Zen Art

In Your Face Daruma

The Hakuin Side View Daruma from the Felix Hess Kaeru-an Collection now on display at the Buddha Spur exhibition at the Bochum Kunstmuseum in Germany. “I’ve got my eye on you, so grow straight!”

As with a sculpted Buddha image, the eyes are the last two objects to be added to a portrait of Daruma. Many zenga Daruma portraits have their eyes painted in such a way that they seem fixed on the viewer regardless of the angle from which the Daruma is viewed. It as if the Daruma is saying, “I’ve always got my eye on you.” In fact, that is the inscription on some of Hakuin’s Daruma paintings. (See the accompanying illustration of the Kaeru-an Collection Hakuin.) In a way, it is not so different from a kid being told by his parents, “Santa Claus is watching, so you better be good.” In my university office, I always had at least one Daruma portrait hanging, most of them of the “I’ve got my eye on you” variety. More than once, as I was daydreaming or otherwise drifting away from concentrating on my work, I found myself suddenly looking at a Daruma that was looking back at me. “OK, OK. Sorry for slacking off. If you sat facing a wall for nine years, I can spend a few more hours at work.”

In the gallery, this huge Daruma portrait by Murata Gesso (#2362) is especially in-your-face. It would be perfect to hang in a Zen mediation hall or martial arts dojo:  “Wake up or else!”

In-Your-Face Daruma by Murata Gesso (2362).