Facets of a Diamond - Blog

“My Paintings Have No Story”


Painting by John Diamond, M.D.

“Every picture tells a story.”

D. T. Suzuki wrote of “The Zen Doctrine of No-Mind,” achieved through meditation.

Yen Hui, the favorite pupil of Confucius, spoke of “sit and forget everything.” That is, meditating with no-mind.

Ainslie Meares, the psychiatrist who taught meditation to cure cancer, also advised sitting in a state of no-mind, even suggesting being in some physical discomfort to be “forgotten” in that state.

It is said that mind cannot exist without language, that mind is words. And so no-mind is no words. And stories are words, therefore stories are mind.

I look at many Zen paintings, including those in Suzuki’s books, and they do tell stories. Therefore they invoke in us not no-mind but yes-mind. There are some Zen paintings which appear not to tell a story, for instance enso paintings – but they readily invite one, which I believe is their intention.

On the other hand, Jackson Pollock’s paintings have no story, actual or implied, and do not encourage us to find any in them. Although many delve into them seeking stories out of their own anxiety of being story-free, of being (somewhat) in no-mind. I read that when asked what to call his works he replied to merely give them each a number. Some he did name, for instance Blue Poles, but I presume this was due to outside pressure.

My point in all this is that my paintings have no story, for, unlike Pollock, I’m in no way skilled enough to depict any. And they do seem to come from “no-mind.” When I practice still meditation, unlike Ainslie Meares, I but very rarely and then only momentarily am maybe in a state of “no-mind.” But when I paint it does seem that I am. Easier because my act of painting is an action meditation, what Vivekenanda called karma-yoga. Well, perhaps.

Please, when you see my paintings don’t look for stories – there aren’t any. If you do see any, they will be from your mind not mine.

Beethoven dedicated his Missa Solemnis “From the heart may it again go to the heart.” I dedicate my paintings (I should say those done through me) thus:

“From the no-mind to the no-mind.”


Meditation, Painting,