Something about Zen that seems to relate to photography.

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by jtk, May 10, 2018.

  1. jtk

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    I'm not a practitioner but my exposure to photographers whose personal Zen practice over the years has shaped, or at least provided perspective for my photo work. I imagine that a Zen influence can sometimes be seen in my work...which rarely involves a lot of "nature" photography. And I'm more into essays than haiku :smile:

    Many of my direct photo influences have been Zen practitioners because I came upon the teaching methods of Minor White through my own teacher.

    Do you personally practice Zen? Have you in the past?

    Has someone's Zen practice influenced your photography?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dōgen
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2018
  2. Vaughn

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    I have done a lot of reading about Zen, which unfortunately, means little -- sort of like reading about making love but without ever kissing anyone.

    I noticed that many people think they are "Zenning it", when actually they are practising mindlessness. Zen is about mindfulness. Considerable difference, perhaps one day I'll figure out what the differences are.

    But yes, Zen (and Buddhism in general) has influenced me one way or another, but then growing up as a Christian has also. Attending a ceremony given by the Dalai Lama and his fellow Lamas was a watershed change in my life (late 80s). Compassion is a powerful force.
     
  3. Sirius Glass

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  4. Ian Grant

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    I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance quite a a few years ago, some friends gave it to me after Janet bought Chris the book thinking it was actually about motorcycle maintenance book on actual motor cycle maintenance. (I've just been out for a beer with them tonight decades later).

    It's the self questioning that's important, in hindsight I got a lot from reading the far book than I'd have expected. I re-read it again more recently, I think it helped clarify my why I made images after reading Sontag "On Photography".

    Ian
     
  5. slackercrurster

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    OP...I tired mediation a little years ago. Made me more relaxed, but got away from it.

    Zen? Prob not. I remember parking myself at Santa Monica pier for 15 minutes at night when they were shooting a movie. I saw nothing happen much. Bored as hell, but forced myself to stay for 15 min. Then could not stand it any longer. I'm a street and doc photog, not a landscaper. Maybe I could use more Zen, but I have no complaints with my work, so am happy as-is.
     
  6. Saganich

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    Yes for a few years I was practicing at Tibet Center in NYC with Rato Khen Rinpoche (AKA Nick Vreeland) who also is a photographer although at the time I didn't know that. We have a similar appreciation for trees it turns out. I also was schooled by Terry Lindquist, a student of Minor at RIT. The mindfulness from practice definitely opens up or enables seeing regardless of where you are. It allows one to walk down the same block day after day and see hear smell more and more each time. There is a great joy in being open to all of that and knowing that, whatever problems your facing, each moment wherever you are or doing is unique.
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2018
  7. Arklatexian

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    Maybe yes, maybe no. If being interested in wherever I am is "Zen", then maybe I qualify, If never having quite liked any of my photographs, then maybe I qualify. If it is another "hobby" then no thanks, I have too many already......Regards!
     
  8. Bill Burk

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  9. 4season

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    Not zen per se, but an old boss of mine had a photo of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche holding what appeared to be a Seagull folding camera, said he was an enthusiastic photographer and that I'd have liked him.

    My exposure to zen is mostly through entertaining writings and podcasts from the likes of Brad Warner.

    Yes in a way photography does seem very zen to me: The camera "sees" some reflection of what's actually there, and I've likewise had to train myself to see what's really in front of me including power lines, bits of trash on the ground, light that's just flat and blah, etc.
     
  10. John51

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    That book had a big effect on me also.

    The bit about the monkey trap made me put the book down for 3 days and think about my own (self inflicted) traps.

    When I read it again, some 20 years later, there were a few things I disagreed with. eg. imo, art can be mass produced. [The Jaguar XJS](https://duckduckgo.com/?q=Jaguar+XJS&atb=v78-5__&iax=images&ia=images) looks good from any angle. Makes it difficult to take a bad photo of it.
     
  11. blockend

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    The only rule I subscribe to is the one that says the harder a photograph is to take, the more interesting it will be. For example if everyone is looking in one direction the easiest thing is to photograph the thing they're looking at. Pointing the camera 180 degrees is harder, but generally results in a better shot. That may require Zen, but mostly needs balls or a certain chutzpah.
     
  12. jnanian

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    thanks bill

    the take away i got from your link directly relates to photography and how photography has to do with zen

    恁麼説話、也是赤土搽牛嬭。
    However, all this kind of talk is like making a mud pie with milk and butter.


    people like to ascribe certain otherworldly mechanisms, some sort of mysticalness to making photographs
    whether they are street photos ( anticipation ) landscapes ( patience ) portraits ( connection+dance) and everything else ( seeing+noticing)
    nothing to do with religion or zennng out but paying attention+...
    i didn't see paying attention+ ... in the sacred text you linked to ... but that's just me ..

    im guessing more people follow the wizdom of Hagakure &c but then again, one might say zonies are kind of Zenny ..

    YMMVFTSOTW
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2018
  13. OP
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    jtk

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    fwiw zen is, if it's anything, a way of looking at things.

    Not a noun or adjective. But hey, since it refers to nothing more than it refers anything, go for the gold !

    Here's Alan Watts, a former Anglican priest who introduced zen and other ways of seeing things to beatniks, hippies, me, uncountable photographers and other blessed problem children.

    https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/...=9ef71f52f0a08d71c8f596793432ebd0&action=view

    Watts was recorded thousands of times, often by KPFK radio. Unfortunately many of his Youtubes are cursed by the inevitable music, probably to hide the tape noise.

    He was known as a fun guy: cigarettes, wine, substances and women.

    If you'd prefer a Japanese person, here's Suzuki Roshi: http://suzukiroshi.sfzc.org/dharma-talks/ Many of Minor White's students sat with Suzuki Roshi.

    I remember Roshi's nuns bouncing a huge weather balloon at a Quicksilver Messenger Service performance.

    https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/...=8324ee1d2cc32395789f84b5e63bcd2d&action=view
     
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  15. RattyMouse

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    Yes I practice Zen. I took the precepts in the year 2000 from Ven. Samu Sunim in Chicago (now in NYC).
    Well, I like to photograph Buddhist Temples and have made images of well over 100 temples all across China, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, and Thailand.
     
  16. RattyMouse

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    Tibetan Buddhism is not Zen. It is its own distinct school of Buddhism, extraordinarily different from Zen's practices.
     
  17. Peter Schrager

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    if you try to explain ZEN you are already off base...
    you got to figure it out for yourself..it's a lifetime of learning
    there's no one to follow; no guru; no truth or untruth!!
     
  18. Saganich

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    enlightement is difficult for those worried about details
     
  19. RattyMouse

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    Hilarious.
     
  20. Bill Burk

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    And enlightenment in photography is more about Zone than Zen

    (Noticing the light)
     
  21. andy_shoots_

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    I find Japanese calligraphy and sumi ink painting quite beautiful, which lead me to some light reading on Zen. I really could not decipher beyond the written words. But I always felt like a meaningful revelation laid beyond my understanding.
     
  22. Vaughn

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    Alan Watts' writings were my first introduction to Zen. D.T.Suzuki's Zen Buddhism was an early read, also, back in the 70s. Still on my bookshelf along with Watt's This is It, and The Way of Zen, along with several others, including writings on Taoism and Chuang Tzu...along with the very complex and confusing The Tibetian Book of Living and Dying. I just finished How the Swans Came to the Lake, a history of Buddhism coming to the Americas...tracing its roots back to the Colonial days with the introduction of Chinese thought (Confucius especially) to Europe and the (white) thinkers in the colonies.

    There are two main schools of Zen in Japan with different approaches (Soto and Rinzai). A third school (Pure Land) also exists. But they are all tied to the Enlightenment of Buddha in India around 2500 years ago, whose teachings reached China, was transformed and spread to Japan to become "Zen". To say Zen is simple is to ignore its history and complexity. To say it is complex, is to ignore the beautiful simplicity that is its base.
     
  23. OP
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    jtk

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    fwiw I don't think "enlightenment" is relevant one way or another, although it is said by some that the Buddha experienced that. That particular Buddha's role may have been be similar to that of Jesus, something akin to teaching the obvious, along with compassion. Exposure to zen practice seems to help people slow down and see somewhat differently. It has no more to do with religion than does chewing your food before swallowing. It also encourages compassion.

    I had a prof who had lived for two years in a Japanese monastery, who said there were two common approaches to the practice of zen, one of them sitting (zazen) and the other walking (hiking). Also that Basho, the poet, was known as a hiking drunk. Alan Watts, who I linked above, said zen monasteries often served the same purpose as military academies by very firmly requiring disciplines of undisciplined people, especially of teens.

    Thanks for sharing your various experiences and thoughts.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2018
  24. RattyMouse

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    Pure Land Buddhism is actually quite distinct from Zen. There is no meditation practice in Pure Land while both Soto and Rinzai have a certain focus on this practice. From Wikipedia: "Strong institutional boundaries exist between sects which serve to clearly separate the Japanese Pure Land schools from the Japanese Zen schools."

    Obaku is the third form of Zen practiced in Japan.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ōbaku

    There are many other schools of Buddhism inside Japan besides Zen and Pure Land.
     
  25. Vaughn

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    And it has everything to do with enlightenment and religion, as well. Amazing stuff.

    Reading Wild Ivy, the autobiography of Zen Master Hakuin (1686 - 1768) this past April certainly put a different twist to my limited understanding. A far cry from the "just sitting" and teacher-less image of Zen.

    Obaku is the third form of Zen practiced in Japan.

    Correct -- it does have Pure Land elements...my error.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2018
  26. RattyMouse

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    What is teacherless Zen?
     
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