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What Is the Zen Circle?

In Zen Buddhism there are many different types of symbolism that arise; one of these is the Zen Circle, otherwise known as the Enso. It is used in calligraphy quite often and has a rich history even though it is not a character.

What it means

The Enso is most commonly associated with Zen Buddhism. It is a symbol of the absolute enlightenment, elegance, strength, universe and the void. Some also believe it to symbolize the Japanese aesthetic itself. It is considered an expression of minimalism.

Painting the Enso

If one is painting, then the Enso represents a moment when the mind lets the body create whatever it wants. It is usually done on silk or rice paper and is done in one stroke. It is supposed to show how artistic the spirit is at that specific time. Many Buddhist believe you can judge someones artistic ability by how well they draw an Enso, and that only a person who is spiritually and mentally complete can draw a true Enso.

Variations among artists

Artists tend to draw their Enso very different from other people. For example, if the artist leaves the circle open, then it is believed that Enso is not separate but part of something greater or that imperfection or incompleteness is inherent in our lives and our universe. Many Zen masters also use the Enso as a signature for their artwork.

The Enso has many meanings, but most of them are tied to Zen Buddhism which makes it a very interesting symbol as it represents so many different ideas.