Portrait of Bodhidharma

Hakuin Ekaku 白隠慧鶴 Japanese

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An influential monk and prolific painter, Hakuin Ekaku made striking and sometimes humorous pictures that played an important role in his teaching. Dozens of half-length portraits of Bodhidharma (Japanese: Daruma), the Indian monk credited with transmitting Zen Buddhist teachings to China in the sixth century, can be dated to the last few decades of the artist’s life. He brushed a variety of different messages on these pictures, perhaps the most common being four Chinese characters conveying a clear lesson: “Look inside yourself to become a buddha.” The inscription on this work, however, is more enigmatic and seemingly incomplete: “No matter how one looks at it . . . ” In his teaching, Hakuin focused on the practice of koan, or paradoxical dialogues that when contemplated may lead to spontaneous awakening.

Portrait of Bodhidharma, Hakuin Ekaku 白隠慧鶴 (Japanese, 1686–1769), Hanging scroll; ink on paper, Japan

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