“A professional calligrapher is often concerned with form–it is perhaps their greatest concern. But when a Zen Master expresses himself through calligraphy, the main purpose is the expression of Zen mind (mushin).” Fukushima Roshi
Fukushima Roshi is head abbot of Tofuku-ji Monastery, one of the great five mountain monasteries (gozan) of Kyoto, Japan, and one of the great centers of the Rinzai Zen tradition. He comes to the United States once a year. As part of those visits, Fukushima conducts demonstrations of his extraordinary calligraphy. Done in the gyosho or “running, semi-cursive” style, they borrow from Zen’s rich heritage of poetry and Goroku (Records) of the sayings and activities of the great Zen Masters.
Fukushima’s calligraphy is not merely didactic, a gilded vessel to make Zen doctrines more palatable. They are technically masterful, reflecting Fukushima’s training in the calligraphic arts from an early age as well as his apprenticeship with Okada Roshi and his kaisho or “block” script, and Shibayama Roshi and his exquisite gyosho script. But like the beneficent force of Shibayama’s calligraphy, from which he learned much, Fukushima’s calligraphy is a quiet storm, a serene volcano, a compassionate and gentle eruption of the vast energy or ki of the Zen mind. The gentle forms of Fukushima’s calligraphy are rife with the erupting force of mushin.
This book reproduces twenty pieces of Fukushima’s calligraphy, as well as a rare piece done by both Shibayama Roshi and Suzuki Sensei. Set against Fukushima’s calligraphy, one can see in it all three generations of bridge builders of one of the most important lineages of dharma transmission from Japan to the United States. To complete things is a magnificent portrait of Bodhidharma (Japanese: Daruma), attributed to the incomparable Zen ink painter Sesshu Toyo (1420-1506).
This volume also contains essays on Fukushima in particular and Zen calligraphy in general by some of the leading scholars in the field. Dr. Audrey Yoshiko Seo, principle author of The Art of Twentieth-Century Zen: Paintings and Calligraphy by Japanese Masters, provides an intellectual biography of Fukushima. Dr. Stephen Addiss, a preeminent scholar in this field and author of The Art of Zen, provides an invaluable guide to the fundamentals of appreciating both Zen calligraphy in general and the works in the exhibition in particular. Dr. Stephen Goldberg provides an important set of philosophical and art historical considerations in approaching works of Zen calligraphy. Jason Wirth provides some philosophical perspectives of his own, and Dr. Ronald L. Carlisle offers a brief history of Tofuku-ji Monastery. Also included is an interview with Fukushima Roshi conducted by Jason Wirth.