Then you pick-up the brush and let your hand move in a natural way, effortlessly.
There is no thought about technique or about the result, there is no conscious effort to make a nice painting. Little by little, your complete bamboo will take shape and you will have a painting that is unquestionably alive. The bamboo is “created” from nothing, not just copied.
On rice paper, only one brush stroke is allowed for each mark: any touch-ups are immediately evident. All mental activities that are complicating the image (and your life) are given-up. So you understand that your thoughts about life, are not life itself and your thoughts about Zen, are not Zen; they are just thought…
How to learn
This way of painting is complete, it involves your whole body. It is not easy at all and working with an expert teacher is necessary, as well as getting used to repeating subjects, or parts of them, an innumerable number of times. The spirit becomes more and more refined and sensitive through constant repetition.
At the start, it is inevitable that your paintings will be cold and unnatural. Eventually, you may wish to have more beauty in your work, although this shouldn’t turn into an obsession of wanting to become a perfect practitioner of sumi-e, since then, by doing so, you wouldn’t make any progress. If you go on thinking in terms of good and bad, you are still far from the true spirit of sumi-e.
As in Zen, the spirit must be free from any voluntary desire for success and ambition. Probably, much sooner than you think, you will feel able to paint whatever you wish, because every part of a landscape will appear as the true reflection of the source of life and nature.
You will also realise that you are breathing better, that your body posture is more upright and “nobler” and that your overall health has also improved, including your spiritual psychological equilibrium.
In Zen, zazen is not just about learning a “meditation technique” but rather, it is about establishing a direct contact with the origin of everything (“Buddha nature”). In the same way, sumi-e goes beyond a simple “painting technique”.