If you have not seen it yet, the NHK World documentary “Sesshu’s World of Zen in Ink” can be seen here:
“Sesshu is called the father of Japanese ink painting. German-born Muho Noelke, a Zen abbot in Japan, visits Yamaguchi Prefecture in western Japan, a city that changed Sesshu’s life. Here, Sesshu escaped Kyoto’s culture of copying Chinese ink paintings and searched for his own style of expression. His works embody the Zen tenets and aesthetics that prevailed during the samurai age in which he lived. What he learned he imparted to his disciples. Even today they hold new discoveries.”
In a talk on various subjects, Dogen instructed:
Students of the Way, do not worry about food and clothing. Although Japan is a small country, far removed (from the Buddha’s country), there are quite a few people who were famous as scholars of the Exoteric and Esoteric Teachings, and who have become known to later generations. There are also many people who devote themselves to poetry, music, literature, and the martial arts. I have never heard of even one of them who had an abundance of food and clothing. They became known because they all endured poverty and forgot about other matters, so they could devote themselves completely to their own profession.
This is all the more true of people learning the Way in this tradition of the patriarchs. They have abandoned their occupations in society, and never seek after fame and profit. How could they become wealthy? Although this is the degenerate age, there are thousands of people in the monasteries in China who are learning the Way. There are some who came from remote districts or left their home provinces. In any case, although they never worry about their poverty, almost all of them are poor. Their only concern is that they have not yet attained the Way. Sitting either in a lofty building or under it, they practice [zazen] wholeheartedly as if they had lost their mother.
I personally met a monk from Shisen who had no possessions because he had come from a remote district. All he had was a few pieces of ink stick. They cost about two or three hundred mon in China, which is about twenty or thirty mon in Japan. He sold them, bought […]
English translations of the text can be found here: