Zen, Beauty and Grace

I’m a beginner for the most part, so I’m not an expert at Zen (which according to one book is a prerequisite already, right?:)) But one issue I’ve been running across is Zen for Zen’s sake. I see Zen as a way of understanding the world, not as a world within itself. I don’t think that a Zen that ignores the world is Zen. And furthermore, I think that when those who study Zen proclaim detachment from the world, they’re ignoring their own reality – perhaps not ignoring it, that might be too strong, but definitely downplaying it. Zen places are places of great beauty. To live in accordance with Zen is to live with a life of grace and elegance, in the truest sense. And this is reflected in an aesthetic sense as well. It may not be the point, the end, of Zen, but it is there. Zen’s influence on (and absorption of parts of) Japanese culture and aesthetics made its way to American architecture when Frank Lloyd Wright saw the Japanese pavilion at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Wright then became a huge influence on modernism and minimalism, both of which, when done right, reflect the efficiency and elegance of Zen aesthetics. Zen aesthetics, with the aforementioned elegance and grace it exudes, is reflected not in fashion, but in style in its truest and deepest sense. A building like that which the San Francisco Zen Center currently occupies, designed by Julia Morgan, is a perfect example. The buildings and gardens at Green Gulch. To say that the senses and aesthetics are not in the realm of Zen seems to be untrue. It may not be the reason for Zen, but living in such a way precludes waste and extravagance, clearing the way for real beauty to emerge, a beauty that has no choice but to be reflected in aesthetics as well as a graceful inner life.

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