Zen saying: painted cakes do not satisfy hunger
Meaning: painted cakes aren’t the real thing, they only describe the real thing. Implying that for the serious seeker of Truth, creative work is a vanity, a distraction, a pointless pursuit.
It is true that the tendency to identify with one’s creative expressions can cause the ego to inflate, with all the suffering that comes by default. But identification with any human activity carries this danger.
The question: What is the self that expresses in self-expression? is our lifeboat in these dangerous waters.
The monk Dogen saw the bigger picture.
He said: Painted cakes do satisfy hunger.
Aside from painted cakes, there is no way to satisfy hunger.
Aside from the painted cakes we make,
artists and writers and educators and web builders
have no way to express their ideas and inspirations.
Aside from the process of making painted cakes
we have no insight into our creativity
and what fosters it or sabotages it.
Aside from the painted cakes we perceive,
what so-called Reality is there?
If Reality is REAL, it must be whole and undivided. Our painted cakes are therefore nondual expressions of the truth – whether we know it or not, and whether we like it or not. The ten thousand things are painted cakes awaiting the glance of an awakened wondering mind. This vast and all-embracing perspective lifts our creative work into the realm of sacred practice, something many artisans – including this one – are very conscious of and deeply committed to. Our works are ‘painted cakes’ and amazingly, they do satisfy hunger.
Homage to John Daido Loori, Sensei, for inspiration and teachings.
Painting by Wayne Thiebaud – Boston Cremes, 1962