Universe Of The Mind (天心): Master Shen-long
MASTER SHEN-LONG (SOBRIQUET IS “XIAO-YAO 逍遙”; COURTESY NAMES ARE “TAI-YI 太一”, “SHEN-LONG 神龍”, “TAI-XUAN 太玄”, “TAI-CHU 太初”, SO ON AND SO FORTH) IS AN ARTIST, CALLIGRAPHER, POET AND PHILOSOPHER.
At an early age, he was an artist disciple of the Han Yu Tang 寒玉堂 (the studio of Pu Ru-Royal Prince Aisin Gioro Pu Ru 愛新覺羅•溥儒, also known as Pu Xinyu 溥心畬), cousin of Aisin Gioro Pu Yi 愛新覺羅•溥儀, the last Emperor of China.
As a Dhyana (Zen) Master and Patriarch and founder of the Enlightenment Mind School (覺能心宗), he has conducted many public explanations on the essential Sutras of Buddhism, such as the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch Huineng 六祖壇經, the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra 般若波羅密多心經, the Surangama Sutra 楞嚴經 and the Vimalakirti Sutra 維摩詰經; as well as the key sutras of the Pure Land School—the Buddha Speaks of the Infinite Life Sutra 佛說大乘無量壽莊嚴清淨平等覺經, the Buddha Speaks of the Amitabha Sutra 佛說阿彌陀經, Essential Annotation on the Amitabha Sutra 彌陀經要解, the Chapter of the Surangama Sutra-the Great Strength Bodhisattva (Mahasthamaprapta) Chant/Mindfulness Amitabha in Perfection to Become Buddha 大勢至菩薩念佛圓通章, and more.
As a multidisciplinary artist, he is a contemporary master of the classical Chinese literati perfections of poetry, painting and calligraphy, as well as seal carving. In his artwork, he works in a variety of styles, formats and techniques, including ink painting, oil painting, sculpture and photography. The sizes of his paintings can range from small delicate works, to multi-sheet compositions of full-size xuan paper measuring from 4 x 4 feet to 12 x 36 feet, to large oversized rolls of various materials such as canvas and other fabrics measuring hundreds of feet long.
As early as 1982, Master Shen-Long was the first artist to place a nude female figure in a Song dynasty-style (960-1279) landscape painting (Lady Nightingale Summarizes Throughout The Ages, 1982), creating a new signature painting style and combining opposite traditions. For Master Shen-Long, the nude woman was, and continues to be, symbolic of the purified spirit of mankind, which corresponds with the harmony between humans and nature as advocated in Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism. He is also the first artist to address the Buddhist, Daoist, and Confucian philosophical concept of 小到無內, 大到無外 (“down to the smallest, the same as one’s nature has no inner boundary, up to the utmost biggest, the same as the universe has no outer boundary”—meaning that the concepts of “small” “big” “inner” and “outer” are all manifested from the mind and originally do not exist) in displaying his artwork from one individual piece or linkable up infinite size. His figural images are unlike images of ordinary humans; rather they are transformations of supernatural entities (such as Buddha).
In the 1990s, he created a new abstract splashed ink method free from traditional brushstrokes, resulting in reversible works that showcase inexhaustible energy and movement. These paintings and their rich details can be viewed and displayed on both sides, blurring the line between painting and sculpture. He employs traditional Chinese materials such as brush and ink and combines them with modern materials such as spray paint, raw canvas, mixed media fabrics and found materials—a happy marriage and crystallization of many years of artistic exploration and practice.
In addition to mastery of all traditional Chinese calligraphic script styles, he has created many new styles of calligraphy, such as Shen-Long model calligraphy 神龍法書, Shen-Long Spiritual calligraphy 神龍靈文, and Shen-Long double-hook calligraphy 神龍雙鉤. He has also created new symbols for Tai-Ji (Supreme Ultimate) and Ba Gua (Eight Trigrams) of Daoist cosmology.
Philosophically and creatively, Master Shen-Long attempts to express the Buddha-nature (enlightenment nature) inherent within every being that creates the inexhaustible energy of universal life, based on the enlightened statement of the Sixth Patriarch Hui-Neng of Dhyana (Zen) Buddhism of the Platform Sutra: There is not a single thing originally, where can dust be provoked! He created the theory and philosophy of “enlightenment power and ability” by writing A Manifesto on the Use of Enlightenment Power and Ability in Art Creation 覺能藝創宣言, and coined the concept of “enlightenment power and ability in art creation” to describe the pure inherent nature of all beings, and the use of one’s inherent nature and wisdom to create one’s life. His art is not only a reflection of his personal cultivation practice but is also intended to help awaken all and encourage the restoration of all beings’ original pure enlightenment energy and ability within, a process he refers to as “Enlightenmentism” 覺能主義.
Master Shen-Long’s artwork illustrates a deep understanding of Chinese art, history, and culture. His works blend traditional and contemporary ideas together into a new central idea of his own, bridging the past with the present. For many years until now, his images all vary in appearance and subject matter, representing the ever-changing phenomena of all life in the universe. Whether abstract, non-abstract, semi-realistic, semi-automatic, semi-intentional, splashed ink, written, drawn, or sculpted—all his works are unique and boundary-crossing, of his own style, and of his own ideas rendered into one complete expression; a major artistic achievement.
A prolific writer, Master Shen-Long’s recent publications include Wisdom of the Heart Sutra (2011), Amitabha (2013), and Prajna, Volumes I & II (2013), Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch (2014), and Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra (2019). His artwork has been presented at various institutions around the world.