Saturday, March 27, 2010

Dancing Skeleton

7 comments:

  1. Do you know who originally painted this Dancing Skeleton (I believe the title is "Zen Bones," but I can't find it anywhere on the internet)?

    Also, is this the original, or a copy by someone? If you could let me know what you know (if anything), I'd be delighted.

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  2. This is definitely not the original... the head is a funny shape. I had the original photocopy about 15 years ago, from a magazine selling it on a t-shirt. I still have some scanned copies somewhere, altho it's slightly different because I auto-traced it in Adobe Illustrator. I've been looking for the original image for years ! If I'm not mistaken, it was an 11-12th century Buddhist Monk who painted it. If you do come across the original, I'd love to have a copy : jackbendit@gmail(dot)com

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    1. I finally tracked down the original image as I had it (a magazine, Yoga Journal, had an ad for a company - no longer around as far as I can tell, Bodhidharma Ink, that sold the Dancing Skeleton image. I found it just Googling "Zen Skeleton Ryu" (NOT on images). There are a bunch of old copies of Yoga Journal now scanned online, with the ad in question. The only info I can find on the art is that it was painted by a Zen monk, in 1895 though, not 11th-12th centuries, and his name was apparently Ryu. I have scoured the internet for a better copy of the original than the one in the Yoga Journal ad, but seem to be having zero luck (but, then, it took me years to find the Yoga Journal ad). I might have better luck at my local university library, now that I know the artist's name. Good luck with your search, hope this helps!

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  3. I purchased a t-shirt from a catalog at least 15 years ago. On the t-shirt is the "zen bones" image. It is not quite like the image depicted here. I had never had a tattoo but after my wife died I was with a woman I was with for sometime and she wanted a particular tattoo she had been considering for a long time. I though I would join her in this endeavor if there was something of "substance" and meaning that would not fade with time. After some deliberation ZAP! the dancing skeleton on my t-shirt seemed "perfect". The description in the t-shirt catalog did say it was a form of zen Buddhist meditation by a Japanese monk done around 1895-96 and depicted the "exhilaration" realized when one realized the intransigence of all things and, as a result, the "Unity" that gave rise to all these transient phenomena. How fitting to have it tattooed on my transient body, so I did. If I knew how I could attached a photo of it, as it is, on my left bicep. Amusingly, I have formed an "attachment for the art piece itself and have not been able to locate the origin, the artist or that exact language used to describe the experience of the artist.
    Eckhart Tolle describes a comparable experience, "Once you realize and accept that all structures are unstable, even the seemingly solid material ones, peace arises within you. This is because the recognition of the impermanence of all forms awakens you to the dimension of the formless within yourself, that which is beyond death. Jesus called it eternal life." ( Though I am beyond christianity as I feel Jesus was/is too. Also there is a lot of Buddhism, Hinduism, Tao, Sufi, Kabalah, Shamanism and mysticism in "general" embedded in Tolle's thought.) The t-shirt has faded ( still keep it, protecting it from "impermanence") but I can send a photo of the tat. Get back to me here.

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    1. Hello - I just happened upon this site again, and noticed I had some responses. BTW, Michael, I was considering using the image of the dancing skeleton as a tattoo as well. I am a two-time survivor of childhood cancer, and the first one (I was five) was very rare and diagnosed as "terminal" - that was almost four decades ago, I've never been good at listening to my doctors! When one grasps the idea of mortality at such an early age (I did not at that time know my "terminal" status, but a lot of the kids in the hospital ward I was in died, one in the bed next to mine - and the cloth curtain did not exactly block what was going on), one developes an unusual attitude toward our transient nature. The 2nd cancer was when I was 15, and though it was taken care of by surgery (they removed the tumor along with my kneecap), for a while it looked like it was another serious cancer.

      Because of all the radiation I had for the first cancer, I had a lot of orthopedic problems in my left leg, requiring numerous surgeries, finally resulting in an above knee amputation at age 18. That also caused problems (a nerve thing, causing chronic pain), and I've had two "revisions" of the amputation to try to fix that (they didn't work). I tell people I'm donating my body to science - on the installment plan!

      Anyway, when I saw the picture in the t-shirt ad, I identified with it immediately (I liked your joke about attachment to a Buddhist image!), especially the humor and lighthearted spirit conveyed.

      One more reason I love this painting is that I had a mystical experience on the gurney being taken into the OR for my amputation (text book ego-annihilation, Sat-Chit-Ananda, oneness with All, noetic "groking" that I was not my body, that there was something more there when I emptied myself of "I-ness". I even got super calm, not concerned about losing a leg at all). Granted, it was back to normal once I woke from surgery, and as I hadn't had much of a religious background, I had no idea what I'd experienced (in terms I could tell anyone, anyway). But as things would have it, when I returned to college I took a class on Asian literature, we started with the Bhagavad Gita. When I read it, I realized my experience was not unique, and "coincidentally" right after that someone at campus started a discussion group advertised as "What is Mysticism?" Years later, I got my bachelors degree in Comparative Mysticism. I'm more into Advaita Vedanta and Taoism, but the Zen meditation method of contemplating ones mortality by painting skeletons just appealed to me, especially as it is not doom & gloom, but laughter that is usually the message.

      Anyway, sorry for the rambling. Here's a link to one of the old t-shirt ads from Yoga Journal:

      https://books.google.com/books?id=k-kDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA95&lpg=PA95&dq=zen+skeleton+ryu&source=bl&ots=_Ao2o97qPP&sig=xWS5zQjo6eFsQEEnxO15G1zeVuI&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjOk5e-oLvJAhWBph4KHbzZAd0Q6AEIIDAB#v=onepage&q=zen%20skeleton%20ryu&f=true

      I still haven't found an image of the painting in a book or better quality, but I'm still looking. Hope this helps everyone interested!

      Namasté, Greg

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  4. (ALA "Tezcatlipoca"). If link doesn't work, just google "Zen skeleton Ryu" on the regular web search, not the Image search. One of the Google Books copies of Yoga Journal with the ad will be in the top few results.

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