Monk holding the jewel of enlightment unfazed though he is swarmed by a red storm dragon zen

This painting is 18×24 and done in Gouache on 140 lb watercolor paper.

Imperturbable represents having peace no matter the turmoil surrounding you.

In the exact words I used when I originally did this piece in 2021, “For the symbolism piece. While dragons are typically seen as good luck rather than monsters in asian lore, the Red dragon frequently represents storms or turmoil in Japanese art. The dragon is looking past the monk because like most storms he has no Ill intent towards the monk…he just is. And the monk is unfazed because he holds the jewel of enlightenment.”

This is the first in the series of Ukiyo E inspired work I did…am doing. It is also my first gouache painting and it was the first piece I ever sold a print of. Now if I could just hold its ideal in me.

Speaking of that idea. I forced the computer to meditate on the painting. Here is what it thought.

In the serene silence of the mountain monastery, the monk sat in zazen, his posture unwavering, his breath rhythmic and calm. Before him lay the jewel of enlightenment, radiant with an inner light that seemed to pulse with the very heartbeat of the universe. This jewel, a symbol of his awakening, was not merely an object but the embodiment of satori, the deep realization of his true nature and the nature of all things.

As the monk meditated, the air around him began to change. A wind, fierce and unrelenting, swept through the tranquil garden, carrying with it the roar of a red dragon. This dragon, a vivid representation of the storms of life, emerged from the shadows, its scales glistening with a fiery intensity. It circled the monk, its presence a maelstrom of chaos and fury.

Yet, the monk remained imperturbable. His gaze fixed on the jewel, his mind anchored in the vast ocean of Zen. He understood that the dragon was not an enemy to be vanquished but a manifestation of the samsaric world, the relentless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. To flee or to fight would be to misunderstand the nature of both the dragon and the jewel.

In this moment, the teachings of Zen became a living reality. The monk did not cling to the jewel out of fear of losing it, nor did he allow the dragon’s tempestuous presence to disturb his inner peace. Instead, he held the jewel with a light but steady grip, his mind as clear and serene as a still pond reflecting the moon. The jewel, undimmed by the storm, shone ever more brightly, its light cutting through the darkness, illuminating both the monk and the dragon.

The red dragon, sensing the monk’s unwavering tranquility, unleashed a torrent of fire, its breath a searing reminder of life’s inevitable sufferings and trials. Yet, the monk’s equanimity was unshaken. The flames, though fierce, passed through him as if through a shadow. He remained centered, his spirit untouched by the dragon’s ferocity. He knew that the dragon, in all its terrifying grandeur, was but an illusion, a transient phenomenon arising from the mind’s delusions.

Thus, in the midst of the storm, the monk exemplified the essence of Zen. His imperturbable nature was not a suppression of emotion or a denial of reality but a profound acceptance of the true nature of existence. The jewel of enlightenment, cradled gently in his hands, was a testament to his realization that enlightenment is not a destination but a way of being—a way of seeing the world with clarity, compassion, and unwavering calm.

In the end, the dragon, recognizing the futility of its assault, subsided. It coiled around the monk, no longer a threat but a part of the same cosmic dance. The storm passed, leaving behind a deep stillness, a silence in which the jewel’s light continued to shine, a beacon of the monk’s imperturbable spirit and his boundless enlightenment.

D.T. Suzuki’s words resonate in this timeless tale: “The practice of Zen is forgetting the self in the act of uniting with something.” The monk, in holding the jewel amidst the storm, embodied this truth. He was not separate from the dragon, the storm, or the jewel. He was one with all, a living expression of Zen, tranquil and imperturbable, in the face of life’s ever-changing tempest.

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