Snow : Photographs from the Silver World (pt.4) Nothing, Taoism & Creativity

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Photographs from the 
Silver World Part IV  Taoism & Creativity 

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Nothing, Taoism & Creativity
Text excerpts 
Snow : Photographs from the Silver World 


For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Wallace Stevens

Nothingness is the same as fullness.
In infinity full is no better than empty.
Nothingness is both empty and full.

Carl Jung

All I know about method is that when I am not working
I sometimes think I know something, but when I am working, 
it is quite clear that I know nothing.

John Cage

The Master of all masters works with nothing.
The more nothing comes into your work
the more God is there.


The here-and-now mountain is a piece 
of straw
blown off into emptiness


The five quotes above are from: You Don't Have to Be Buddhist to Know Nothing ~  ed. Joan Konner

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Completely forgetting all thought
By first making it changeless,
And then identifying it with Brahman,
This is called samadhi.
Shankaracharya  (vs. 124) 

Samadhi is the conscious awareness "God and I are not different from each other; there is no difference between God and me."  Everything merges.  There is no Guru, there is no disciple; there is no God, there is no devotee; there is no universe, there is no you.  There is absolute oneness.  This is called purno aham vimarsha, pure I-consciousness.  Because of this experience of samadhi, yu understand the Pure Being, the One without a second.

In samadhi there is the highest experience--no more differences, only the pure I-conscousness.  That pure  I-consciousness is you.  The practice is to have the awareness "I  am That, I am That."  As you make progress, it is just "I am, I am."  Finally when you merge, it is just "am" -- it just is; there is nothing before, nothing after.  That Oneness is tender yet strong.  It is spacious yet solid.  And that is Pure Being.

Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, from a talk given in Heidelberg, April 3, 1988 in which she gives commentary on the teachings of Shankaracharya ~ published in Darshan Magazine #82 (Expanding Vision)

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Ni Tsan (1306-1374)  Bamboo Branches
Also a poet.  See his poem at the end of this collection of texts.

(Note: The following text excerpts are from Chung-Yan Chang's book Creativity and Taoism (1965-2011).  The book expounds upon the primary foundational text of Taoism, the Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu which according to tradition was written around the 6th century BC.  This text influenced many of the great Chinese poets and painters and has a strong but complicated relationship to Buddhism, Chan Buddhism or Zen, and Yoga.)    

Introduction  Creativity and Taoism  1965 / 2011 by Chung-Yan Chang
"To the Chinese what is highest, the origin of things, is nothingness, emptiness, the altogether undetermined, the abstract universal, and this is also called Tao."  a quote by the Jewish philosopher Hegel, from a talk given in Heidelberg, 1816 which Chang cites in his Introduction

The value of Tao lies in its power to recocile opposites on a higher level of consciousness.  It is symbolically expressed as light in Taoism.

Jacques Maritan [in talks given in 1952] states that the inner principle of dynamic harmony seized upon by Chinese contemplative artists should be conceived of as a "sort of interpenetration between Nature and Man."  Through interpenetration things are spiritualized.  When the artist reveals the reality concealed in things, he sets it free and in turn he liberates and purifies himself.  This invisible process, fundamental to Chinese art, is the action of Tao.  Maritan points out that there is a difference between Oriental and Occidental art: the former being intent on objectivity, the latter on subjectivity.  However, at the root of creative activity there is a common experience without parallel in logical reason, by means of which objectivity and subjectivity are "obscurely  grasped together."  It is this nondifferentiating awareness of creative intuition that gives Maritan's restatement of the basic principle of Chinese painting a fuller and richer meaning.

The countenance of the Great Achievement
     is simply a manifestation of Tao.
 That which is called Tao
     is indistinct and ineffable.
Ineffable and indistinct,
     yet therein are forms.
Indistinct and ineffable
     yet therein are objects.
Deep-seated and unseen,
     yet therein are essences.
The essence is quite real,
     therein is the vivid Truth.

                    Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching  (Ch. XXI)

Although Tao is indistinct and ineffable, latent in it are forms and objects.  Those who penetrate into the deep-seated and unseen reveal the essence of Tao.


Three ideas shared by both Buddhism and Taoism: 
1  The idea of interfusion and identification of opposites such as being and nonbeing, action and nonaction.

2  Unity is within diversities and the particularity is identified with universality. . .  the basic idea of mutual and simultaneous penetration of one in all and all in one.  

3  Tzu jan, or self-so-ness, the naturalness and spontaneity of things. . .  The Taoist speaks of wu wei, or noninterference.  To Chinese Ch'an (Zen in Japanese) the best method of cultivating Buddhahood is noncultivation.  To cultivate one's mind is to exercise deliberate effort, the opposite of wu wei.  The sixth patriarch, Hui neng, maintains that the Buddha nature is within you, and that all you have to do to find it is to realize it.  This idea is incorporated in the famous saying, "The ordinary mind is Tao."  The ordinary mind is spontaneous self-so-ness, which is also the basic teaching of Taoism. 


Chuang Tzu says: "that which is one is one, and that which is not-one is also one."  The solitary one of Wang Pi is also not-one, which means nonbeing, or Wu.  Since one is the source of all numbers, it is said to be not a number but that from which all numbers are formed.  Thus what is one is Wu, or Nonbeing, which is also identified with the ultimate.  Because it is the origin of all things, it is called T'ai Chi, or the supreme ultimate--or Tao. 

Invisible Ground of Sympathy
This sympathy was primordial identification, interfusion, and unification of subject and object, of one and many, of man and the universe.  It was not a product of rational intellection, but an ontological experience. 

Lao Tzu proclaimed that he had the first of the "three treasures" -- Tz'u.  The word is usually translated as love, but it is not actually love itself but, rather, the primordial, immediate source of love, the secret root of all love and compassion.  . . . Through Tz'u subject and object are totally and immediately interfused and the self is transformed into selflessness. 

That which you look at but cannot see
Is called the Invisible.
That  which you listen to but cannot hear
Is called the Inaudible.
That which you grasp but cannot hold 
Is called the Unfathomable.

None of these three can be inquired after,
Hence they blend into one.
Above no light can make it lighter,
Beneath no darkness can make it darker.

Unceasingly it continues
But it is impossible to be defined.
Again it returns to nothingness.

Thus it is described as the Form of the Formless,
The Image of the Imageless.
Hence it is called the Evasive.

It is met with but no one sees its  face;
It is followed but no one sees its back.

To hold to the Tao of old,
To deal with the affairs at hand,
In order to understand the primoridal beginnings,
That is called the rule of Tao.

                    Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching  (Ch. XIV)

In this passage Lao Tzu identifies Tao as the One which is invisible, inaudible, unfathomable.  It is the same One, past and present; it embraces form and formlessness alike, being as well as nonbeing.  The One is therefore a unification of duality and multiplicity.  It is the One without opposite, infinite and unceasing. 

The Tao is immanent and yet transcendental.  It is indivisible and yet is the source from which all duality and multiplicity proceed.

There was something complete and nebulous
     Which existed before the Heaven and the Earth,
     Silent, invisible,
     Unchangeable, standing as One,
     Unceasingly, ever-revolving,
     Able to be the Mother of the World.

I do not know its name and call it Tao.

                    Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching  (Ch. XXV)

In this realm there is neither space nor time; it is infinite.  . . . The realm of nonbeing is absolutely free from limitations and distinctions.  Nonbeing is the one-without-contrast; that is the unity of all things.  It is called Tao, or the Great. . .  the primordial source of every beginning and every end.  It is the realm from which all birth issues forth and to which all death returns.  It is all embracing, far reaching, never ceasing, yet it is the realm of the unknown; so it is called nonbeing . . . the ground of the great sympathy, or Tz'u.


Light & P'o ~ the Uncarved Block : Two Aspects of nonbeing
There are two aspects of the manifestation of nonbeing: Ming, or light, and P'o, the uncarved block or original simplicity.  They flow mutually to one another.  From the Tao point of view they are conceived of as one.  They both lead to the great sympathy and are identified with it. 

To see things through the light is not only to blend opposites into one but it is to enter into the unity of all things.  In this unity everything breaks through the shell of itself and interfuses with every other thing.  Each identifies with every other.  The one is many, and the many is one.  In this realm all selves dissolve into one, and all our selves are selves only to the extent that they disappear into all other selves. . .  Here we have entered into the realm of nonbeing.

Something real is manifested by the interfusion and interpenetration of multiplicities [and this is] the spirit of the great sympathy, the primary moving force of the universe.  Its ground is the realm of nonbeing, and we see it by the light of Heaven, as Taoists call it.  

Regarding the uncarved block, original simplicity: [at the beginning of creation] man lived a primitive life; all conceit and selfishness were put aside; there was only the free movement of the divine. . .  To live again in this world of simplicity, of free identity, man must transform himelf, get rid of his ego-conscious self.  Then no problem can be set before his intellect, threatening his existence.  His self, his intellect, indeed, his whole being is submerged in the world of the unknown, the world of knowledge of no-knowledge.  

Lao Tzu says that when one is transformed and at one with all multiplicities he is not self-assertive but disappears into all other selves. . .  he is living within the moving forces of the universe and he is himself a part of it.  


Intuitive Knowledge  & Quietude : Two methods of development to nonbeing
Intuitive knowledge - Chih - is a private awareness of one's innermost being . . . it is pure self-consciousness through immediate, direct, primitive penetration . . . There is no separation between the knower and the known; subject and object are identified.  Intuitive knowledge . . . manifested by the interfusion and interpenetration between the universe and all things . . . is the highest spiritual power in our possession.  It is entirely different from ordinary knowledge.

Tao cannot be reached by mere intellection.  It is only by setting aside our rational intellect and excluding conscious supposition that it can be reached.   Therefore the Taoist teaches without words, transmitting through nonexplanation.  

Intuitive knowledge . . . comes of itself, as light at the turning of a switch. . . as bursting into laughter. . . . Because nonbeing is a higher unity, a oneness, one does not come to enlightenment a little at a time, part today and part tomorrow.

Because of early Buddhist scholars we find the natural outcome of a synthesis of Indian Buddhism and Taoism.  This eventually led to a distinctively Chinese form of Buddhism, know as Ch'an or Zen Buddhism as it is known in the West. 

When we are in the void, the great beginning, the realm of nonbeing, the one, there is no room for speech.  If we speak of the one, then the one becomes the object, with ourelves as the subject, and oneness exists no longer in its higher unity.  Understanding that we are in the one without speaking of it is the approach to nonbeing through chih, intuitive knowledge.

Lao Tzu says "The student of knowledge learns day by day.  The student of Tao loses day by day."  Through losing one begins to approach the realm of quietude and enter the realm of nonbeing.  And through quietude one strives to return to the deep root of his being and become aware thereby of the deep root of all things.  It is the process of seeing and delving into the maternal depths of nature.  

Devote yourself to the utmost Void;
Contemplate earnestly in Quiescence.
All things are together in action,
But I look into their nonaction.
For things are continuously moving, restless,
Yet each is proceeding back to its origin.
Proceeding back to the origin means Quiescence.
To be in Quiescence is to see te "being-for-itself."

                    Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching  (Ch. XVI)

When a state of perfect quiescence is achieved all the signs of action of the outside world and one's will cease, and every trace and mark of limitations and conditions will vanish.  No thought will disturb.  One becomes aware of a Heavenly radiance within.  It is light in darkness. . .  the golden flower opens . . . and purifies the heart and the body as well.  One gains an illuminating insight into the pure nature of one's own being.  Here, then, is the real self, the inmost being. . . the realm of the great infinite, the realm of nonbeing.  

Immeasurable Potentialities of Creativity
When we are struck by the utter tranquility of landscapes by Mi-Fei or moved by the simplicity and purity of poems by T'ao Ch'ien, we come close to experiencing aesthetically what the Taoist hopes to experience spiritually.  There is something in these works that leads us to the inexpressible ultimate that man shares with the universe. . .  They draw us into a spontaneous and even unintentional unity which, as the Taoist sees it, refers back to Tao, the primordial source of creativity.  Only Tao, the mother of all things, is invisible and unfathomable, but it is through her manifestations, nevertheless, that all things are produced.  

From the Tao, the One is created;
From the One, Two;
From the Two, Three;
From the Three, Ten Thousand Things.

                    Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching  (Ch. IV)   

Actual creativity requires no intellectual explanation in terms of process.  It is, rather, a mere intuitive reflection of things.  

The wild geese fly across the long sky above.
Their image is reflected upon the chilly water below.
The geese do not mean to cast their image on the water;
Nor does the water mean to hold the image of the geese.

This little poem is a metaphor for the idea of reflection as creativity. . .  In this instant of reflection time is space and space is time.  They merge at one absolute point, the point from which all beauty, all that is created, arises.  Our minds are simply God's mirror, reflecting the "here-now" of creation.  Such, according to the Taoist, is the process of creation.  But this creative reflection can only be understood through private intuition. . . . Enlightenment comes only from within.

The Taoist concept of creativity is of self-realization, which requires no outward instrumentality to effect its inward processes.  Tao is the inner reality of all things.

The wild geese in the poem above cast their images upon the water completely without intention.  Such spontaneous reflection is the creativity of Tao.  But always Tao itself remains invisible and unfathomable.  What we grasp, what we see, is simply its manifestation through reflection.  Lao Tzu says: "Tao never acts, yet through it nothing is undone . . . All things create themselves" (Ch. XXXVII)

One is in all, and all is in one.  As soon as one absorbs all, one penetrates into all.  As soon as all absorbs one, all penetrate into one.  The conclusion is that not only all is in all, and one is in one, but all is one and one is in all.  In this way the inner reality of multiplicity is perfectly and completely interfused and identified.  . . . The one is the source of creativity.  From the great one are created all the glories of the world.  In the process of creativity each particularity retains the potentialities of the unity.  

Unity can never remain static.  It is both static and dynamic at once.  It its static aspect we see it as changeless.  In movement we see it as changes.  Besides understanding the unity within multiplicity we must attempt to see the changeless within the ever-changing.  Until we have done this we cannot comprehend the power of the great creativity.  When unity remains within itself it is changeless.  When it reflects itself it creates, and changes then manifest themselves.  

Our understanding of all this must come intuitively, not logically.

All things are together in action,
But I look into their nonaction.
For things are continuously moving, restless,
Yet each is proceeding back to its origin.                 Lao Tzu (Ch. XVI)

The spiritual man does not rigidly attach himself to particularities, but interfuses with the whole, the oneness of the ten thousand years.  He makes himself one with every change.  

Change is a product of self-generation.  From the changeless we come to the reservoir of creativity.  In the manifestations of the changeless we see its reflection.  This reflection is derived from the boundlessness of space and the endlessness of time. . .  the ultimate of all things, unity within multiplicity.  

He who comprehends both processes, that of the unity within multiplicity and the changeless within the ever-changing, and becomes an integral part of both processes, has attained enlightenment.  

The interfusion and identification between self and nonself is the source of all potentialities, all possibilities, and moves in the realm of absolute reality.  Thereby his reflection is filled with the creative spirit that animates all things. . . It is pure, true immediate reflection of ultimate reality.  We call it the process of creativity.  When man is in this creative process he is truly egoless. . .  

One of the great contributions of Chinese philosophy is the theory that man perfects himself through the cultivation of egoless selfhood.  The teachings of both Taoists and Buddhists rest on this theory. . . . The aim of the teachings is to open out what is hidden within.  

The Taoists cultivated intuitive knowledge or chih in order to attain enlightenment.  This is the knowledge of no-knowledge, or genuine knowledge. . .  Absolute mind, or pure consciousness, is completely without content, spotless, undefiled.  It is often referred to as the Heavenly light.  The Taoist process of transformation of the ego to the self is, thus, through knowledge of no-knowledge or nondifferentiation, to reach the storage house of the unconscious.  

"The universe is my mind.  My mind is the universe"  . . .  "this mind has no beginning or end and penetrates everywhere"  . . .  "what is Heaven is a symbol within my own nature; what is Earth is a form within my own nature" . . .   "what the sage teaches us exists already, self-sufficient, within ourselves" . . .  

The enlightened mind is free as the smooth surface of the lake against which the image of the wild geese is spontaneously reflected.  This pure reflection gives us no intervening moment for consideration or analysis by the tools of the intellect.  It is a flash of lightening, a spark struck from a stone.  It needs no passage of time.  It is immediate, without deliberation.  It does not admit of hypothesis and conclusion.  It is an echo from the valley of the struck gong.

Peace as identification of reality and appearance
It can only be experienced as a profound inward feeling, an immediate reflection of deep metaphysical insight, which is unverbalized and yet momentous in its action.  We cannot define and point to it, but we may echo the tone of the inner realm of those who have achieved this sense of peace when we read or chant their poetic expressions.  . . .  It is the deep underlying harmony of the nature of all things . . .

In a Taoist painting, the straight line of a bamboo or the gnarled lines of a pine tree do not merely convey a visual impression or arouse physical sensation, but their simplicity and directness, their completeness and movement flow out from the picture and penetrate into our inner being. . .  Our attention is drawn inward and we feel something in us unfolding the mystery of our hearts. . . .  There is wholeness, freedom of motion, and freedom of expression, overflowing and removing the mutually excluding opposition between the painting and ourselves.  Thus we throw our whole being into the beauty and move along with it. . . .  In the painting the subject is expressed from within . . . 

Within the outward appearances of all beauty there lies the rarer atmosphere, or the "unity of background" which serves as the ultimate reality of all appearances.  It is through this ultimate reality that our minds are opened to see our own wholeness of spirit, and enter into the wholeness of the universe, the deep underlying harmony of all things.

Appearance must be identified, one with reality.  This is exactly what Lao Tzu said in the first chapter of the Tao Te Ching:

Oftentimes without intention I see the wonder of Tao.
Oftentimes with intention I see its manifestations.
both of these are the same in origin;
They are distinguished by names after their emergence.
Their identification is called mystery.
From mystery to further mystery there is an entrance to all wonders.

Shih & Li
Shih means event or form.  Li, in its ordinary sense, is reason or principle, but by the Hua Yen School it is often used in the ontological sense, as meaning the absolute or reality, and eventually it means void or nonbeing.

Hsuang Shih-li, a well-known Chinese philosopher, expounds upon Li as the essence of reality, which consists of both void and silence.  Void does not mean nothingness in the sense that something once was and now is not.  It is the ontological foundation from which event or form manifests itself.  Therefore, Li and Shih are not separate existences, but they are completely interfused. . .  

There is one complete world. . . Reality is formless by itself but assumes any form that circumstances give it. . .  Appearance and reality are completely identified and nothing hinders their identification.

Experience Ultimate Reality 
Anything other than experience is meaningless. . . Reality is above thought.  It is by experience, a higher immediacy, that we grasp the nature of reality.  It is an awakening of a new consciousness . . . consciousness turning inward into itself.  In Zen's expression, it is the seeing of one's own "original face" before one is born.  It is consciousness coming to its own unconsciousness.  As expressed by Lao Tzu, a "Return to the Ultimateless.

From thought to the thought of the thoughtless, "beyond thought,"  from intellection to high immediacy or "one experience."  It is only when oneness--"one thought"--is reached that we have enlightenment.  This is our inner awareness of ultimate reality. . . oneness . . . the origin of all beauties, all truth, all advancement. . .  the primordial source of all things.

That which is  called Tao 
     is indistinct and ineffable.
Ineffable and indistinct.
     Yet therein are objects.
Deep-seated and unseen
     Therein are essences.
The essence is quite real,
     Therein is the vivid truth.
From ancient times until the present,
     that which is called Tao has never ceased to exist.

                    Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching  (Ch. XXI)

Tao is formless and imageless and yet from Tao all is manifested.  We can understand it only though immediate intuition, not through intellection. . .  According to Lao Tzu enlightenment is the uncovering of hitherto unknown powers of the mind. . . breaking through conceptual structures of consciousness, setting free the powers imprisoned in the depth of the unconscious. . .  

The transformation of the self from the ego-form to the nonego- form is the fundamental goal of both Taoism and Buddhism. . . In the realm of the nonegolike-self the dichotomy of reality and appearance is no more.  Man has reached the ground from which all great creativity springs.  

Processes of self-realization
Proceeding back to the origin means Quiescence.
To be in Quiescence is to see te "being-for-itself."
"Being-for-itself" is the all-changing-changeless.
To understand the all-changing-changeless is to be enlightened.,
Not to know that, but to act blindly, leads to disaster.
The all-changing-changeless is all-embracing.
To embrace all is to be selfless.
To be selfless is to be all-pervading.
To be all-pervading is to be transcendent.

                    Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching  (Ch. XVI)

The process of contemplation, which is from action to nonaction, is the reverse of the usual course of psychic functions.  Through nonaction absolute quietude is achieved.  One sees one's own original nature, and when this occurs one interfuses with the ten thousand things and becomes one of them.  This is the all-pervading and all-embracing.  In this state one is selfless.  Thus we say one is in the realm of nonbeing, or void.  This to is the basic goal of Yoga.  

The Method of Losing ~ Nonaction  &  Nothingness-Nonbeing
Lao Tzu speaks of freeing oneself from all confusion.  Regarding his "The Method of Losing" he says: "To search for knowledge is to gain day by day; to search for Tao is to lose day by day."  By losing and losing one ultimately reaches the state of nonaction . . . enlightenment.  One is free of distinctions.  One sees and becomes part of the one.  One becomes identified with the Infinite.  

Buddhist master Tao-an says: "By nonaction we come into accord with things. . .   Seeing into the nature of things . . . we eliminate the other and we eliminate the self.  This is integration into the One."    

As soon as man is born [the unique force of nonbeing] separates into two: ming, the substance of life and death, and hsing, the root of spiritual consciousness. . .  The central principle of Taoist meditative practice is to unify these two elements toward the attainment of oneness, which is the return to nothingness, nonbeing. . .  Through concentration on nothingness one awakens his cosmic consciousness to spiritual revelation.  Thus by cultivating both substance and spirit in meditation one dissolves one's self in the macrocosmic force and becomes part of it.  

Tranquillity reflected in Chines poetry
The true poet identifies with the Universe and interfuses with all things.  He is not the ego-self but the unlimited non-ego-self.  This sometimes manifests as primordial innocence, sometimes as transcendental spirituality.  Both are fundamental to poetic expression.  

Primordial innocence and luminous joy are two aspects of the one ontological experience. According to Taoist theory, this experience is intuitive self-awareness, which is different from discursive thinking.   It is the uncarved block, formless, soundless, colorless--yet  latent in it are all forms, all sounds, and all colors.  From this state of nonbeing, which is intangible and undefinable, all that is tangible and definable is produced.  The creative process of the universe is also the creative process of the poet, who has transformed his  ego into self and thus has become part of the universe. . . . 

In the process of creation the poetic work is brought forth from the primordial source, the "Fountain" of the great self.  Its achievement is beyond artificial and measurable effort; it expands from the finite to the infinite, from the limited to the limitless. . .  from being to nonbeing. . .  Creative activity in the highest sense has its origin in nonbeing, or the void.  Lao Tzu says: 

It is impossible to define.
So again it turns back into Non-being.
Thus it is called the form of the formless,
And the image of the imageless.  (Chapter XVII)  

From the poetic work we are often led back to the source of creativity and immediately share in the ontological experience.  

The wide pond expands like a mirror,
The heavenly light and cloud shadows play upon it.
How does such clarity occur?
It is because it contains the living stream from the Fountain.

                                                                                                                                poet Chu Hsi

In Spring when all the flowers are in bloom,
The evening river appears smooth and motionless.
Suddenly the tidewater comes with the reflection of glittering stars;
The ebbing waves carry away the images of the moon.  

                                                                                               poet Yang Kwang

Tranquillity reflected in Chines painting
Tao-painting is . . . the spontaneous reflection from one's inner reality, unbound by arbitrary rules from without and undistorted by confusion and limitations from within.  In this spontaneous reflection one's potentialities are set free and great creativity is achieved without artificial effort.  This method of no-method in painting is the application of Taoist philosophy . . . by which subjective and objective reality are fused into one.

"Heaven and Earth and I live together, and all things and I are one."  This unity in multiplicity is invisible and unfathomable and its emergence is not intentional but natural and spontaneous.  

"When I begin to paint, I don not know that I am painting; I entirely forget that it is myself who holds the brush."  Wu chen (14th century painter)

When the Chinese artist enters the invisible realm of creativity he uncovers the potentialities that are hidden in the state of no-thought, the ontological experience which leads inevitably to the interfusion of subjective and objective reality.  This state of oneness is supported by all the powers inherent in multiplicities and changes, and his work will be far beyond what his ego-form self could accomplish.  

The purpose of painting is chu'an shen, or the revelation of the spirit. . .  of unceasing motion;  of shen yun, or spiritual rhythm.  In a work of art or poetry Shen yun is that which is in the form and also that which goes beyond it to the beholder.  

The true artist is not concerned with the likeness of form, but aims at bringing forth the rhythm that pulsates within it.  

Lao Tzu says "Ten thousand things carry yin and embrace yang; through unification by ch'i they achieve harmony" (chapter 42).  

Hsiung Shih-li explains: "That which is yin indicates form; that which is yang indicates spirit.  Ten thousand things, all carrying a form and hiding a spirit, are in motion with the multitude.  When yin and yang harmonize the ten thousand things are transformed.  This is called the union of ch'i."

It is the function of Ch'i to unify the appearance with the reality; it makes the painting exist for itself and moves it beyond itself.  

The painter Chang Tsao, when asked about the method or rules that he followed, said:  "Outwardly, I follow the Creativity of Nature; inwardly I gain from the Source of my heart."

Creative innocence in Taoist Art
These paintings do not make any claim to beauty, power, elegance.  Instead they are totally simple, childlike in their innocence.  This absolute simplicity makes us realize that the artist's mind was in the state of nonbeing when he painted the picture.  The famous 13th century painting entitled "Six Persimmons" is a pure reflection of nonbeing.  It expresses the innocence of P'o, the uncarved block.  

Such painting reflects the artist's inner serenity . . . the Heavenly light that is produced in the absolute emptiness of the artist's pure being.

How profoundly silent is the temple of Tao!
Boundless and infinite, it is the dwelling place of the divine.
The light-hall is wide and high, yet awed by silence.
. . . 
When my mind is at ease my spirit is gay.
When understanding is gained, there is nothing left to comprehend.
Who can say that the realm of Tao is far from us?
Ni Tsan (painter, poet 1301-74)   See his painting Bamboo Branches at the beginning of the text excerpts  

This concludes the text excerpts from the book
Creativity and Taoism 1965 / 2011 
by Chung-Yan Chang

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