The universe is contained in, and expressed
through, the yin-yang relationship at the heart of SMiLE.
The album's back cover is connected to the universe by way of
the Zodiac and the front cover features the same shapes
that are used in Sengai's The Universe.
What follows is the Zen monk and teachers work along with an
explanation written by D.T.Suzuki in the early sixties. This
is how it appears in the book Sengai: The Zen Of Ink
And Paper (pgs.36&37).
circle-triangle-square is Sengai's picture of the universe. The
circle represents the infinite, and the infinite is at the basis
of all beings. But the infinite in itself is formless. We humans
endowed with senses and intellect demand tangible forms. Hence
a triangle. The triangle is the beginning of all forms. Out of
it first comes the square. A square is the triangle doubled.
This doubling process goes on infinitely and we have the multitudinosity
of things, which the Chinese philosopher calls 'the ten thousand
things', that is, the universe.
The trouble with us linguistically-minded
beings is that we take language realistically and forget that
language is of no significance whatsoever without time. In truth,
language is time and time is language. We thus come to think
that there is in the beginning of the world a something which
is real and concrete, such as a world of galaxies which though
formless and nebulous is yet real and tangible. This is the foundation
of the universe on which we now have all kinds of things, infinitely
formed and varied. It is thus that time itself begins to be thought
of as something concrete and real. A circle turns into a triangle,
and then into a square, and finally into infinitely varied and
varying figures. In the same way the Biblical account of creation
has turned into historical truth in the minds of many. But Zen
is very much against such fabrications.
There is another and a more
traditional interpretation that may be given to these three figures
of forms. Sengai was familiar with Shingon, the mantra
sect of Buddhism, as well as Zen. He liked Shingon because it
taught the identity of the bodily existence (rupakaya)
with ultimate reality (dharmakaya). The bodily existence
is here represented by a triangle which symbolizes the human
body in its triple aspect, physical, oral (or intellection),
and mental (or spiritual). The quadrangle represents the objective
world which is composed of the four great elements (mahabhuta),
earth, water, fire and air. The Dharmakaya, the ultimate reality,
is the circle here, that is, the formless form. We generally
hold a dichotomous view of existence, form (rupakaya)
and formless (arupa), object and subject, matter and spirit,
and think they contradict each other and are mutually exclusive.
Both Shingon and Zen, however, oppose this view and hold that
what is form is formless or empty (sunya), that is, they
In his little treatise on this
subject called Tengan Yaku (Medicine for the Eye), written
in a dialogue form, Sengai estimates Zen as being higher than
Shingon, and states that Zen is more direct and immediate and
to the point without indulging in verbalism. Zen in this respect
is the most effective medicinal drop for the eye that is still
wandering on the level of intellection. It replaces this kind
of eye with the one possessed by Mahasvara (Great Lord). It is
the divine eye which looks directly into the secrets of the ultimate
reality. The opening or awakening to this order is abrupt and
beyond verbal demonstrations of any sort, which is characteristically
lacking in Shingon."