The inscription is the Zen Buddhist equivalent of the New Testament's "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." Daruma represents enlightenment, but if enlightenment is not actually embodied it is useless.
Ashikaga Shizan was born in Aichi Prefecture and became a Zen acolyte at the age of eight. He trained under many of the illustrious masters of his day and served as abbot of Tesshu-jióa temple restored by Yamoka Tesshuóin Shizuoka. In 1927, Shizan was appointed head of the Hoko-ji branch of Rinzai Zen, and later he also served as the first chief abbot of all thirteen branches of Rinzai Zen. Shizan wrote many popular books on Zen, and was also known for his social activism; he helped establish a number of welfare institutions.
Zen brushwork by Shizan was in big demand. He was a creative artist with a distinctive Zen style who produced many outstanding pieces in his long and eventful life.