“With thoughts clear, sitting silently, wander into the center of the circle of wonder.”
The Future is now… as promised, the sequel to the first article that examined the rational foundations of the Thy Veils universe is here. While our gaze turns to science, and the endless possibilities of exploring reality, an underlying foresight guides us. That is Zen.
Zen is an expression of Buddhism that originated in India and was later defined in China, in the early centuries of our era. It was later enthusiastically received in Japan, especially by the Samurai class, and for about two centuries it became the most popular form of Buddhism. Of significant importance in Zen was the idea that awakening is within anybody’s reach with the proper instruction in the form of spiritual cultivation by a master.
There is particular attention to artistry in Zen. At its core, it relies on simplicity and special consideration for the natural world. In medieval Japan, Zen monks played a key role in introducing arts and literature to the political elite. Zen monasteries soon became centers for disseminating imported Chinese techniques of printing, painting, calligraphy, poetics, ceramics, and garden design.
The writings of the Zen masters are both poetic expressions of meditative concentration and insight into the working awakened mind, and instructions in the meditative practice for students to realize the Zen truth. They are of assistance in the techniques and actualization of spiritual life. These practice instructions guide consciousness at the unified, illuminating source of creation and appropriate responsive interaction during daily life. The Zen writings offer an inspiring vision of the essence and potential of the universal spirit.
Many Zen masters are known for their artful use of language, turning conventional language patterns inside out to undo conditioned thinking, demonstrate the logic of awakening and actualize the mind “beyond-thinking”.
Thy Veils’ intersections with Zen date back more than a decade. The entirety of Mountain and Cloud (2010) is inspired by the teachings of Zen master Tozan.
“The blue mountain is the father of the white cloud. The white cloud is the son of the blue mountain. All day long they depend on each other, without being dependent on each other. The white cloud is always the white cloud. The blue mountain is always the blue mountain.”
Part of the same album, the video of Deep Space features verses from The Blue Cliff Record. This is a collection of 100 famous kōans with profound philosophical implications, one of Zen literature’s great treasures. Using abstract and organic video textures, shapes, and cosmic imagery, the Deep Space video does not attempt to represent concrete reality. Instead, it is a meditative video, expressing qualities and characteristics apart from any specific objects or instances, the present work points towards a deeper reality.
The flowers of Zen remain center stage on the next album too, Lumine (2013). Among the ideas that inspired the album, one belongs to the founder of Zen, Bodhidharma:
“They fix their minds on the sublime and let their bodies change with the seasons.”
Bodhidharma is considered to be the father of Zen because he was the first to introduce in China the specific teachings that later defined the Zen school. Much of his renown comes from a famous four-line teaching attributed to him, one that continues to be an overarching inspiration for Thy Veils:
“A special transmission outside the scriptures,
Not depending on words and letters;
Directly pointing to the mind,
Seeing into one’s true nature and attaining Buddhahood.”
This dictum has long been regarded as the taproot of Zen, and teachers from early times until now have credited it to Bodhidharma. While what is left of Bodhidharma’s work doesn’t contain this exact phrase, the writing attributed to him is full of teachings on observing the nature of the mind.
Zen inspiration is distinguishable in the 2019 album, Neoradiant. One of the songs, “Towering the Void” incorporates verses belonging to Zen master Tessho. According to tradition (jisei), he wrote a poem when he was about to die. Charged with his spirit, the master’s verses served both as a summation of life and as a parting gift to inspire his students:
“Finally out of reach
No bondage, no dependency
How calm the ocean
Towering the void“
Neoradiant as a whole is an album that is based on a vision oriented towards the future and observes various effects stemming from its contemplation. It is the first album, among more to come, to have a futuristic outlook. Neoradiant was the first step in Thy Veils’ odyssey towards a new and vast dimension, defined by an artistic vision that focuses on the future. Getting there, one is guided by a sense of wonder, enthusiastic dynamics, and the contemplative ecstasies of freely exploring the Universe and its reality.
The upcoming stage in Thy Veils’ trajectory is Next Forever, to be released in 2023. It once again features teachings from The Blue Cliff record, but also of the legendary poet Han Chan, master of Cold Mountain.
There are many styles and directions of thought in Zen. Among these, Silent Illumination and master Hongzhi Zhengjue’s teachings are paramount.
Hongzhi was the first master fully to articulate silent illumination, a form of nondual objectless meditation. Most traditional meditations involve concentrating on specific objects such as visual images, sounds, breathing, concepts, stories, or deities to develop heightened states of concentrated awareness. Silent illumination, however, involves withdrawal from an exclusive focus on a particular sensory or mental object to allow intent apprehension of all phenomena as a unified totality. This objectless meditation aims at a radical, refined nondualism that does not grasp any of the highly subtle distinctions to which our familiar mental workings are prone and which estranges us from our own enlightening experience.
“People of the Way journey through the world responding to conditions, carefree and without restraint. Like clouds finally raining, like moonlight following the current, like orchids growing in shade, like spring arising in everything, they act without mind, they respond with certainty.” – Hongzhi