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Sengai Gibon (仙厓 義梵, 1750 - 1837) was a Japanese monk of the Rinzai school, accomplished calligrapher and painter. He was known for his controversial teachings and writings, as well as for his lighthearted sumi-e paintings.


Sengai Gibon's "Kanzan and Jittoku", Japan, 18th-19th century.

Quotes about Sengai Gibon[edit]

  • Sengai Gibon (1750-1837) was an artistic Zen monk of importance, who took "a transcendental view of things that are relative and limited. One eye was turned deeply inward, while the other looked out with concern to catch the fleeting shadows of our earthly life."
    • Quote in: The Art Gallery, Volume 14, Nr. 1. p. 143; as cited in: 佛學: 創作與文摘, Nr. 1. 1980. p. 67
  • In 1837, when Sengai Gibon was asked by one of his students if he had anything to say before passing away, he replied, “I don't want to die."
His pupils, astounded to hear this, asked, "What was that you said?"
"I really don't want to die," repeated Sengai. (He was eighty-eight).
Yet an elaborate dead poet was recorded.
  • Zenshin Florence Caplow, ‎Reigetsu Susan Moon. The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women. 2013. The quotes originated from the preface to Yoel Hoffmann's collection of Japanese death poems.
  • Suzuki often cited the work of Japanese Zen monk Sengai Gibon (1750–1837), whose painting Circle, Triangle, and Square he saw as the embodiment of the universe. Suzuki interpreted Sengai’s three fundamental forms as geometries of formlessness and infinity, which underscored his own view of emptiness as the essence of Zen enlightenment. This scroll has fascinated people ever since. Rather than a single level of black or gray, the ink tones keep changing. The forms overlap just a bit, suggesting interconnections between these fundamental shapes.
  • Walter De Maria’s (b. 1935) Triangle, Circle, Square quotes from Sengai’s famous 18th-century Buddhist painting. His early work of the 1960s, including music, performance, and writing as well as sculptural and conceptual works, was impacted by his exposure to Zen-informed thinking. De Maria developed an interest in task-oriented, game-like projects that resulted in viewer-interactive sculptures.

External links[edit]

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