Hundreds of years before the Zen philosophy reached Japan, there was a Chinese Zen master by the name of Kyazon. One of his students was struggling with his practice. He needed something concrete to contemplate, a visual expression of the abstract idea of enlightenment.
While the student didn’t express his feelings, the master somehow picked up this longing. He took out a piece of rice paper and some fine paint and without thinking, in one stroke, he drew a circle. The circle was far from perfect, it was fluid and expressive, natural and minimal, but also irregular and asymmetric.
The Zen master handed the painting to the student and told him the symbol would help him in his practice. He received the gift with great gratitude, and then asked the master why he drew a circle that wasn’t fully closed.“Once the Enso is drawn, one does not change it”, the master spoke. The student was confused. What did the master mean?
The following days, weeks and months, the student kept on repeating those words in his head, as a mantra. Every day he would meditate and the moments his mind would wander away he would always picture the Enso, the circle, in his mind.
And then, one day, he just knew. He finally understood why the circle wasn’t perfect. It was about the beauty of imperfection. The Enso came about in a moment when the mind was free to let the body create. It showed the creator and the creation in a brief moment in time.
From that time on, Enso circles are drawn as a spiritual practice. A moment in which creativity flows freely and creation is imperfection, is elevated as the essential life force.