The inscription reproduces Daruma's answer to the Emperor's question, "What is the First Principle of Buddhism?" This indeed is the Zen perspective: "All things are empty, and reality transcends notions of sacred or profane." This particular Daruma appears rather majestic, somewhat like a chinso, a formal portrait of a Buddhist abbot.
Takeda Ekiju was born in Oita Prefecture. He was ordained a Zen monk at age eleven and then trained under the famous Zen master Mokurai at Kennin-ji in Kyoto. Ekiju spent some years at Daitoku-ji and then returned to Kennin-ji to be resident Zen master and then primate of the Kennin-ji branch of Rinzai Zen. Ekiju was perhaps the most artistically gifted of the twentieth-century Zen masters. He was an excellent landscape painter and left behind a large legacy of finely painted Zen art.