K124 Kannon by Kōgan Gengei 弘巖玄猊

[Kannon is] an unlimited ocean of good fortune

(sealed) Kōgan

Kōgan Gengei (弘巖玄猊, 1747-1821)
K124 hanging scroll, sumi on paper 124.9 cm × 30.7 cm.


The two pillars of Buddhism are deep insight, represented by Daruma, and unlimited compassion, symbolized by Kannon. Zen masters identify with both the “masculine” and “feminine” aspect of Buddha-nature, and accordingly brush portraits of both the Patriarch Daruma and the Goddess Kannon. Kōgan was good at painting both Daruma and Kannon: this serene Zenga Kannon, created with soft, luminous brushstrokes is especially beautiful. Since Kannon means “She who sees the suffering and hears the cries of distress of sentient beings” Kōgan has painted Kannon looking down with compassion from her cliff above the whirlpool of existence. She is embraced by an ensō halo.