This Zen skull painting done with black sumi and ink washes, shows a withered skull lying between weeds. Above the Zen skull stands the Japanese calligraphy KI ICHI or Return To One , two characters taken from the Zen koan, All things return to One. Where does the One return to?
Commonly skulls are a reminder of impermanence, but the idea behind this Zen skull painting is not only of impermanence, but also of spiritual awakening, the death of the false self, the great death.
In Zen terms this means that one sees into one’s own Nature, into the One, the Buddha nature, that is neither born nor destroyed.
The great death brings all back to One; leaving behind all dualities one can live life in peace and to its fullest.
This Zen skull painting is mounted on a scroll; soft green silk with fine pattern and natural wooden rollers at the bottom.
Sumi painting on rice paper with calligraphy in semi-cursive script.
If you would like to buy this Zen skull scroll, please contact the artist.
The calligraphy with the two Japanese characters KI and ICHI, refers to the 45th case of the Blue Cliff Record, where we read :
A monk asked: The myriad things return to one. Where does the one return to?
Joshu answered: When I was in Ch’ing Chou I made a cloth shirt. It weighed seven pounds.
(translation by Thomas Cleary & J.C. Cleary, from The Blue Cliff Record)
If you want to know more about this Zen koan and how to use it in your spiritual practice you can check the Winter 2011 writings by Zen priest and teacher Byakuren Judith Ragir .
The Zen skull calligraphy shows the following Japanese kanji in gyosho, semi-cursive style.
帰 KI – return, go back
一 ICHI – one
As a calligrapher I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the Japanese character for ICHI, one – is the very simple brush stroke, as you can see in the calligraphy. In Zen calligraphy the ICHI brush stroke is the very essence of calligraphy.
A print of a Zen skull painting is available at my prints gallery.
Related pages featuring Zen Calligraphy and Painting
| Zen Art Gallery | Zen Calligraphy Scroll |
| Zen Painting Seeing Into One’s Nature | Zen Enso Circle |
| Zen Calligraphy Scroll Mushin | Zen Calligraphy Scroll Namu Dai Bosa |
| Heart Sutra Scroll | Diamond Sutra Verse Scroll |
| A Glass Of Wine? | For Whom Do All The Flowers Bloom In Spring? |