The Zen calligraphy of this scroll: Namu Dai Bosa shows five Japanese kanji brushed in the semi-cursive style of Japanese calligraphy. The calligraphy is mounted with matte beige silk, evoking the peaceful abode of Kannon.
Some years ago a friend of mine, Bill Alexander, author of the books Cool Water and Still Waters, asked me to brush the Japanese phrase Namu Dai Bosa. I brushed a Namu Dai Bosa calligraphy for him and had another one mounted as a Zen calligraphy scroll, the one you are seeing on the right.
Namu Dai Bosa means literally “I pay homage to the Great Bodhisattva”. And this is how I understood it at the time I brushed the calligraphy, as an invocation of the Mahasattva Avalokiteshvara.
Calligraphy mounted on matte beige silk, natural wooden roller at the bottom.
Mounting size: 18″ x 81.5″ ; 46 cm x 207 cm
In Buddhism this Great Bodhisattva is widely venerated and manifests in both male and female forms. But it is especially the female form, called Kannon/Kanzeon in Japanese or Kuan-yin/Guanyin in Chinese, the Goddess of Mercy and Loving Kindness, which I had in mind. Namo Dai Bosa is an invocation of this Great Bodhisattva who represents the female strength of loving kindness and care for others, similar to the the Virgin Mary, the Christian inspiration of loving care and compassion.
Since the time I brushed it my understanding of Namo Dai Bosa has acquired a second dimension. It has expanded from an outer refuge to an inner one. Here the inner refuge is the very own Bosatsu (Bodhisattva) Mind that sets out on a spiritual journey, that of a “Spiritual Warrior” as taught by the Buddha in the Diamond Sutra, striving for enlightenment in order to save all beings from suffering … realizing that there is no being who saves and that there is also no being to be saved.
Namu Dai Bosa becomes the Mind that has trust and faith in the original Buddha Nature of all beings.
Now I have come across the Zen inspired teaching of Namu Dai Bosa as taught by the late Zen master Soen Nakagawa Roshi. Here you can almost speak of the invocation that becomes an incantation. Namu Dai Bosa expands from taking refuge in the Great Bodhisattva to becoming one with Her/Him. As I learned in one of the Dharma teachings of Soen Nakagawa Roshi:
“When you chant Namu Dai Bosa, you at once become a Bodhisattva!”…. Each of you is a wonderful Bodhisattva. Truly, you are living Bodhisattvas. Living Dai Bosa.”
With this hopeful and encouraging message the Namu Dai Bosa calligraphy is completed.
The calligraphy shows the following kanji
南 無 NAMU, meaning pay homage to
大 DAI, meaning great
菩 薩 BOSATSU, meaning bodhisattva.
If you would like to commission a calligraphy, please contact the artist.
A print of Namu Dai Bosa in an unrestrained semi-cursive script is available at my prints gallery.
Related pages featuring Zen Calligraphy and Painting
| Zen Art Gallery | Zen Calligraphy Scroll |
| Zen Painting Seeing Into One’s Nature | Zen Enso Circle |
| Zen Calligraphy Scroll Mushin | Heart Sutra Mantra |
| Heart Sutra Scroll | Diamond Sutra Verse Scroll | A Glass Of Wine? |
| Zen Skull Paintng | For Whom Do All The Flowers Bloom In Spring? |