Shunryu Suzuki's Enso
There was some discussion about this image being mistakenly mirrored because upper right clockwise is the normal way they're done, but according to Richard Baker that's the way Suzuki drew it. He remembers talking to Suzuki about it being different, from left to right. He told me that at the SFZC 50th reunion in August after the Saturday event when Steve Stucky was showing some memorabilia, one of which was a fundraising brochure or poster - raising money that eventually went to purchase Tassaajara - with the enso on it. I pointed out the left to right direction of the brush stroke and mentioned that some of us had wondered if the often used image was actually a reverse, a mirror of the original. That's when Baker told Steve and me about his discussion with Suzuki about this in the fall of 1966. I thought it would forever remain a mystery.
I remember when Suzuki made it. He didn't do a lot of calligraphy but that day he sat on the floor in his office with a lot of white sheets of sumi paper on the table and floor, blackened brush in hand doing one after another. When he'd decided on one it was printed up on separate sheets and a bunch of us were there looking at them and taking one. I got him to sign one. Have no idea where it is now.
Also, contacted Chisan at Sogenji in Okayama, Japan who asked Shodo Harada Roshi about it and he said it has been and will be done every which way - no rules. - dc
10-19-12 - Another comment on this left to right enso from a cuke reader and Zen friend.
Some years ago, I went to a talk of Kaz's [Kakuaki Tanahashi] in Berkeley.
At the end of the talk he had everyone come up, one by one, and draw an enso which he patted dry and then gave them. I still have mine. I was interested in what I drew only because when I went back to my seat, the person sitting in the chair next to me pointed out that I had drawn it from left to right. And they were supposed to be drawn from right to left. Naturally, I felt bad about this. I had done it wrong. Over the years, whenever there was a discussion about I enso, I perked up and made sure I listened well or read it thoroughly. Once I came across a discussion between Aitken-Roshi and Kaz about the enso which is drawn from left to right. I no longer remember where I read it (sorry) but this is what I remember: The person who draws an enso from left to right is a person who learns the hard way. That's what I remember from reading their discussion. It's certainly true for me. If indeed, Suzuki-Roshi did draw it originally from left to right then is it also true of him? Don't know, didn't know him.
DC comment: Interesting. I wrote back that Suzuki Roshi spoke of himself as a slow learner, a slow horse.
First Use of this Enso
was for a benefit art show toward the purchase of. Here's what I wrote about it for the 2nd edition of Crooked Cucumber:
Spending a whole afternoon on a cushion at the low table in his office,
at the request of his student,
Mike Dixon, Suzuki drew an enso, a sumi circle, for a poster
announcing a benefit art show, drawing one incomplete circular stroke
after another, going through sheet after sheet of rice paper, till he
got a stroke that satisfied him. He didn't do a voluminous amount of
calligraphy, as is common among Japanese priests, but this simple enso
would come to greet countless gazes.
Mike Dixon designed the poster. His
artist name is Willard Dixon.
Mike Dixon designed the poster. His artist name is Willard Dixon.
This enso has been copied and used extensively and is inscribed at the base of Stephen Gaskin's memorial stone
Here's a solo page for the art show poster - ZMC Benefit Art Exhibition and Sale poster