Zen calligraphy often brushes a circle to represent Perfection. It is sometimes a massive ring, but in this piece by Bankei the circle is merely hinted at with two light strokes.
The poem reads in free translation:
Not the Buddha of the past,
Nor the Buddha of the future—
This is someone else.
The poem refers to a phrase in the Mumonkan classic, which refers to some fellow who is not (the classical Buddha) Shakyamuni nor Maitreya (the Buddha to come).
The calligrapher is the famous seventeenth-century Japanese Zen priest Bankei. who spread what he termed ‘Unborn Zen’, corresponding to the Indian doctrine of A-jata-vada, the teaching that nothing has ever been born.
Perfection from the Old Zen Master
© Trevor Leggett