We were first greeted with this scroll, translated “wherever you are, be your own master”, in the small tea room just coming in from the hallway. Primarily, it strikes me as a phrase related to self-control. People are born with a capacity for autonomy, a quality better utilized than neglected in the world we hope to harmonize with. While it’s not uncommon for the constraints of external forces to direct our movement, it’s unfortunately too easy to let such forces take over completely. By default, floating along the path of least resistance leads not to where we wish to go, but simply to where life takes us by circumstance. It’s not so much fate as it is fatal, only the living are able to create their own path in spite of the circumstances.

But what path? We come to the second scroll, translated as “the way of art is the way of Buddha”. By associating these two concepts, we may reach for a deeper understanding of their meaning, than either in isolation. In many contexts, the way of Buddha is reference to how one might live their life, an eightfold path of doing the right thing. And if I were to summarize what the way of art was, it’d be that process by which forms are refined. Together, we might think of and treat our lives as artistic expression, where refinement comes from cultivating a Buddha nature.

Refinement, not perfection. We come to the third scroll with the translation “impermanence of all things”. The world is constantly in motion, and perfection doesn’t exist except perhaps for a given moment. What was right for yesterday may not always be right for tomorrow. With impermanence being such a central concept in Buddhism, and in conjunction with the message from the first two scrolls, a suggestion emerges that “suffering” ends when we come to navigate through an ever changing world as opposed to the other way around.

~ Felix

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