Looking at Sumie we see that often simple everyday things are the subject, a fly on the table, a kettle on the stove, women strolling in the rain, a mountain with cloud, in fact everyday events and things.
This is the real topic of the study of Zen in as much as we begin to note and observe, take interest in and witness in a fresh and new way our daily life. We realize that our normal and repetitive life can be a fascination and a source of spiritual enlightenment only if we take the time to observe it and see it in a way consistent with the teaching of Zen.
For example Sumie teaches one to observe and appreciate, to respect and to interact without judgement or demanding from our immediate environment. If we do this we start to share more and feel much more as we slow down, steady our rattling mind and think clearly by focusing without distractions.
Sumie asks one to pay attention to the subject and to drink with our eyes, draw it up with our pores, breathe in as one inhales, to listen to it sing and touch it with our skin. We are not afraid to experience the world around us because there are no longer barriers to this experience of viewing the world AS IT IS. This way of seeing and experiencing the world is called SUCHNESS. As we do this we also begin to know ourselves and our TRUE NATURE as well.
How does this process of seeing the world Just as it is, work?
Well as with sumie and painting everyday things we no longer feel the need so much to think and idealize spiritual experiences outside our normal environment or range of experiences. Why? Because we know that every tiny thing is imbued with the same life ESSENCE called KI. Our mind and body only exists due to that same Ki that enters our body at birth. There are fewer and fewer divisions in our preferences as we view the world and our experiences.
The categories of our mind diminish for example there is no need to have special, precious, holy, intellectual or boring and normal ideas and experiences because we realize life is one. Our mind no longer needs to categorize the world into segments. We see that CHANGE and seeing the whole rather that the segment is needed and useful. In our painting we attempt to make the horse run and the river flow and the flower glow as we recreated the world around us in black and white images.
That is the difference between ordinary unenlightened painting and Zen painting. I often watched my teacher Andre whose kindness and love flowed to all his students just like the ink from his brush, produce time and time again such works of art that were always alive with the spirit of the object. My observation of him was to witness a man who took great care and who profoundly enjoyed what he did and did it very well.
Andre summed up ordinary everyday enlightenment when he wrote in The Wandering Brush (Pub.Wilkie and Co. 1977)
Does a snail meditate?
Does a stone take exercise?
Does a tree recite sutras?
Is wisdom the fruit of man?
When I look at the cartoons of Michael Leunig and Mr Curly whose duck is ever present in his cartoons bringing him back to reality and the real.