Daruma or not | Tokutomi Soho

Hakuin was obsessed with Daruma. He painted his portrait again and again over a for many years. These portraits have become iconic. Today they are the best-known representations of the Zen patriarch. As a result, we see Daruma whenever we look at portrait brushed in bold black ink. Even if it is not Daruma. 

Tokutomi Soho painted portraits too. But none of them represents Daruma. They were all without exception self-portraits.  Did he suffer from egomania? Has his hyperactive intellectual life led him to a deeper and exclusive interest in himself? 

He wrote countless articles on a wide range of topics: art and literature art, history and international affairs until his activities came to an end in the 1940s and he retired in Atami.

In one of his articles Tokutomi makes a point about the fact that Hakuin painted Daruma portraits, which the artist accompanied most of the times by the sentence: “Look inside, see your own nature, and you will realize that you aren’t any different from Buddha”. Tokutomi concludes that Hakuin’s Daruma portraits were self-portraits. Thus, we are not completely mistaken if we see Daruma in Tokutomi’s self-portraits.

Tokutomi added a phrase from a poem by Lu You (1125-1210): “Thunder descends from a clear sky”. – Considering that Tokutomi was in his eighties when he brushed this self-portrait he obviously was equipped with a healthy amount of self-confidence.

Tokutomi Soho (1863-1957)

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