Osho on Zen paintings – Watching a Zen painting you will feel uplifted
Question – You say: yet painting a picture, writing a poem, and solving a scientific problem all bring the same joy. The same joy!
Osho – Yes, they can — because art is just in the middle between both, equidistant from religion and science. Art has the qualities of both. One aspect of art is scientific, the technological aspect. Hence the scientist can paint and enjoy painting, and will have the same joy; and the mystic can also paint and will have the same joy as in prayer, as in meditation — although both are doing the same thing, the mystic’s painting will be totally different from the scientist’s painting.
You can look: modern painting in the West is too much under the influence of technology. It has lost beauty; it is no longer helpful in bringing you to the divine presence that permeates existence. On the contrary, it simply reflects the insane mind of man. Looking at Western painting you will feel dizzy, nauseous, ill.
Zen Masters have also painted, but their painting is totally different. Watching a Zen painting you will feel uplifted; a feeling of subtle joy will arise in you. You would like to dance or sing or play on your flute. Zen painting comes from the other side, the mystic’s side. Picasso, Dali, and others come from the side of science. Now, there is no similarity between a Picasso painting and the painting of a Zen Master, no similarity. They are two totally different worlds, and the reason is that the painters are different.
Yes, Ananda Prabhu, you may be feeling the same joy in painting, writing a poem, and solving a scientific problem. It is all mind. Solving a scientific problem is mind; your poem will also be more or less mathematical, logical. It will have only the form of poetry but its spirit will be prose.
That’s why in the West poetry is dying, painting has become ugly, sculpture is no longer representative of nature. Something is immensely missing: the spirit, the very spirit of art is missing. Looking at a Zen painting you will be overwhelmed; something from the beyond Will start showering on you.
Have you watched a Zen painting closely? There are a few things you will be surprised to see. Human figures are very small, so small that if you don’t look minutely you will miss them. Trees are big, mountains are big, the sun and moon, rivers and waterfalls are big, but human beings are very small.
In Western painting the human being is very big; he covers the whole canvas. Now this is not right, this is not proportionate, this is not true. The human being covering the whole canvas is very egoistic — but the painter IS egoistic. The Zen Master is right: man is only a tiny part in this great universe. The mountains are big and the waterfalls are big and the trees are big and the stars and the moon and the sun — and where is man?
Just the other day I was looking at a Zen painting. The men were so small, two small figures crossing a bridge, that I would have missed them because tall mountains and trees were covering the whole painting. But there was a note underneath the painting saying, “Please don’t miss: there are two human figures on the bridge.” I had to look very closely — yes, they were there, two human figures, very small, walking hand in hand, passing over the bridge. This is the right proportion; this is a non-egoistic painting.
In Western paintings you will find the whole canvas covered. In Zen painting only a small part of the canvas is covered, and the remaining part is empty. It looks like a wastage: if you are going to make such a small painting, why not use a small canvas? Why use such a big canvas which covers the whole wall, and just in the corner make a small painting? But the Zen people say that’s how things are: “Emptiness is so much all around. The whole sky is empty — how can we leave out the sky? If we leave out the sky the painting will be untrue.”
Now no Western painting has that vision, that we are surrounded by emptiness: the earth is very small, humanity a very small part of the earth, and infinite emptiness all around…. To be true, to be existentially true, the emptiness cannot be left outside; it has to be there. This is a different vision, from a different side.
Zen painting is not done in the Western way. In Western painting you will find that the painter goes on improving: over one coat of paint there will be another coat of paint and still another coat of paint, and he goes on improving and touching up and doing things. Zen painters cannot do that; that is impossible. They use a certain kind of paper, rice-paper, on which you can make only one stroke. You cannot correct it; you have to leave it as it is. The paper is so thin that if you try to correct it the whole thing will be lost.
Why is rice-paper being used? So that the mind has nothing to do — the mind is constantly trying to improve, to make things better. It has to be from the heart, a single stroke. If your heart is full of it, it will come right. But you cannot correct it; correction comes from the mind.
Zen painting is never corrected; if you correct it your correction will always show that you are not a Master. It has to come out of your meditativeness, your silence. Your feeling of the moment is spread on the rice-paper.
Art is just in the middle, equidistant from science and religion. It can be both. It can be scientific art, as it is in the West — that’s what you mean, Ananda Prabhu. It can be religious art: you don’t know anything about that yet, because before you can know anything about it you will have to know what meditation is.
Meditation is not a state of concentration; it is not a state of mind at all. It is a state of total mindlessness — and not a state of sleep either. No mind, no sleep; no mind, but total awareness. Out of that awareness you bring a different quality to music, to painting, to poetry. And out of that meditativeness you can bring a totally different quality to science too. But before that can happen we will need large numbers of meditative people around the earth.
That’s what my work is. That’s what I am trying to do here: to create meditators. That is the first requirement. If we want to bring a new world vision where science and religion can meet, we will have to create the foundation first; only then can the temple be raised on it. Meditation has to be the foundation.
And don’t try to reconcile things: just become more meditative. In your meditation is reconciliation, because in your meditation you become able to see that the contradictions are only apparent, that the contraries are only enemies on the surface but deep down they are friends. It is like two friends playing chess: on the surface they are enemies, but deep down they are friends. That’s why they are playing chess — they are friends; but because they are playing chess they are pretending to be enemies.
This is the LEELA of existence, the play of existence. God has divided himself into two, because that is the only way to play hide-and-seek. k is a very beautiful play if you understand it as play. Don’t take it too seriously because then you will not be able to see the playfulness of it.
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