H112 × W155 × D126
1994 (450 days)
Early on, I began reading the Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya Sūtra, which has consistently been a wellspring of creative inspiration. What is the “being” in matter? What is “empty”? What is our genuine likeness? When my mother passed away, I had a particularly deep feeling about life and death. After Buddhist meditation, I found spiritual reliance and various ways to get out of difficulties, so came to understand at that moment the state of “grief and joy intermingled” referred to by Master Li Shutong. However, after cultivating this state for seven years, I gradually realized, understood and concretized it. I realized that my own self resided in that block of boxwood; I had died cross-legged on the bottom of the boxwood, continuously emitting energy, with results blossoming from my meditation; then again, emitting forth, until I bored through the obstacles and made the connection, chiseling away the inferior nature of myself and hollowing out silly thoughts and worries. After several days of continuous meditation, when I opened my eyes, in an instant I was one with the universe and saw that all things are empty, matter is not real. After a very, very long time, I realized that my body is not me, and I understood clearly that in front of my eyes, clear and open, and let go of my worldly attachment to ego. Tears spontaneously welled up in my eyes and gushed forth, my heart replete with compassion and joy.
The complete original boxwood root is used, spread out horizontally. The tree trunk becomes the most solid base for the head. The lotus flower branch growing out of a hole in the head was fire baked to allow the most optimal condition for its fibers, then the lotus petals were carved out one after another; none were separately added on. The second difficulty was in the technique of incorporating into the sculpting the technique to achieve 90 percent of the appearance of the creator’s skin—so real, so marvelous, such a likeness! What elicits reflection is the melted body, as in the line from a Tang-era untitled poem by Li Shang-yin:
Silkworms weave silk until they die. Candle tears only run dry when their flame turns to ash.
What is it that we create after expending the energy of an entire lifetime? The silk is spun dry, the body melts to become tears in the earth, all is empty and illusory, and inherently empty. The head gradually collapses and the face sinks, the feeling of emptiness as the body melts is much like the present progressive tense. However, that sort of emptiness, nothingness and dispersal brings an intermingling of sorrow and joy. That likely must be the joy of Buddhist enlightenment!
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