Posthume Porträts von Dōgen und Keizan | anonym | 18.Jh.

Posthumous portraits of Dōgen and Keizan | anonymous | 18th century

In Buddhism, portraits of patriarchs - even posthumous ones like in this case - are very important. Asians (and especially Japanese) deeply and sincerely revere teachers; they cannot (and do not want to) separate themselves from them spiritually for their entire lives. This leads to a somewhat contradictory attitude among Zen monks, who are characterized by the fact that they free themselves from everything and strive to become completely absorbed in the world as independent individuals. A famous saying in Zen is: "Just nothing holy". Nevertheless, their patriarchs mean a lot to Zen priests too - first and foremost, of course, the founder of the religion, Daruma, the monk who brought the Zen teachings from India to China. But even later, famous abbots of monasteries were honored long after their lifetimes.

This diptych depicts two important patriarchs of one of the great Zen sects. Dōgen Kigen 1200-1253 (left) is the founder of the Sōtō sect. After returning from a study trip to China, he increasingly had problems with the Tendai sect in Kyoto, where he had been educated. In 1243 (1246) he built the Eiheiji in what is now Fukui Prefecture, which is probably the strictest Zen temple in Japan to date. In his teachings he placed great emphasis on zazen (meditation in the lotus position).

Keizan Jōkin 1268-1325 is the successor of Dōgen; he is credited with spreading the Sōtō sect throughout Japan. In this portrait, Keizan has softer features than Dōgen; with his headscarf, one could immediately mistake him for a nun. Keizan was strongly influenced spiritually by his grandmother - he even dedicated a Kannon statue to her - but he also revered his mother throughout his life.

Both portraits are impressive due to their dignified depiction. It is not just the gold on the back of Dōgen's chair or the gold brocade rosettes in the cloth behind Keizan that conjure up a sacred aura. It is also the wonderful, muted dark blue of the background that radiates spiritual peacefulness, calm and balance.

The magnificent brocade mounting from the 18th century was retained despite minor damage, since a new brocade fabric - no matter how expensive it may be - never has the noble aura of such an antique silk fabric woven with gold threads.

Dimensions: 40cm x 131cm | Material: Paper

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