Sengai (1750-1838) painted the famous Circle, Triangle, and Square with each form touching. Many believe his painting, which is now part of the collection of Idemitsu Museum in Tokyo, is the most important painting in Zenga Art. In reflecting on it, R.H. Blyth wrote that the touching shapes represent the three fundamental forms of the universe. D.T. Suzuki considered the work to signify a creation story. Others believe it embodies the unity of the three schools of Buddhism in Japan. 

 I like to think that Sengai was in a moment of “no mind” and was playing with universal shapes. Over the years, I too have painted many circles, triangles, and squares—but each version emerged from the tip of my brush when my mind was very busy. I struggled to enfold each form in the other. Then, the answer came during a moment of “no mind”: the circle, square, and triangle intertwined themselves in one continuous stroke.


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