Illustration for “Transmitting the Light”

” Today I have a favor to ask of the proprietress…”

In the early summer of 2021, I received a phone call from Kōya Tamura, a priest of Jōmanji Temple (Tokushima Prefecture). His gentle voice was unusually enthusiastic.

He said, “I would like to make the Record of the Transmission of  Illumination(伝光録 : Denkōroku), one of the fundamental Sōto Zen scriptures, into a form that can be easily read through with illustrations.

He told me about the concept of the book and the concrete image he had in mind. “Oh, that sounds interesting! I would love to pick it up and read it!” I was so excited to his vision, but my reaction changed when he said the following words:

“I would like to ask you to illustrate the Buddha and the 52 monks.”

The phone was not for a statue, repair, editing, or column writing, but for an illustration.

I have loved drawing pictures, and in the past I have received order from friends and acquaintances to do simple illustrations for pamphlets, flyers, and the like. However, they are only simple things.

In this respect, this time I was tasked with illustrating as many as 53 successive generations of Buddhist ancestors. I had been unable to respond to the request, wondering whether it would be appropriate for someone who had never had any special training in drawing.

“I would like to cherish if you feel empathy for this petition more than the quality of drawings.”

Kōya immediately sent me a book as a reference.

It was the first time for me to read “Denkō Roku,” and of course there were many parts I did not understand. Even so, it was a very happy experience for me to follow in the footsteps of the patriarchs.

I was so thankful and grateful that I read the pages and create images, sometimes with tears, thinking, “I am reading this book now because these patriarchs have passed on the light in this way.”

In the process of creating the illustrations, I went through a trial-and-error process, exchanging ideas like this and that, based on the text written by Kōya.

I had a hard time getting used to it, and it often stalled, but the priest was very patient with me. With the help of my family, I managed to deliver the work just before the deadline.

The production period was about two months. Although I was under time constraints, I was relieved when I heard that the product was ready for delivery.

I heard that this year, around the The Buddha’s Birthday, the “Transmitting Light” was distributed to Sōto Zen temples all over Japan.

Buddhist sculptor Yoshida and I, as ordinary people, struggle to live our lives, hoping that all of our activities will be in the service of the gods and Buddha. Although it is a different approach from statue creations and restorations, drawing illustrations must also be solemn, and even if it is poorly done, I have done my best at the time.

This experience, which has increased my reverence for all the buddhas and ancestors, is an irreplaceable treasure. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Priest Kōya, the temple family, and everyone who viewed this post for giving me this very precious opportunity.

If you are interested in “Transmitting the Light”, we will send you this book. We hope that many people will enjoy the wonderful summary of Priest Kōya’s work.

Please fill in the following three items on the “CONTACT” and send it to us.
1) Number of books you wish
2) Your name
3) Your mailing address

Om Namo Shakyamuni buddha.
We devote to all Buddhist ancestors.

Saori Yoshida