Ikkyū was not only a leading Zen master but also a great iconoclast. Living during an age when Zen was strongly patronized by the government and wealthy merchants, he decried and mocked the loss of focus in many monks, including some who led major monasteries. His own calligraphy and painting are also individualistic, avoiding over beauty or skilfulness in favour of direct and honest expression. Here the two characters “silent” (静) and “seeing” (観) have been carved into a wooden board to be hung in a meditation hall or perhaps in a private dwelling. Typically for Ikkyū, the first character on the right is stable and complete while the next word shows more passion and energy. The carver has expertly rendered Ikkyū’s idiosyncratic brushwork, including the way a few hairs of the brush sometimes remained on the surface as he moved from stroke to stroke, and also the sense of space that Ikkyū was able to create, not only between, but also within the individual characters.
Silent seeing is whole body and mind seeing. Therefore it’s not about seeing with the eyes. As master Dongshan said, “If you try to see it with the eyes, you’ll never get it. It’s only when you see with the ear and hear with the eyes that you will truly understand the Dharma of thusness.”
~ The Zen Art Book: The Art of Enlightenment