A brush is moving, but it began moving long before it ever hit the paper. Someone is holding that brush but if he or she is well-trained in Zen, you’ll get the scent of them but not much else. In this sense, the measure of quality of a piece of Zen calligraphy is not what it shows you about the calligrapher but what it shows you about yourself.
The calligraphy training (“shodo“) we do is more like a martial art than anything else, to be expected since it was made part of the Chozen-ji curriculum by Omori Sogen Rotaishi, one of the foremost Zen teachers, sword teachers and calligraphers of the 20th century in Japan.
Here you will find scrolls, meaning ink on rice paper that is then mounted, ready for hanging. And there are shikishi, the Japanese word for a stiff paperboard, suitable for framing. The three-character scrolls are based on the Tesshu training manual described in the section “Training in calligraphy.” These are not translated since they have no meaning other than in the context of the entire poem. Others are characters that do have meaning in the practice of Zen or Japanese archery (“Kyudo“) and these are translated.