Zen art, the aims of which are to teach and to inspire, should be contemplated rather than merely viewed. Traditionally every scroll was displayed in the finest receiving room of a temple or house, allowing a visitor to contemplate the picture quietly. Exhibitions of Zen art are often held not only in museums and galleries, but also in the meditation halls of temples.
The most important element in Zen painting (zenga) and Zen calligraphy (zensho) is the flow of vital life energy through the ink (bokki). We can say that this is the most precious secret of Zen art. In oriental ink painting in general and in zenga in particular, what is most important is the line. If the line is full of vital life energy, the whole painting is lively and has amazing power. It does not depend on the painting technique or on the quality of the paper, ink or brush. It depends only on this vital energy, which is always present, but which remains hidden if not cultivated. Thus, Zen art is part of Zen training. Zazen is one of the ways of cultivating this energy.
Nyogen Nowak was born in 1956 in Wrocław. When he was 15 he became interested in Buddhism and Buddhist art. In 1974 he started to practice zazen. In 1980 he was ordained as a zen monk in one of the American zen centres. In 1982 in Los Angeles a Korean zen monk introduced him to zen painting. He came to Japan for the first time in 1983 to meet Harada Tangen Roshi, his teacher and the abbot of Bukkokuji temple In Obama, under whose guidance Nyogen was practicing until April 2012 when Roshi stopped teaching because of his old age and health problems. Meeting with the original paintings and calligraphies of Japanese zen monks as well as the words of encouragement from his master as well as many other priests made zenga paintings a part of his zazen practice. In Japan he was once again ordained as a soto zen monk and after receiving Dharma transmission, he became a soto zen priest. In 1995 he received a scholarship for zen painting from the Yokohama Zenkoji Scholarship for International Buddhist Study. Since 1989 he has been living with his wife in Sendai where he practices zen according to the instructions we was receiving for many years from his master and paints zenga. A member of ZPAP (The Association of Polish Artists and Designers).