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The Third Contest Answer as revealed by DC sort of
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Page for this enso - sumi circle

What the two pictures have in common is that I thought they were both mirror images of their originals, mistakenly reversed in the printing process - with the Suzuki enso, sumi circle, also being upside down.

10-10-12 - Nope - This is how he drew it - upper left to lower right. According to Richard Baker that's the way Suzuki drew it. He remembers talking to Suzuki about it being different, from left to right instead of from right to left. 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. May have already written about that somewhere here. 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. 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. - 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 or Oakland. 
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

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.

That's true of the cover of Zen Talks which seems to me to be the mirror image of the cover of Not Always So. This was pointed out to me by Rick Levine and Brit Pyland when Dennis Samson and I were at Rick's visiting one evening.


It might be true that the SF Zen Center enso or sumi circle done by Shunryu Suzuki is an upside down mirror image but I'm not so sure of anymore. Therefore, as of now, the answer to the contest must start with "I thought" such and such because I'm not sure what the truth at the bottom of this profound conundrum is. But it would be true of most sumi circles which start at about seven o'clock and go clockwise to about five. Here's some history on this momentous topic.

A few years ago Kaz Tanahashi told me the enso was reversed in Crooked Cucumber and I checked it against Zen Center's usage and saw they were the same and supposed that Zen Center had been printing it reversed (and upside down) for some time. So I was going to write about all this cause I thought it was sort of neat and got the brilliant idea to make it the third contest. Many interesting twists and turns have happened as a result.

First, I ran into Rob Weinberg's Spindrift website and got back in touch with him and learned about the controversy of the Lucent logo which is almost like the ZC's. I wrote a silly email giving Lucent my blessing (which I got no answer to - the nerve!).

I put various hints on the site and had correspondence with a few people here and there. At first it looked like all Japanese ensos were clockwise and only a bunch of Western ones were counter-clockwise which I assumed was solely due to the influence of ZC's misprinting Suzuki's but then Rob sent me a link to a page on a Japanese art site,, where there were unquestionably a few authentic Japanese ensos which were counterclockwise. But then maybe Suzuki's enso is upside down.

I emailed with and then called Kaz Tanahashi who had just returned from Costa Rica where he was doing something involved with his work on encouraging countries to go without armies. He didn't seem too surprised at what I told him I'd found out but had no opinion and just encouraged me to keep trying to get to the bottom of it. He's always had a nice mix of socially engaged Buddhism and art and fun.

I emailed Daichi at Sogenji in Okayama, Japan, and asked her about it and she asked Shodo Harada Roshi whom I studied with there a decade and a half ago and he said there are no rules for ensos and that there are indeed counter-clockwise ones and Daichi said that Bankei's famous for his two stroke enso.

I talked to Dan Welch, abbot of Crestone Zen Mt. Center, and he said that he remembers the Shunryu Suzuki enso in question to have always been reproduced the way it is now, that he distinctly remembers it from the first use of it. Dan had lived in Japan and studied calligraphy in the early sixties before he came to Zen Center and he has a good eye for things like this (which I don't).

I still haven't found the first usage of this enso which I wish to do (though I trust Dan's memory) but I know what it was - it was for a fundraising brochure and I have it here in my archives and I'll find it when I go through things which I will be doing very soon. I'm not talking about the actual original which is who knows where, but the first use.

So now I'm convinced that either this is the way that Suzuki drew it or that it was reproduced in reverse and upside down from the first. People say that in that case he would have pointed it out and that's quite possibly true but what if he hadn't proofed the brochure before 80,000 (or whatever it was) were printed? Dick Baker was in charge of that and I can imagine him showing Suzuki the finished product and Suzuki noticing it was wrong and not saying anything. He had that "gift of the gracious heart" which was the title of a Reader's Digest article that impressed me when I was still in elementary school. Suzuki was always quick to go for spirit and let the form be flexible. But what if he'd said to Baker, "Oh that's opposite - it should be this way (drawing in the air)," which I can also hear him saying. In that case I can envision an exchange between him and Baker that ended up with it not being mentioned again, swept under the tatami as it were.

Oh - I know what I'll do that I hadn't thought of. I'll call Shunryu Suzuki's son, Hoitsu Suzuki in Japan and ask him.

[One hour later] Okay. I called and talked to Chitose-san, Hoitsu-Roshi's wife and then to Shungo-san, their son. Wow. Hadn't talked Japanese in a long time - at least that's what I thought I was doing. Shungo gave me his email address but there was some mistake so I called back and told her mine because Shungo was gone. And she got my phone number. Hoitsu will be back in four hours so I'm going to bed now and we'll see if he has any opinion. I also suggested they ask Mitsu Suzuki, Shunryu's widow. I can't wait. But I can just hear them saying they have no idea. I guess I hear a lot of voices in my head. Maybe I need professional help.

I think I'll also ask Peter Schneider and Richard Baker what they think - actually, I've asked Dan to ask Baker.

But, I've vowed not to put anything more on the site till that fundraising letter is out [just look at today's DC Misc] and I have the new look on and whatever else I vowed. So you'll have to wait to see what they say and to see who the winners are and whatever else comes to mind because it's too late to do more. I have to be at Clay's school tomorrow morning to do some work alone or with kids and it's already 1:25 in the morning. Goodnight.

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