If You Find the Buddha on the Road

"If you come upon the Buddha on the road, kill him!"

If You Find the Buddha on the Road

In the Zen tradition of Buddhism, there is a koan (a purposefully illogical question or statement designed to remove the mind’s experiential filters) that states: “If you come upon the Buddha on the road, kill him!” This doesn’t mean to physically kill the Buddha, but rather to “kill” all of our preconceived notions of what it is to be an enlightened Buddha, as well as our preconceived ideas of all things.

This painting was inspired by that koan, and it appears someone has indeed come upon the Buddha! In spite of apparent trauma (representing the negative, violence-filled, ego nature of mankind), the Buddha remains serene and unaffected. This painting sat uncompleted for over a year, with just the face and the lotus flower painted. I would stare at it everyday, as I knew it needed to go somewhere, but I just didn’t know where. One morning I looked at it, set it on the easel, and dropped red paint on the forehead; since it was at an angle, it started to run and connect with the lotus flower. As a counter balance, I added the blue on the left in four quick strokes, and, voila!, it was complete.

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