Teachings from Nature

Francis Lau

Photo: Zen Master Dae Kwan
Text: Francis Lau

One day a few years back, Sifu (Zen Master Dae Kwan) was swiping her phone as if she was looking for something, before showing me a picture she had taken. “Wow” was my immediate response and I couldn’t help saying: “Please take more! I hope someday we can turn your work into a photo book.”

Later when I received the finalized manuscript from the editorial team, I spent a long time mulling over it – treating it like a photo essay book with clearly defined sections would somehow impose a straitjacket on the layout design. Sifu’s photos are so full of life with yet no specific style, each accompanied by poems or words of truth that arise at that moment. After much deliberation, the editorial team accepted my suggestion that all photos be arranged according to the time they were taken, without being categorized into separate themes. By doing so, it is hoped that the reader can follow Sifu’s personal timeline to catch a better glimpse of her insights about nature. For either zen practitioners or the general reader, this entry point is easy to grasp, simply because the book is a vehicle of the living dharma!

The design work lasted for more than six months. During that time, there were countless heart-touching moments and takeaways, as though I was enjoying one live jazz concert after another – spontaneous, exuberant and brimming with wisdom. This is perhaps the liveliness a zen master radiates, and so even the simplest tool can capture vividly all the dharma lessons from Mother Nature. Before this photo book was put into print, I asked Sifu: “Why is nature so important to us?” “Because nature helps us to see clearly our true nature which has no ‘I’.” And that is how the book came about.