Working on the micro-level of balance, I decided to practise calligraphy.
Externally, it’s a way of presenting wise sayings succinctly in a way that does justice to their meaning. It’s perfected by balancing script with empty white space. (For Dhamma sayings, one needs a lot of empty space.) It’s also lightweight and portable – a few nibs, a couple of bottles of ink, paper.
Years ago, George Sharp, who was a professional illustrator, noticed some of my sketches and cartoons and gave me a calligraphy pen; and for my own amusement as well as to produce a presentation of the First Sermon that would encourage people to chant it, I ended up producing a series of illuminated manuscripts. Much of that was done amid the grime and fungus-riddled air of Cittaviveka in the early days. For the past 38 years, I’ve done very little in that field.
Yet, at this time in my life, I’d like to do a few things to reset the balance from duty to beauty. So, I pick up the pen again.
I had particular sayings and texts in mind and thought I would write three or four of them during the Rains.
After reintroducing myself to pen and ink, and realising how out of touch I was, I narrowed that aim down to maybe doing one. After a few days of more practice, I thought I could just get one sentence. A few hour-long sessions indicated that – forget the words, I needed to just get the letters right.
That went down to practising to get one stroke where the ink, nib, hand, and mind were flowing together seamlessly. Where the mind wasn’t aiming for the next letter. Where the hand wasn’t dragging the nib. And how that depended on posture and relaxed embodiment. To keep the hand light while sustaining a focus that can maintain awareness of the lines with the space between and within each letter.
It’s the kind of all-encompassing balance that characterises Dhamma practice. The Buddha likened it to the ‘right’ way to hold a quail: too tight and you crush it, too loose and it flies away. When it is sammā, awareness engages without expectation, faltering, pushing or hanging back.
The deeper significance being that, as these programs and more constitute my ‘self’, such ‘fitting’ action dissolves the actor. The frame gets wide and open. The picture is: ‘Work in progress…’
This reflection by Ajahn Sucitto is from the Blog Reflections: “Adjust the Frame, Review the Picture,” Saturday, 3 September 2022.