When I first completed this painting last year, I titled it “Under the Bodhi Tree” which isn’t bad…but it didn’t feel like the name or completely recognize the actual theme of the painting.
That title does a great job of representing the broader location of the story, but a lot of things happened under that famous tree.
Most of them involved other ways Gautama Siddhartha (aka Gotama, Shakyamuni, Sakkamuni) pursued enlightenment until he finally found success simply by sitting and observing his breathing as he describes in the first discourse.
This painting on the other hand symbolizes the moment that Gautama defeats Mara and becomes the Buddha.
It is taught that after Gautama attained enlightenment, Mara challenged him, declaring that he too was enlightened and should be the Buddha. To show that Gautama could be shaken, Mara sent all forms of attacks and temptations to bring Him back into attachment and suffering. Finally Mara even sent their three beautiful daughters (known as Desire, Aversion, and Passion) to tempt Him.
Gautama Siddhartha reached out his right hand and with a single finger touched the Earth, and the Earth Mother herself acknowledged His imperturbable nature by lighting the Morning Star and Gautama became the Buddha.
The painting itself is Gouache on 18×24 Watercolor paper. 140 lb. It is not in print, but the original is available to the right owner.
There are some images you see as a child, that truly shape who you are. Whatever the reason for it, the minute you see the image it becomes seared into your psyche and is referenced in your decision making process for the rest of your life.
For me that image was a black refrigerator magnet with a grey/silver drawing on it. It was a poured item and the drawn lines on it were raised from the background. The image was of an owl swooping down on a mouse. The mouse held a pistol behind his back. Underneath it said, “That’s confidence.”
I have spent an unreasonable amount of time thinking about this. Not to mention the amount of time I spent trying to draw it. In my mind the pistol, and even the notion of fighting back disappeared over time.
The idea of it representing confidence even became nonsense. Seriously, no gun that a creature the size of a mouse could hold and fire would ever be able to stop, let alone kill an inbound owl with hunger on its mind.
And as I got older and became aware of philosophies like stoicism and transcendentalism… I adopted ideas like “no fear, no regrets” and chose to live my life by them. Pirate concepts like “No quarter asked, and none given” became my rallying cry.
When I look back at the directions I took philosophically. It is all rooted in that image.
Well I replaced the mouse’s gun with a middle finger, and instead of staring at the owl, he is looking off to the side, to whatever it is that he wants to look at.
His death isn’t important. The way he is choosing to live is.
“Elige Bene Mori” is latin for choose a good death. I encourage you to embrace this notion and hold it close to your heart. The original painting in gouache on watercolor paper is not currently for sale, but you can purchase prints of it through my account at Fine Art America, HERE.