Here is the Zenman. It is the emblem I created in Korea when asked to give people autographs — on the street, in the subway, and particularly immediately following giving a Dharma talk in some temple or university somewhere. It made me sick that people wished to have some scrawl of my name for a keepsake. It made me realize that I had been making such a big mistake, whatever had caused this eruption of fame and “celebrity”.
So, after a while of writing out my name (who knew what else to do? it was such a completely unexpected thing to experience in this life…), I decided to just leave this image. The Great Question. The interior-looking of meditation (it’s not actually “interior”, but we describe it that way, as opposed to studying “outside” phenomena through eyes and ears and nose and tongue and body and thinking-mind).
The Zenman was born.
Sometimes, when given a book of my Teacher’s to sign, or my own bestseller that had inspired this madness, I would use a ballpoint pen to scratch and over-scratch and basically CARVE the Zenman sign so deeply into the page that it cut through several of the first pages of the book. Not a few ballpoint pen-tips were destroyed in the process. But it felt important to get the point across that they should not be “impressed” with a person — famous or “celebrity” — but should rather be concerned with the deep “mark” of studying, of looking into the Great Doubt, of lookinging into “what am I?”, of doing real meditation — Vipassana or Zen. Seeking personalities or words or titles or “status” would only bring them further from the only thing that matters in this life: insight into the nature of Self.
This was the birth of the Zenman — a substitute for a name-based autograph, something that would leave a greater teaching-value than just my recognized ordination-name.