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E Thirteen Bodhisatvas
     
F The terrifying one: ham
     
          
     
IMAGE E, F Sitting in front of this letter and meditating, in the process of enlightenment the distinction between worshipper and worshipped is effaced for the meditator. Many bodhisatvas have been grouped together and represented through the depiction of seed syllables including ham - a Buddha with a terrifying appearance called Fudo Myoo. Mandalas (of geometric shapes) made out of seed-syllables as well as mantras with seed-syllables arranged in a vertical manner to form a stupa shape, are further extensions of monosyllabic mantras to serve a definite meditative purpose in esoteric Buddhism.


G Ichi by Jiun

     
     
IMAGE G First, a seeker of the way must know himself - JIUN.

H Enso by Hakuin

     
     
IMAGE H The ritual practice of ichi (a line) and enso (a circle) is part of Zen philosophy. For Zen calligraphers, the single stroke ichi is equivalent to the `a' of Siddham. Concentration of this stroke is of paramount importance since the first touch of the brush to the paper reveals the state of the mind of the calligrapher. The ichi has to be drawn from left to right with full strength at the beginning as well as at the end. Enso, the circle of infinity practised by Zen monks for years, is a symbol of simplicity with profundity, emptiness with fullness, the visible and the nonvisible.

I Ichi by Hakuin

     
     
IMAGE I All things return to the one - HAKUIN.

J An initiation: Book of Kells

     
     
IMAGE J Geometric in essence, logical in structure, the Roman calligraphy encouraged by monarchs and monasteries, and advocated by able writing masters, is seen as a culmination of well proportioned, simple letterforms; an aesthetic base coupled with utilitarian vision that contributed to the horizontal spread of written culture. At times a single calligraphic style was even declared as a `national hand' (e.g. half uncial in Ireland). Yet the most exquisite and elaborately decorated initial letters, such as those found in the Books of Kells, are a rich tribute to the religious faith manifested within.

K Thuluth Basmalah

     
     
IMAGE K Islam, by contrast, saw all letters as holy expressions. In the process, their holy scripture Koran (Quran) became a symbol of holy calligraphy. Not just beautiful, but holy. In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful, the invocation Bism Allah al-Rahman al Rahim known as the Basmalah, is used before chapter openings throughout the Quran, and in many styles developed by the great calligraphers such as Yakut and Wabbab. Since no idol worship was permissible in this faith, letterforms and their elaborate compositions (tughras) were used in manuscripts as well as architecture, not just as letters but as images of the highest holy order.


 
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Last Modified by Z Z on 12 june 1996