In their wisdom and simplicity, Zen masters will say that an Enso Circle cannot be explained. We can only experience it. Those who practice the art of Enso will say that it is both simple and difficult. These two statements perfectly explain this ancient Japanese art form.

Ensō | The Circle of Enlightenment in Buddhism

What does the Enso circle mean?

In its simplest terms, Enso is the Japanese word for "circle" or "circular shape". Think of a regular circle. You might choose to see it as a representation of nothing (i.e. zero).

On the other hand, the circle could be a shape that encompasses everything within it. Maybe you see it as both. In a way, it is the epitome of a Zen state of mind, where nothing and nothing exists. The shape is zero and zero is the shape.

The Enso Ring, also called the Zen Circle, is a circular shape that is drawn to express the the wholeness or emptiness of the present moment. Additionally, the way one draws the circle represents one's state of mind at that particular moment. An Enso circle is a stamp of everything that happened during the drawing process.

The story of the Circle of Enso

The Enso Circle

An Enso is not a character, but rather a symbol influenced by Japanese calligraphy. The roots of this calligraphy date back to the 28th century BC. BC in China, from where it was imported to Japan in the 5th century AD

Practiced mainly by Buddhist monks and nuns before being adopted as an administrative tool of the State , the Eastern calligraphy technique was largely influenced by Zen thought.

Today, one of the oldest existing Japanese calligraphies is an inscription on the famous Medicine Buddha sculpture found in Horyu-Ji temple.

The Zen way of the brush

Zen typically refers to insight into Buddha nature through meditation and the expression of this insight in a person's daily life. Buddha - nature is the recognition of the nature of the mind for what it is - when one goes beyond the illusions of the mind.

Buddhism is the practice or path that leads to this understanding - to the awakening of the true nature of reality.

Creating a Japanese Enso is similar in thought and practice. An Enso is drawn with one continuous brushstroke, with only one chance to complete it. There is no going back to correct the situation.

First of all, it requires focus and certainty. This can only be done through full awareness, that is, through the ability to clear one's mind and be fully present in the present moment.

But at the same time, drawing an Enso requires being fluid. You can't consciously pause between brush strokes to prepare for a perfect result. This requires practicing unconsciousness. Not caring about skill, effort and result.

One simply lets it flow from the unconscious. Unconsciousness is one of the pillars of Zen Buddhism which encourages connection with the spiritual rather than the physical. As such, drawing the Enso circle has been referred to as the Zen way of brushing.

Creative non-creativity

"Enso represents the entirety of experience. It is non-duality," explains Kazuaki Tanahashi, Japanese calligrapher and Zen teacher.

"Because it does not depend on language, you can bypass the intellect and communicate more directly. It is simple because it is a circle, but it is a very demanding experience because there is no has no explanation. You have to live with it. An Enso is done decisively, once and for all, without any correction. But it is not that creative. creativity."

Enso and Wabi-Sabi (Imperfect Beauty)

Ensō | The Circle of Enlightenment in Buddhism

An Enso ends up being a unique expression of the artist's current reality in all its gore and glory.

In art and aesthetics, the expression of temporary and imperfect beauty is called Wabi-Sabi. Think of it like the feeling you get when you see a chipped old rustic china bowl or the feeling of awe evoked by a harsh landscape.

It's the perfection of the lotus blooming in a muddy pond. In its aesthetic essence, Wabi-Sabi is natural, authentic, asymmetrical, raw, simple and minimal.

In Buddhism, Wabi-Sabi is used to designate the existence of the three states:

  1. Impermanence
  2. Suffering
  3. Nothingness

In an Enso circle, the shape (the brushstroke) is empty (the center of the circle) and vice versa.

The reality of life is that nothing lasts, nothing is complete and nothing is perfect. Because drawing an Enso circle involves a single, non-repetitive and incomplete brushstroke, it does not depend on 'perfection'. Yet in this imperfection the reality of his true nature is instantly and fully expressed.

Also read: What does the symbol mean Aum/Om?

Each time the calligrapher has to draw a new Enso, the previous one is left aside. This transition is the impermanence of everything.

Drawing an Enso can be defined as the practice of expressing the imperfect beauty (suffering, emptiness) (life, consciousness, freedom) of the present moment, letting it go and start all over again.

Before learning how to draw an Enso

Learning to draw a “good” Zen symbol defeats the purpose. In this art, skill is not important.

The story is told of a young Zen monk named Hakuin. He had been the subject of intense symbol painting - his features were exemplary polished. One day, he saw the work of an old Zen master whom he greatly admired. But Hakuin was very surprised to see how rustic and unpolished the Master's strokes were.

Thinking about it, Hakuin realized that his work did not come from an expression of self-realization. self, but learning. Realizing that Zen art develops from years of discipline and search for enlightenment, Hakuin burned his brushes and only returned to art after 40 years of Zen practice.

The Moral of this story is that Zen art is an outward expression of the inner state. Drawing an Enso takes as long as it takes to wake up. For most of us, it's a lifelong job.

The beauty of it is that even the beginner's imperfection is perfect because it serves to capture the present moment. The present moment is perfect. It is complete. It's a circle.

How to draw an Enso?

Ensō | The Circle of Lights in Buddhism

Ensos come in different forms.

  • Some have bold features with sprayed bristles, and others are lean and clean.
  • Some are almost perfect circles while others are more oblong.
  • Some form a complete circle, others a loop.
  • Some masters use the same pattern strokes repeatedly (they are not interested in variety) but you will notice that each Enso remains different from the other - thus expressing the uniqueness of each moment.
  • Some include words inside or around their circle explaining the artist's deeper meaning. Zen art is as diverse as the souls that travel through it.

You don't need to draw an Enso on paper with a brush and ink. It can be done in the air - with one swipe of an invisible finger, feet on sand or snow, and one can use stones or energy stones to draw a pattern in a room.

But to keep it simple, here's how to paint an Enso on paper and get a photo of your inner state in 15 seconds or less.

Find a stable surface.

  1. Make sure your paper/material is stable. You can lightly place one of your hands on it.
  2. Dip your brush into the ink/paint. Saturate the brush.
  3. Hold the brush horizontal to the paper - or you may find works for you.
  4. Make sure the bristles are completely lying on the page.
  5. Don't move, relax.
  6. Inhale deeply. As you exhale, let your brush flow in a circle across the paper or canvas.
  7. Most people follow a left-to-right, top-to-bottom motion, but you can paint in any direction.
  8. Do it in one go, preferably as long as it takes you to complete the exhale.

The use of Enso outside Buddhism

In modern times, a large percentage of Zen artists place much emphasis on its esoteric nature as prescribed within the confines of Buddhism. But many in the West have used the same concept in other areas.

Several design firms are known for using adaptations of the symbol on logos and other structures to express a corporate culture of creativity and other related concepts.

Various design disciplines Art and other crafts use Zen art to improve their own technique. For example, there is a saying in martial arts that if you are skilled with the sword, you are skilled with the paintbrush. Painting the Enso can improve the fighter's posture, mental clarity, and work of the feet and hands.

Outside of Buddhism, this symbol has never been used more to express individuality than in body art and tattoos.

Apply Enso in your daily life

The search for enlightenment and related practices is now more ingrained in the daily livelihoods of Western society.

Above all, these practices, including Enso art, teach us to be fully present. They encourage us to focus on what we are doing and to be aware of the experience that this activity is creating.

The activity could be reading, eating, driving, or listening to a friend. Mindfulness adds meaning to all life experiences. The meaning he adds is that, however perfect or imperfect the present moment may be, it is the only one that counts.

The past (the unpolished Enso of yesterday) or the The future (the Enso of tomorrow which could be better with practice) does not matter. But no matter how good or bad the present moment is, it will happen.



Merci pour ces très belles explications. Très clair et instructif.


Merci pour cette explication suffisamment imagée pour me permettre d’avoir une vision plus claire su le cercle “zen”, le cercle d’Endos. J’y ai trouvé des phrases qui m’ont particulièrement touché.

Clapié Céline

j’ai rêvé que mon grand-père maternel avait dessiné un cercle bouddhiste dans le jardin,avec tout un tas de rites autour du cercle,que j’initiais ma famille aux rites du cercle après qu’une professeure m’ait montré 2,3,trucs,ma famille fit le 1er rite:celui de l’entrée dans le cercle,puis arêta.Ensuite,je décidais de continuer le cercle avec 4 personnes:1 cousine,son fiancé,et un autre couple fille/garçon,puis ma cousine et son fiancé commencèrent à me battre et ce fut un horrible cauchemar!
Au reveil,je décida de ne garder que le cercle et j’ai cherché sur internet et j’ai trouvé le cercle Enso…


Je suis une personne qui a baucoup à aprendre et à avoir confiance et j’aime le bien-être et je doit d’être heureuse pour moi pour les otres parfois je perd espoirs mais je vais le expulsé éliminer merci pour ce cercle.

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