This month there are six new scrolls in the Zen Art Gallery: two Zen skulls by Yamaoka Tesshu (# 2346 & # 2347), two Darumas (# 2370 Toin and # 3123 Sesson), a Dainichi Nyorai Seed Syllable (# 3124 Jiho), and a Zen calligraphy (# 3117 Soan).
The Zen skull by Tesshu (# 2347) is one of my favorites. The inscription pretty much says it all: “If there is birth, there is death. Since life is fleeting, and possessions cannot be taken along at one’s passing, why fight over who owns what? Why contend over gold, silver, and jewels that are no more than trinkets in the end? We all return to dust, but that is not tragic—it is just the way it is.” Tesshu’s skulls are never scary. They are more like cartoons, somehow reassuring, seemingly telling us, “Don’t worry, be happy!”
The Dainichi Nyorai Seed Syllable (# 3124) is an example of esoteric Buddhist symbolism combined with Zen brushwork. The Seed Syllable is brushed in the flowing Zen style rather than the more formal block style associated with esoteric Buddhism. In a way, the message conveyed is the same as the Tesshu Zen skull but from a cosmic perspective. The universe is unborn, eternal, and of one mind. There is no past or future, only the present moment. Dainichi means “Great Sun.” The sun is always radiant, illuminating our own personal existence and the existence of our world.