While there are many “in-your-face, I have always got my eyes on you” Daruma Zenga in the gallery, there is also one wall-gazing Daruma painting by Nantembo. Prior to appearing in public, Daruma was said to have sat facing the wall in deep meditation (that lasted nine years) in a cave at Shorinji. In other words, Daruma looked inward before facing outward. “Wall-gazing” means to ponder the matter of existence, the meaning of life. In order to practice wall-gazing one must turn ones back to the world, as we see in Nantembo’s Zenga. In English we say, “It is when we are up against the wall that our true character shows.”
In Buddhism, before one can accomplish anything of consequence in the world, one must perceive one’s true character through some kind of single-minded, concentrated effort. That is, save yourself first before trying to save others. A Buddhist center with many long hours of meditation is a kind of hospital. If you are sick in spirit, you go there to take the medicine of meditation in a sequestered location. When you get better, you go home.
However, the inscription on Nantembo’s wall-gazing Daruma warns us not to confuse genuine meditation with a specific posture. “If form is all there is to Zen meditation, melons and eggplants have it made—they are always sitting.”