The Blank Page


 A great Zen Master traveled with his disciple to the small village that sat in the foot hills below their temple. The student was excited about their visit to the village, as leaving the temple was a rare treat and he longed for this quiet time walking with his Teacher. He was a devoted student and knew that every moment with his Teacher held the opportunity to learn from him. He also enjoyed the attention given to them by the villagers, as his Master was revered and respected by all who had contact with him. The Sensei’s wisdom flowed effortlessly from all his words and actions. He was sure to learn something of the Tao on this trip together.

 During their walk down the mountain he remained quiet, as he had already been instructed that learning would not come from anything he spoke, but from being still in the moment and waiting for enlightenment to fall upon him. Through the long journey, his Master never spoke. As the Master and the villagers met, they exchanged kind greetings or common pleasantries, and he again remained quiet waiting for some profound moment to be revealed. They stopped at the shops where they could buy the few items they needed and still no great mystery had unfolded before him. He was frustrated and decided that he would find a way to learn something of importance.

As they began their walk back up the hillside, they passed the shop of an artisan close to the edge of the village. There in the shop were beautiful paintings and calligraphy for sale. The artist was a talented one and hardly a person could pass without stopping to take in the beauty displayed in even rows. The artist had carefully hung each just beyond the awning of his shop, so it would be enhanced by the natural light of the sun on this beautiful day. The colors seemed to almost glow in their depth and shading. The scenes of countryside, still life, people, and even the characters painted black on white, captured the passerby’s attention. He saw in this a chance to gain some insight and asked his Master which of the items he thought was the most beautiful. Certainly whichever painting he chose would have some deeper meaning of the Tao that he could then reflect on in meditation with the hopes of discerning its hidden truth.

That Master carefully looked at each, studying and admiring the beauty of color and form. When the Sensei would spend great time at any one painting, the student readied himself for his Teacher’s answer and the wisdom it would contain. Eventually, the Master entered the shop, and after a formal bow and greeting from the artisan, he walked to a blank canvas sitting in a darkened corner of the shop. He paused and pointed to the blank canvas and said, “This is, by far, my favorite of all the works I see here”. The baffled student asked, “But Master, how can this be? With all of the beautiful paintings outside with fine detail, practiced stroke, and mastery of color and shade, how can this be your favorite? It contains nothing.” The Teacher replied, “My devoted disciple, you see in the others only that beauty which is. In this blank page, I see all the beauty that can be.” The student again walked quietly beside the Master as they returned to the temple, his lesson learned.


© 2012  Commonsensibly Speaking ~ Brad Osborne

11 Responses to “The Blank Page”
  1. beth says:

    A beautiful, beautiful lesson

  2. Francisco Bravo Cabrera says:

    A very profound truth that I can certainly subscribe to. Brilliant Brad!

  3. Jim Borden says:

    a wonderful story and a powerful lesson. A blank page offers a world of opportunity, whether it be for an artist or a writer…

  4. Ah, how this reminds me of our conversation about music with/without lyrics and the opportunities that arise when you aren’t being led by the artist in a particular directions. What a true and positive story!

    • Brad Osborne says:

      Thanks sis! I loved spending time with you this weekend. I am looking forward to enjoying all the fine and delicious food you brought my way. The deviled eggs did not make it through the night! Love you, always!

  5. petespringerauthor says:

    We could all learn more if we talked less and used our other senses more.

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