Painting Enlightenment: Healing Visions of the Heart Sutra

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by Paula Arai

170 pages, Hardcover

The Heart Sutra—among the most famous of Buddhist scriptures—has been treated with reverence for centuries. Practitioners and calligraphers have honored the sutra by hand copying it dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of times. Bringing that tradition into the modern era, Japanese artist Iwasaki Tsuneo (1917–2002) created an original and exquisitely intricate body of Buddhist art. The subject of his paintings range from classical Buddhist iconography to majestic views of our universe as revealed by science—all created with painstakingly rendered miniature calligraphy of the Heart Sutra.

In this groundbreaking book, scholar Paula Arai presents over fifty of Iwasaki’s paintings, illuminating their Buddhist meanings and their intimate connections to Iwasaki’s life as a prisoner of war, teacher, scientist, and devout Buddhist practitioner. Having been posthumously recognized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Iwasaki’s paintings are sure to be regarded as an innovative and heartfelt contribution to the artistic legacy of twentieth-century Buddhism.