishment alien to the character and approach of the Zen master. Whether in part fictional (and therefore still of great symbolic impor- tance) or not, the historical records convey the persistent form of a personality and role to which the designation ‘clown' is not inappropriate. This is not to associate the concerns and intentions of Zen transmission with a vaudeville performance, but rather to indicate a level of comic freedom in which the Zen master lived, and the eccentricity of the techniques which he fre— quently employed, through his own ‘clownishness' or some humorous artifice, in order to evoke the spiritual awakening and development of his disciples. Nor is this to suggest a clown-figure in the sense of the playful buffoon, or of clown- ing simply for the sake of clowning — though this, too, may be involved. Rather, the term is used primarily in the sense of the clown who by his queer antics and strange attire, or by his ‘crazy sayings' and his ‘divine madness,’ gives expression to the special freedom he has attained, and who in that freedom “www-t-w Zen Masters and Clown Figures 39 reveals some truth through the outlandishness of his perform- ance, or in some bizarre way becomes the agent of salvation in a particular situation. Zen ‘Bufloonery' One of the immediate precursors of the Ch'an tradition, for example, Fu Ta~shih (Fu Daishi, 497—569), a layman, is Said to have been invited by the emperor Liang Wu—ti to expound the Diamond Sutra. As soon as he had ascended the seat for his exposition, the emperor listening intently, Fu Ta—shih rapped the table once with a stick and descended from his seat. He thereupon asked the startled emperor, ‘Does Your Majesty understand?’ ‘I do not!‘ the incredulous emperor replied. Fu Ta-shih said simply, ‘The Bodhisattva has finished ex- pounding the sutra." On a later visit it is said that he presented himself at the palace before the emperor wearing a hat, a monk's robe and a pair of shoes, it being accepted practice that a monk wears no hat, a Taoist no shoes, and a layman no monk's robe.2 A similar tale is associated with Kakua, reputedly the first japanese to study Zen in China, who upon returning was re— quested to address the emperor of Japan concerning all he had learned of this strange sect. Kakua produced a flute from the folds of his robe, blew one short note, and bowing politely, walked out.3 This appears to be the only record that has been preserved of Kakua. In stark contrast to the voluminous writings of so many prominent philosophers and theologians, East and West, Kakua left to posterity but one thing: a single note on the flute. Aside from the problem of legendary embellishment (or, in this case, abbreviation), the seemingly endless proliferation of like tales in Zen accounts is too conspicuous to be set aside as peripheral to the nature and method of Zen. It is apparent from the host of such anecdotes that have been preserved, and used in subsequent Zen pedagogy, that not only are the early masters depicted as commonly employing various comic tech- niques in their dealings with monks, laymen, and even local 4o Zen and the Comic Spirit and imperial dignitaries, but as themselves living in the spirit and style of‘ comic freedom. Notorious for their peculiarities and eccentricities, odd in their behaviour, and unorthodox in their methods, the Zen masters often suggest something of the trickster, prankster, jester, clown and fool all rolled into one. The Japanese traveller Ennin, who visited China from 838 to 847, having met Ch'an monks on several occasions, reported" that they were 'extremely unruly men at heart." Though this appears to be an unsympathetic observation on the part of one who was a member of the T'ien—t'ai (Tendai) sect, and who may have misunderstood and misconstrued what he saw, it points to a trait which is nevertheless there. It is a trait which, in some respects, is reminiscent of that delightful, playful and sagacious attribute which Lin Yutang called ‘the old roguery of the Chinese character.’5 In other respects one is reminded of the peculiarities of the early Franciscan monks who claimed an affinity with wandering troubadours and clowns, such as Friar Juniper who wore a ragged cowl and was called a block- head by the people, yet who was seen as having special powers in relation to the Devil, and whose strange antics were accepted as the sign of some special insight and grace. A similar move- ment is also found among the Holy Fools of the Greek and Russian Orthodox Church: through a divine madness, whether real or affected, they became 'fools for Christ's sake’ assuming the role of the clown as an authentic religious role, and in this way manifesting spirituality through acts of foolish— ness rather than piety. Selfishness and pride were conquered through an identification with the fool; and through comic exaggerations the folly of the people was dramatised and exposed.6 This is not to imply that all Zen masters are clown—figures or holy fools, or that all who achieve awakening within the tradition of Zen do so in the context of comic techniques. Rather attention is being called to a comic spirit and style which achieves its fullest acceptance and development, among Buddhist sects, within Zen, and to a remarkable procession of individualists — one might even say ‘characters’ — who often Wm— Zen Masters and Clown Figures 41 appear to be as much at home in the comic as perusing their biographies, and their k6ans andtlirfoiijiiirsedoli: has the distinct impression ‘of being witness to a Buddhist circus. There is Hsiieh—féng (Seppo, 822—908) who like the clown that plays at juggling, used to toy with three wooden balls, and who, when a monk would come to him to learn of Zen aqd the Zen way, would simply begin rolling the balls about. There is Shih—t’ou (Sekito, 700—790) who when anyone would ask him to interpret some aspect of Buddhism would llke as not reply, ‘ Shut your mouth! No barking like 2i dog, please! 8 There is T'ien—lung (Tenryfi, d. 9th cent ) who when Chu—ti (Gutei, 9th century), earnestly seekin l1trli’e true path of the Buddha, solicited his direction without cgzom ment Simply lifted up one of his fmgers.9 There is Yiin—mEii (Ummon, 862/4—949) who would frequently respond what— ever the question, by yelling, ‘Kan!’ (No!), and ,Lin—chi (.Rinz‘ai, d. 867) who would shout the meaningless exclama- tion, Ifwatz! (Ho 0.” Ma—tsu (Baso, 709—788), also noted for his lion s roar, once shouted so loudly at a disciple that he was deafened for three days — and also thereby enlightened.ll There is Tao—lin (D6rin 8th centu , , _ ry) who was called the 'bird— master because he did his zazen seated in the crotch of a pit: tree, looking from a distance like a large magpie nest him- self.12 Or there is Te—ch'ing (15 54—1623), noted for helpin to rev1ve the Ch'an sect in the Ming dynasty, whose adogted name. was Han—shan (Kanzan), ‘Silly Mountain.’ The sgme trad-ition carries over into Japanese Zen, with such figures as Ryokwan of the soto sect. Apparently considered by nearby villagers to be borderin l ' . g on unacy, if not over th b d ' name means literally, ‘Great Fool'. It was he who6 or er, his A burglar fliiling to carry (fit/1e moon, It shines in from the window!13 This motley parade of individuals with their strange be- I i l I I l I ! 42 Zen and the Comic Spirit haviour and ‘holy foolislmess’ seems to file ,almost endlessly through the voluminous accounts of the C_Ih all/36111111352613. Though the purpose is, in a sense, qu1te SCI'IOUS anh t e jetting: acutely authoritarian, nevertheless the panorama a; 3 'IS 111;: comic quality intrinsic to it. Through riddles and flugfiter, through nonsense and insults, through scowhng ank. Eng and, ejaculation and silence, as well as through slapping, 1c mgntric striking, the point is made in, to say the least, a most ecce f manner. It is almost as if one were watching the capers o a troupe of clowns in a carnival, or an ancient ,Orlienta versioii1 of the slap-stick characters in a Marx brothers f1 111:. Brat, as if all profound comedy, one soon discovers that t e (c; of laughter is really oneself in the larger predicament an o y n“The familiar self-portrait of Hakuin (16.86—1769), the pivotal] figure of Japanese Rinzai Zen, lS illustrative 0}:- the mtentiforti:3 projection 011 the part of a Zen-master. oft eémaligedof m fool. Hakuin does not sketch himself in their ea ise pr n of an enlightened one, or even in the-realistichimagebo kaCd austere zenji, but as a bald, fat, cross—eyedlandbu‘pc b— ac the old man. (See plate 9.) The poem Hakum inscri e a ove portrait is even more revealing: In the realm of the thousand buddhas He is hated by the thousand buddhas; Among the crowd of demons He is detested by the crowd of demons. He crushes the silent-illumination heretics of today, ' And massacres the heterodox blind monies ofthis generation. ‘ ' lth blind old shavepate zliidss'iinorffoulness [ugliness] still to foulness.“ A similar portrait, possibly by a disciple and bearinghtlhe sarnle1 poem, depicts Hakuin as looking almost sheepis fy, pursed lips, out of the corner of his eyes —_through all 0 1vlv 1c , however, one can detect the sagacrous twmkle of onlesw 0 was not easily fooled by sanctimony and pretenSIon. 3nd in another sketch Hakuin goes so far as to g1ve 1115 me itatmg Zen Masters and Clown Figures 43 form the unmistakable shape and smirk of the pot-bellied Pu-tai. (See frontispiece.) The figure of the clown which-stands out here in relation to the person of the master emerges just as clearly in the various tales of Zen monks at the point of death. The classic instance is that of Teng Yin—feng (8th century) who, when he was about to die, asked, ‘1 have seen monks die sitting and lying, but have any died standing?’ ‘Yes, some,’ was the reply. “How about upside down ?' ‘Never have we seen such a thing!’ Whereé upon Teng stood on his head and died. When it was time to carry him to the funeral pyre he remained upside-down, to the wonder of those who came to view the remains, and the consternation of those who would dispose of them. Finally his younger sister, a nun, came and grumbling at him said, ‘When you were alive you took no notice of laws and customs, and even now that you are dead you are making a nuisance of yourself!’ And with that she poked him with her finger, felling him with a thud; and the procession carried him away to the crematorium.“5 In this way Teng, assuming what, from the remarks of his sister, was the not unfamiliar role of the clowm expressed his achievement of spiritual freedom, his liberation from a desperate clinging to life and anxiety over self, and therefore his transcendence of the problem of death. What was said by I] Pistoia of the famous Italian court-fool, Matello, on his death-bed could well be said of Teng Yin— feng: ‘With him, even Death made sport.’l7 There is here an element of both a Promethean laughter in the face of death, and a comic freedom within the larger freedom of enlighten- ment. The realisation ofan authentic liberation, as in so much of the Zen tradition, is attested by humour; and the symbol of that liberation is the paradoxical figure of the clown. The clown in most cultures, in fact, symbolises emancipa- tion and freedom, even though not necessarily in the most refmed or most spiritual sense. Often his antics are simply a retrogressive leap into the irresponsible freedom of the child, or a socially tolerated rebellion against virtue and authority. And partly because of this there is an understandable religious 44 Zen and the Comic Spirit suspicion of the clown, and an attempt to restrict and contain his liberties and profanations. The clown, nevertheless, in his capacity to stand apart from the crowd, its conventions and mores, is a useful symbol, and indeed a herald, of the unin— hibited spontaneity and joyful laughter of a spiritual freedom that lies beyond good and evil, not in regression but in tran- scendence, not in rebelliousncss but in emancipation. As Enid Welsford characterised the peculiar role of the clown-fool: 'Under the dissolvent influence of his personality the iron network of physical, social and moral law, which enmeshes us from the cradle to the grave, seems — for the moment — negli— gible as a web of gossamer. The Fool does not lead a revolt against the Law; he lures us into a region of the spirit where, as Lamb would put it, the writ does not rim.’18 In this we are given a hint, at least, as to the basis on which a recent master, Harada Sogaku (1871—1961), lecturing on the text of the third Case of the Wu—mEn-kuan (Mumonkan), could direct: ‘My admonition, then: Be a great fool! You know don't you, that there was a master who called himself just that [Ryokwan] ? Now, a petty fool is nothing but a worldling, but a Great Fool is a Buddha. Sikyamuni and Amitabha are themselves Great Fools, are they not?‘19 The Wisdom of Children and Fools The clown-figure is also a favourite motif appearing through- out the history of Zen painting. Two of the most popular subjects are the 'Ch'an fools' or ‘crazy beggars' Han-shan and Shih—té of the early T'ang dynasty (7th century). Usually depicted together, as in Yen-hui's diptych of the 12th century, both are represented as holy fools indulging in an hilarious mad—cap laughter — approximating, in fact, the sixth, lowest, most boisterous and presumably un—Buddha-like laughter on the scale of the Indian scholastics. According to Zen accounts Han—shan and Shih-té had the appearance of tramps, the demeanour of madmen, and the comportment of pranksters. Han-shan is characteriSed as dressed in tattered clothing, with a nest of birch-bark for a hat, and shoes too large for his feet — Zen Masters and Clown Figures 45 the epitome of the clown. Frequently visiting the Kuo—ch'ing monastery at T'ieu-tai, the temporarily tolerated visitor might be fed with the remnants from the monks' table. And when eventually ushered out of the monastery he would laugh and clap his hands delightedly in a rather ungracious exit, to say the least, by Chinese standards. He is also sometimes represented carrying a blank scroll in his hands, that is, instead of a Buddhist sutra. His friend, Shih-té, whose name means ‘ picked up' and who was apparently an orphan, without name and lineage, also frequented the monastery and was noted for activities equally bizarre. One day, for instance, given menial work to do in the Buddha hall, he was caught sitting with the Buddha image, chatting as if in conversation with an old friend, and sharing in his offering meal.20 Outlandish as these comic heroes might appear in either a religious or an artistic setting, as Munsterberg comments, 'their carefree behaviour and seemingly foolish laughter is characteristic of Zen.’21 A commonly recognised trait of fools is that they are a disguised form of the sage. There is an element of divine inspiration in their apparent madness. A mysterious pOWer is witnessed in the strangeness of their conduct, and some ineffablc truth seems hidden in their nonsense. Hence, the familiar acceptance of the fool in many societies as being pos- sessed of a spirit, a vehicle for the inbreaking of some supra- natural order, attested by his transcendence of ordinary canons of reason and behaviour. A fascinating power is sensed in his presence, which may be a demonic power or a disabling mad— ness, threatening and malevolent, but which may also be a holy spirit and the lunacy of a higher wisdom. Here the babbling nonsense of the fool and the muteness of the mime (like Chu—ti's one-finger Zen and Han—shan's blank sutra scroll) both 'speak’ that which cannot be expressed, the truth which is unutterable, and hence are fitting symbols of the 'wordless Dharma' which transcends not only all words but all intellectual description and appropriation. The prevalence of such clown-figures in Zen painting is not accidental, for their unrestrained laughter points to a level of 46 Zen and the Comic Spirit. freedom and spontaneity that lies beyond the tensions and dualities of an unenlightened perception of things. The comic spirit and perspective manifest in Han-shan and Shih—té is no ordinary or vulgar hilarity. It represents the achievement of a larger wisdom and a liberation from bondage. to ego, ignor- ance, desire and attachment. Their peculiarity is not an invita— tion to eccentricity for its own sake; nor is it a necessary sign of awakening, the imitation of which distinguishes one as an ‘enlightened one.’ The idiosyncracies that identify them may or may not be present. And even when they are present they function primarily as symbols of freedom in the highest sense, not just any sort of liberty and frivolity. They certainly do not provide symbolic justification for the confusion of spiritual freedom with libertinism — the signal for which this has often become outside its original home; for licence surely has nothing to do with the rigours and sensitivities of Zen. Ran- dom and antinomian behaviour, at best, is no more than a regression to childish irresponsibility and self—indulgence — which is hardly what Han-shan and Shih-té represent. Theirs is the Wisdom of Fools that has perceived the true nature of folly. Another favourite clown-figure in Zen painting is Pu-tai (Hotei), familiar to Westerners as thejolly, pot-bellied, Happy Chinaman or Laughing Buddha readily available in curio shops. As such he is the most popular of the seven gods of luck. Historically he is identified with a wandering pi lest named Keishi or Cho Tai—shi (d. 916), who carried a large linen sack (hence the name Pu—tai) with whatever possessions he had, and who was popularly believed to be an incognito appearance of Maitreya Buddha.22 He is usually pictured in the company of children, merry with laughter, and carrying in his linen sack fruits and sweetmeats for the little ones. In two early paintings attributed to Liang-k’ai he is shown in the one bending over, innocently and delightedly watching a cock- fight; in the other he is dancing gleefully in playful abandon. As Munsterberg describes him, 'the broad face is dominated by the overlarge laughing mouth . . . The upper part of the Zen Masters and Clown Figures 47 body is reduced to a big globe-like head grinning above an enormous belly.”3 He is the dialectical counterpart of the same large—headed and heavy-set image of Bodhidharma with his scowlmg face and piercing eyes, his beetle—brow; and fierce, terrifying countenance. This relationship between the images of Pu—tai and Bodhi— dharma, as in the case of Han-shan and Shih—té, is not a frivolity in opposition to discipline and order, and therefore inimical to it, but a frivolity which emerges out of the harmony of spontaneity and discipline. It is certainly not the strained or forced frivolity of trying to 'have a good tiine’ of pre- tending to be carefree and spontaneous, or of affecting the image of freedom and gay abandon. It is not laughter over against seriousness and thus in aggressive and hostile tension with it, but laughter in tune with seriousness, and seriousness in tune w1th laughter. What is being symbolised by the dialectic of the sacred and the comic — or fierceness and fri- volity —.in Zen is not a new duality, but anew unity, a dynamic rhythmic harmony, as in the first principle of Chinese painting ch i-yiin (vital harmony, spirit resonance). If the comic spirif provides a contrapuntal eflEct, as it were, it is not an antag- onistic movement, and therefore simply discordant but as an integral part of the unity and wholeness of the composition of life, like the Tao which manifests itself in the interrelationship and playing with them in the streets. Sometimes, in fact he is pictured sitting inside his sack (his only home) peering impishly out. fair weather he wore wooden clogs (rain-wear) and in the rain he wore straw sandals. Like an Oriental Santa Claus he was the merry sage with a twinkle in his eye who had re-, discovered the wisdom and freedom and laughter of little children. Whenever he met a fellow Zen devotee, he is reputed to have extended his hand, saying in childish fashion, 'Give me a penny.’ Or if anyone would suggest that he return to a temple l I i ; 48 Zen and the Comic Spirit or monastery, or more formally instruct others in the Zen path, he would again reply, with an air of innocence, ' Give me a penny.’24 Pu-tai represents, therefore, the Zen goal of recovering on a higher plane the spontaneity and naturalness and playfulness —- the ‘little Zen ' — of the child. If Han-shan and Shih—té symbolise the Wisdom of Fools, Pu-tai symbolises the Wisdom of Children. He is not a little like the commonly ignored image of Jesus who pauses to play‘ with the children, despite his disciples' dismay, or who sets a little child in the midst of his all-too—earnest followers with the declaration: ‘Unless you turn and become like children you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven' (Matt. 18:3). It is also significant that Pu-tai, as this strange wandering mendicant, comes to be seen as an incognito form of the Future Buddha, Maitreya, of the age to come. The exalted Maitreya manifests himself in the earthly form of the lowly clown, simpleton and fool, ‘linen—sack.’ This convergence between the Zen roaring laughter of enlightenment, the mythology of the coming Messianic Buddha, and his legendary avatar, Pu—tai, is captured in a Buddhist chant before Maitreya: When the big belly thunders with loud roars of laughter, Thousands of white lotuses rain through all the worlds. With his bag of cloth vast is he as the Universe; He will succeed the Buddha, preaching in Dragon Flower Tree Parle.25 Here, in this remarkable religious chant, Maitreya is given the same comic form in a cosmic setting as that humble figure which he incarnates. Of similar import is another favourite theme in Zen art, ‘The Three Laughing Monks at Hu—hsi (Kokei),' treated by painters such as Shih-k'o, Kano, Bunsei, Soga Shéhaku and Sengai. Though not clown-figures as such, their use in Zen art is similar to that made of Pu—tai, Han-shan and Shih—tE. The reference is to the pre—Zen story of Hui-yuan (Eon, 333—416) who had, for thirty years, successfully kept a vow never to cross the bridge which separated his monastic retreat at Hu- Zen Masters and Clown Figures 49 hsi from the world beyond. But on one occasion, as he went to bid goodbye to some fellow hermits who had been visitin him, he inadvertently crossed the bridge with them wherf upon all three began laughing heartily. Su Tung-p'o’s words added to Shih—k'o's version of the scene capture the epi han ’ of laughter and, as it were, the Great Cosmic Joke whifh th: Jowal trio has suddenly realised: 'The three of them are laughing in chorus; even their clothes, hats, shoes all have an amused air. The acolyte behind them is beside himself with laughter. '26 This is not an invitation to laugh at the icture but With it, to be thrust into the comic dimension of all exi , ence, including one's own. St- The clown-motif is, of course, not limited to these com- monly represented types, but is extended in Zen painting to a Wide variety of subjects and situations: Mu-ch’i's 'The Priest ‘Chien-teu Laughing and Playing with a Shrimp ' Sen ai's ‘Travelling Monk with a Crazy Poem (kyoku),' oi Hakfin's Self—portrait,’ to name but a few. Similarly, the various other subjects that Hakuin sketched were given much the same touch: the Buddha, Kuan—yin, Bodhidharma, Lin-chi Daito and other Zen notables. In addition to their sternhess of serenity or gentleness, all seem to participate in and to reveal the comedy of a common humanity, and at the same time to have entered the laughter of the gods that lies beyond All suggest that the demons of desire and attachment ego-and ligngrapce, may be exorcised through laughter, and point to a epithi: 6:32;; laughter that is to be entered on the other side This attention paid to the clown-figure in Zen literature and 3111.15 especially indicative of the significance of the comic spirit and perspective in Zen in the light of the Chinese (and Japanese) emphasis upon reserve, decorum, tranquillity and subdued expression, and general aver f . sion to extreme displays 0 gesture and emotion. As Rowley comments with respect to the influence of the Chinese tradition in artistic depiction: :When physical action was required either in running, playing or fighting, the Chinese resorted to _.__.e.__.‘ ; u “aw-WWn—WWWWWMMM-E 5o Zen and the Comic Spirit various methods for avoiding the violence of naturalistic portrayal. In children at play, no matter how delightfully they gambol, they look like little men dancing or acting, instead of falling into the rough and tumble of a Western painting . . . Even a drinking bout approximates a discussion among scholars. Only demons, immortals and demon-quellers are permitted to kick and scream and rush madly about.’27 On this scale many Zen masters, painters and subjects, not being in the category of the immortals (except in Zen terms), be— come the strange bedfellows of demons and demon—quellers. Perhaps the poem which Hakuin inscribed above his self— portrait was not mere coincidence: In the realm of the thousand buddhas He is hated by the thousand buddhas; Among the crowd of demons He is detested by the crowd of demons. The Zen Artist—Eccentric George Rowley, in discussing the principles of Chinese painting, makes the oblique comment, which remains unde- veloped, that in the Chinese ideal, ‘the true painter has much of the fool in him. Ku K’ai—chih excelled in bquonery and Huang Kung-wang called himself the "Great Taoist Fool." Painters were expected to be foolish, crazy, cranky or eccen- tric . . 323 Whether this is an accurate generalisation concern- ing Chinese artists as a whole, certainly it is applicable to the more unorthodox artists classified in the i—p'in (spontaneous, intuitive, untrammelled) category, and to the many like- spirited Zen painters. The eccentricities of many Zen painters and Zen paintings had their roots, not only in the kindred spirit of the Zen masters themselves, but also in the precedent of such pre—Zen Chinese eccentrics as Ku K'ai—chih (4th century AD). In his day it was said of him, ‘K'ai-chih is com- pounded half of real madness, half of conscious bquonery. One cannot understand him without making allowance for both.’29 Of greater importance is the precedent of the sub- Zen Masters and Clown Figures 51 sequent i—p’in artists whose unorthodoxies of manner and technique are frequently matched by unorthodoxies of spirit and life-style. Of these Wang—hsia (8th century), nicknamed Wang—mo (Ink Wang), is credited with one of the earliest and most unconventional approaches to art. According to Chu Ching— hsiian he was a wanderer with a 'wildness of nature’ who used wine to creative advantage. ‘When he was drunk, he would splatter ink on (the surface), laughing and singing the while. He might kick it, or rub it on with his hands, wave (his brush) about or scrub with it. . . [Then] he would follow its con— figurations to make mountains, or rocks, or clouds, or water.’30 According to another authority he would even dip his head in the container of ink, and paint with his hair as a brush.31 Of the same period is a more obscure individual, identifiable only by his family name Ku, who would first lay out dozens of pieces of silk, and after becoming tipsy would run around them, sprinkling ink and then colours. Afterwards he would cover the spots with a large cloth, and with someone sitting on it, would pull it around the room, finally fashioning the blotches and smears into mountains and islands.” ' Records of other early ink—splatterers include Chang Chih- ho, who also imbibed as a preparatory method of releasing inhibitions, and who began bywaving a brush over the silk in time to music, with his eyes closed or his head turned away to effect complete randomness;33 Kuo Chung-shu, who ‘worked in a style which no master had formed;’34 and Tsé— jén of Yung—chia, who ‘started out by culling the best points in all the various schools and studying them; then he had a dream in which he swallowed several hundred dragons, after which his achievements were divinely wonderful !’35 There is also Chang-tsao 'who was able to wield two brushes simultaneously, making with the one a living branch and with the other a decaying trunk.’36 And there is Li Kuei—chén, a wandering individualist, who wore only a single garment summer and winter, and whenever asked about his behaviour ‘would suddenly open his mouth wide and suck his fist, 52 I Zen and the Comic Spirit without answering.’37 Ofa very different sort is Mi—fei (11th century) — landscape painter, connoisseur, critic, and author of the Hua-shih (History of Painting) — who earned the distinc- tion of ‘crazy (Mi)' for his eccentricities. He is said, for example, to have once dressed in official cap and gown and knelt in a gesture of worship as an expression of his esteem for an unusually beautiful rock.38 Mi—fei, too, did not favour delicate brushwork or fine silk, but often used the roughest instruments, such as a dry stick of sugar cane, a lotus—stem, or an old rag. He is chiefly noted for his use of dots rather than strokes, achieving the desired effect through an accumulation of dots, applied with a wet brush.39 Common to all was the peculiar technique called p'o—mo (splashed or spattered ink, including also blowing, wiping and smearing). The mere representation of forms in an attempted conformity to the lines and colours of the object is down- graded, along with the traditional rules for painting which emphasised technical skill and delicacy of refinement in such representation. This is seen as getting the form and the finesse without necessarily capturing the spirit and entering into the spirit of the subject — indeed becoming one with that spirit. A paramount position is thus accorded the first principle of ch’i—yiin (vital harmony, spirit resonance) and its intuitive realisation and articulation. When Pi-hung asked Chang—tsao who his teacher in the art of painting had been, he replied, ‘In externals I have taken as my model the creative process of Nature; within, I have the springs of [my own] heart."0 As can be seen in this brief summary, the ideals of intuitive grasp and spontaneous expression of the i—p’i'n artistic approach integrate well with the immediacy, simplicity and naturalness of the p'o—mo technique. And both, in turn, synchronise admir- ably with like emphases in Zen practice and experience. It is no accident that the two traditions, the artistic and the religious, came to find themselves so suited to each other. Though the i—p'in/p'a-mo painters hardly represent the dominant image of the Chinese artist, whose painting was much more in con- formity with the classical Six Principles advanced by Hsieh—ho Ze'n Masters and Clown Figures 53 (5th century), and whose life—style was more in accord with the ideal of the gentleman scholar (wEn—jén), it is in relation to such unorthodox precursors and contemporaries as this that such early Zen painters as Shih-k'o, Liang-k'ai and Mu-ch’i are to be seen. Liang—k'ai (Ryokai, 13th century) was reported to be ‘ajocular fellow who called himself "the crazy Liang""1 and also ‘the crazy vagabond."2 Mu—chi (Mokkei, 13th cen- tury), most widely renowned for his ‘Persimmons,’ was de- scribed ~ and not particularly with favour ~ in the T'u—hui— pao-chien as ‘fond of painting dragons, tigers, apes, cranes, wild geese in rushes, landscapes, trees, rocks and human figures; and he did them all in a free and easy fashion, dotting with ink. He expressed his ideas quite simply without ornamental elabora— tion. His way of painting was coarse and ugly, not in accord- ance with the ancient rules, nor for refined enjoyment.’43 Shih—k'o (Sekkaku) of the Five Dynasties Period (9061—60) is characterised by a later writer, Liu Tao-ch'un (11th century) in a somewhat different, though no more flattering, manner: ‘He liked to shock and insult people and composed satirical rhymes about them, not unlike those of the comedy actors some of which are still repeated . . . He mostly represented old and rustic fellows of strange appearance and grotesque shapes so as to shock the proud and pretentious. The people of Hsi- chou were much annoyed at him . . f“ A similar impression is given in Li Chien's account in the Hua—p'in of Shih-k'o’s painting of ‘The Court of the Jade Emperor’: Shih—k'o was a highly independent character, always mock— ing and making fun of his contemporaries. His manner of painting was bold and free and he had no consideration for rules and patterns. That is why his figures sometimes are so hideously strange and queer. He painted some of the officials (or divinities) of the Water Palace with crabs and fishes attached to their belts in order to shock the people who looked at them. I have just seen a picture by him, of an old man and woman tasting vinegar; they are holding their noses and squeezing their mouths to show its bitterness . . . i i i 54 Zen and the Comic Spirit In the painting of the Jade Emperor he did not dare to introduce so many playful things [gambolling devils, dis— respectful servants, etc.], yet he could not refrain from representing crabs hanging (from the girdles) so as to make people of later times laugh.45 Even the presumably serious matter of presenting an official portrait to the master (or, in Hakuin’s case, of presenting portraits to himself l), as a token of reverence, esteem and appreciation, is sometimes turned into a comic and clownish affair. When a disciple once presented a portrait to master Chao—chou (Jyoshfi, 779—897), Chao—chou responded in kami— like fashion: ‘If it is really a true image of me, then you can kill me. If it is not, then it should be burned !’ 45 The peculiarities of Zen teaching and its occasions seem unending! A different tale is told of P’an-shan (Banzan, 8th century), a disciple of Ma-tsu (Baso), who had requested that a portrait be made of him. Several likenesses were presented to him by his disciples, none of which satisfied him as having captured the spirit of his person and teaching. Then one of his disciples came forward with the assurance that he could do what the others could not; thereupon he turned a somersault and left the room. This was accepted by the master as being the best portrait.47 It is often acknowledged that a part of the artist’s specific freedom and role as an artist is to stand apart from the-con- ventional masks, the official facades, the socially determined costumes and personae, and thereby perchance to step into and to reveal a more authentic humanity and reality. Being an artist, of course, can also become a social role, with its own masks and costumes and facades, only reduplicating the in- authenticity in another form. Nevertheless the ideal is for the artist to leave a conventional humanity in order to disclose the Zen Masters and Clown Figures 55 hierarchies, in which we imprison reality and in the same act imprison ourselves. The endowment of all limits and differ— entiations and forms with seriousness and sacrality is an act of setting things apart, surrounding them with taboos wallin them in their sacred enclosures, setting up ‘no trespassiiig'signsg all of which must periodically if not finally be broken throu h lest they absolutise themselves in a rigidity of forms agd suffocate that which they attempt to preserve and enhance. I From the perspective of the clown, who refuses to take' any limitations and demarcations with absolute seriousness the moat that protects the king’s castle and his kingship is also the moat that imprisons the king. Hence, the neat patterns of rationality and order and value which we use to organise experience are confused and garbled by the clown whose motley patches, incongruous garb, curious accessories and bizarre behaviour place everything in suspension. Foiin is turned into chaos, sense into nonsense, inhibition into spon- taneity, rigidity into randomness. The clown does not fit into indeed refuses to fit into, the patterns and structures of the con: ventional world. He represents another order of being The clown gets everything wrong: his dress, his app - decorum, his logic, his speech, his inovcmen wrongness is a rightness of another sort. In hi another level of wisdom. Int-must also .be added that, if the clown—fool has a special facility for calling into question the category of the holy he likeWisc has a Way of not taking the unholy with absolute urtenances, his ts; yet in this s foolishness is man behind the man and the world behind the world. This, in itself, places the artist in a curious conspiracy with the clown and fool, a conspiracy in which he too may appear as something of a clown or fool. The clown’s function is to profane the boundaries and distinctions, the categories and 56 Zen and the Comic Spirit Zen Masters and Clown Figures 57 evil was placed in the same comic parenthesis as good. If the 4. E. O. Reischauer, translator and editor, Enm'n’s Diary (New york. clown played with holy things, he also played with unholy Ronald- 1355). page 219. This comment is made with reference to things. If he dabbled in chaos, he did not do so unambiguously 5 :3th Ct" an yanks meh h‘ m“ 3‘ 3 Ch,“ m°msm)’- . y . ' u . or demoniacally. He entered the no—man s land, as it were, I My '1" 7 PeoplleW Yo'k- RCYmL I935). page szfl‘. . 6. G. P. Fedotov, The Russian Religious Mind 2 volu C b 'd between the competing forces of cosmos and chaos, angels and Harvard University Press. x966), n, 316.43 . mes ( am 11 ge: demons, and therefore stood outside both as if both were mfiyfi, 7. Blyth, Zen Classics, II, 47. as if both were dramatic yet comic participants in a great stage— 8' D- T' Suzukhflmfl 1'" Zen Buddhism, 3 series (London: Rider, 1949.53), 111, 46. 9. Wu-me‘n—leuan, case 3. 1o. lsshfi Miura and Ruth Fuller Sasaki, Zen Dust: The History qf the Koan play. He, therefore, as Enid Welsford argued, was the punctum indifliarens who existed in a realm all his own beyond both sides of the drama, now seeming to take one side now another but “1160" SM, . . . . . _ _ v ' , ,’ yin Rinzai Lin-chi Z N - ultimately neither. Sometimes he was Vice, sometimes Virtue, war“, 1966), Page: 82‘; ) en( cw York. Harcourt, Brace and yet finally not Vice and not Virtue. "~ Wu, page 101. 12- Blyth, Zen Classics, H, 11. This ambiguous position is the inevitable result of the pecu— 13- D- T- Suzuki, Zen and Japanese Culture (New York: Pantheon 1959) liar character of the Fool. The serious hero focuses events, 1 K2? 365' I ' ' forces issues, and causes catastrophes; but the Fool by his 4' "mfmd S‘sakh Pages 124—5- . . l5- Suzulu, Japanese Culture plate 40 mere presence dissolves events, evades issues, and throws 16. Blyth, Oriental Humour, a es9 . doubt on the finality of fact. The Stage—clown therefore is as 17. Enid Welsford Th P].g - 3 4' . . , , » ¢ 00. His Social and Literary History (London- naturally detached from the play as the Court—fool is de— Faber. 1935). page 319, ' tached from social life; and the fool's most fitting place in ‘8' “My Pagc 321- literature is as hero of the episodic narrative, or as the voice ‘9‘ Stzkl :"d, T3123". dlkc'mm' 2"“ Poem’v Pml'mi Sermon: . . - . . e: an nemews as en Cit :D ' speaking from Without and not from Wltlnn the dramatic 20. Suzuki, m. 145. Y “Malay, 1963). page 98. ‘ P 0‘ ' ° ' “- Hugo Mumterberg, Zen and Oriental At - l The tragic writer takes this world seriously and interprets page 34. ' (Ru‘m‘d‘ Tu"l°' W55): ‘ it; the comic writer creates a new world, a world where bad 22- Henri L- lou)’. Legend and japanese Art (Rutland: Tutth 1957) Page, 120—2. 23. Munsterberg, page 55. 24. Reps and Senzaki, page 16. people are harmless, where stupid people are merry, where Fate is transformed into a Puck-like Chance strongly biased in favour of those who have a sense of humour and a proper 25, Mk, I, “L appreciation of cakes and ale . . . 26. Arthur Waley An Introdurtion to the Stud 9 Ch- . , . . . ’ P The Fool is an emanCipator.48 York; scubnm, 1923), Pages 228% l' f mm “ng (NCW 27. George Rowley, Principles of Chinese Painting, 2nd edition . . _ Princet : Princeton Umversity Press, 1959), page i7. ( on Notes 28. MM, page 14, 1 (Hie k) as R D M Sb 1 d di 29' Wdcy’Pag°‘8' 1. Pi-yen- u e (gun-r0 u , case . . . . aw, trans ator an e tor, 3o. T'ang-ch'ao—min -hua-lu tr 1 t d b - The Blue Clifl Records (London: Michael Joseph, 1961), page 212. the Chinese Art gotiety quritIeiii:afIv {1 2c: Sopcr. Archives of 2. Luk. I, 144- . h i 31. Cited in Chang Yen-yuan’, L;_tai_ming_hua_€hl. (M; 847) w R B I, 3. Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki, Zen Fles , Zen Bones: A Collettion of ‘ Acker, Some Tang and Pre-T'ang Text: on Chinese Painting (.Leicl - l en: . _ Zen and Pre-Zen Writings (Garden City: Doubleday, 1959), pages 60—1. _ 13.]. Brill, 1954). ...
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Zen Masters-Clown Figures - ZEN AND THE COMIC SPIRIT Conrad...

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