Monday, July 4, 2011

"The Eye As The Lens Of The Heart"

Last week as I nursed a fat ankle caused by some Samurai gardening,  I pulled out my copy of  "The Zen of Seeing" by Frederick Franck.  It doesn't get any better in my mind than when art and Dharma get mixed together, or should I say merged, because Franck joins the two in such a seamless way that you'd wonder why we ever thought they were two separate things.

His work always makes me think if you weren't inclined to draw but loved the Dharma, Franck could convince you that you must get your pencil out.  And if you love drawing, it is not much of a stretch to nod in agreement as  Franck turns it all into a spiritual experience.

I particularly like how he views Zen (or you can extrapolate his point of view to any spiritual practice, I think).  Listen to him: " This eye is the lens of the heart open to the world, My hand follows its seeing..... There is no split between a man's being, his art and what one might call his "religion" unless there is a split in the man"

And because he calls his book "The Zen of Seeing" Franck feels the need to clarify this thing he calls "Zen".  He starts by offering us a quote from, Dogen, the 13th century Sage who is regarded as the father of Soto Zen: "Whosoever speaks of Zen as if it were a Buddhist sect or school of thought is a devil."  hmmm..

Franck goes on to ask, "What is Zen?"

Here's his answer.
Zen is: being in touch with the inner workings of life.
Zen is: life that knows it is living.
Zen is: this moment speaking as time and as eternity
Zen is seeing into the nature of things, inside and outside of myself.
Zen is: when all living things of the Earth open their eyes wide and look me in the eye....

He goes on to talk about how this experiential approach to reality has been repressed, especially in the west, but that mystics and artists have always been in touch with it.

Oh, and by the way if the advertising world has convinced you in any way that Zen is a kind of soap, a perfume, a pair of jeans, an energy drink, or a style of baby furniture made by Fisher Price, you might want to reconsider that.


  1. Oh I love Franck! His book is the only Zen one on my bedside shelf. Read it a long, long time ago and it still resonates. Even the script is an experience in just seeing.

    Hope that ankle is healing well! It seems to be a year of foot and ankle dis-ease for all my Dear Ones!

  2. Yes,Yes,Yes! I'm resonating with 'The eyes are the lens of the Heart' - and art too :) Art is certainly a "window", a way to experience this "life that knows it is living" - the living expression of our Beingness - as you know!
    Beautiful Dharma! Love the tranquil Buddha face today :)

  3. Yes, there is something totally lovable about Franck! Such gentle Dharma. The Chinese year of the foot?? Ankle is all healed, thanks, Lynette!

    Mystic- Ah yes, the window, the lens. Yes Franck's expression of the truth is very much as you write it. And as always a pleasure to receive your kind words!

  4. I read his book (are there two?) many many years ago. in fact i think the ex husband now deceased had it first.

    I might add to your the advertising world--Zen in a box, Yoga in a Box, the compassion box (which I actually own as it has some nice cards in there) but I do chortle at all these boxes esp yoga in a box. What could be in there??

    wonderful Buddha shown here with the sewing pattern paper. hope yr ankle is better now.

  5. oh i do dearly love this book and franck... yes, he makes you feel as if drawing (and seeing) is the most natural thing in the world. one feels utterly at peace reading his words and gazing at his drawings...

  6. Sukipoet- yes there are 2 books, I have the other one too. I think it's the Zen of Drawing? Love the boxes. How do you get that yoga in a box, twist it into a pretzel. Makes me think of Pandora's Box!

    lynne - yes I think you work in the spirit of Franck, for sure. He does inspire, that's for sure!

  7. Thank you for this book recommend. I'll be picking this up at the local library.

    Your Buddha works always inspire me with the colors, shapes, textures and patterns.

  8. I love your point about the commercialisation of the concept of zen, giving it all kinds of thoroughly misleading associations.

    I always learn from reading here. Now I'm off to find out more about Frederick Franck!

  9. Gallery Juana - With all the sketching you do, I bet you will love Frederick Franck. And I am inspired by your creative sketching!

    anna - Yes sometimes it's fun to look at all the silly product names, like a perfume called Samsara. What were they thinking?? And if not Zen, then the many Buddha products, bowls and candles and boxes, ah marketing! Funny we don't see Jesus soap??

  10. I am not acquainted with this author...I think I better get my hiney to the bookstore and make a purchase....

    I thought this was very wonderful...There is no split between a man's being, his art and what one might call his "religion" unless there is a split in the man", how ironic that I was talking with someone about how often "minister/ spiritual leaders" are artists and vice a versa.

  11. Actually, there is "Jesus soap on a rope" :)