Today’s Wordless Wednesday is the scroll painting Ant on a Stone Mill by the Japanese Zen master Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1769). One of his several treatments of this theme, the painting depicts an ant wandering around the edge of a stone mortar. The calligraphy reads “The ant circling the mortar rim provides a hint for the world.” In a separate poem, Hakuin once wrote:
“An ant goes round and round without rest
Like all beings in the six realms of existence,
Born here and dying there without release,
Now becoming a hungry ghost, then an animal.
If you are searching for freedom from this suffering
You must hear the sound of one hand.”
The last line is an allusion to Hakuin’s most famous koan, or Zen riddle, often slightly misquoted as “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”
Incidentally, giving hope to those of us well along in life, Hakuin didn’t take up painting until he was around sixty years old. By his death at age eighty-four, he had produced over 1,000 painted scrolls and calligraphies.