Hirayama Ikuo and Heart of Great Perfect Wisdom Sutra (Hannya Shingyo)

Last year, I introduced in my radio show about Mr. Ikuo Hirayama and his handbook.  The book compiles all his paintings of Master Tripitaka bringing Heart of Great Perfect Wisdom Sutra, Hannya Shingyo, from India to China.  The book also includes sutra of Hannya Shingyo.  I had a chance to ask the producer of the book to talk about Mr. Hirayama’s life.

Not many people can instantly recognize what Hannya Shingyo is.  Some people may remember a movie, “Little Buddha” starring Keanu Reeves.  In the last scene of the movie when a monk passes away, Hannya Shingyo is recited.

Hannya Shingyo is the shortest sutra; therefore, it is difficult to understand, especially for the idea of emptiness which can be interpreted as no five senses.  (There is truly nothing to appreciate by our senses.)  No fear or anxieties exist.  Since it shall deny all the ordinary joy that we usually find in our life, we may tend to repel where we can find our happiness. 

Then, is it impossible for human beings to acquire a tranquil mind that overcome diseases, pains, or even deaths unless they sit in Zen meditation for 5 hours every day?  This is unreasonable! 

When Mr. Hirayama was 15 years old, he was working as a student-worker in Hiroshima.  Unfortunately, his work site happened to be at the hypocenter of the blast of the atomic bomb was dropped.  He was the only one survived.  Later in his life when he became a junior in college, he was dying from leukemia, an idea came up to his mind.  It was to draw one painting of Master Tripitaka bringing back sutra.  This became his debut work as an artist.  Surprisingly, his disease extinguished, and he was endowed with a prolonged life to pursue drawing 200 pieces of Silk Road.

After that, he started his journey on his own expense for the purpose to contribute 12 pieces paintings of Silk Road and Master Tripitaka to Yakushi-ji Temple.  He went on the journey for almost 200 times and would spend ten million yen for a caravan each time.  He always took his wife along.  For some paintings, he would use premium paints specialized for Japanese Paintings, which cost over 10 million yen each.  During his journey, he was attacked and pointed a gun by pirates.  I assume that the total cost for his journey would reach as much as 10 billion yen.

The way of his life is just like Master Tripitaka.  I am greatly impressed by high caliber of his paintings and beauty of his exceptionally clear drawings, and above all, I can feel a power full of life.

Hannya Shingyo is difficult to understand, but when we concentrate on our own missions and ambitions in life, the macrocosm would miraculously coordinate all the conditions so that we will have no fears or anxieties.  Mr. Hirayama had a big ambition that he wanted to leave his paintings.  He had no fears toward anything, even to his own death.  He did not worry about the cost of 10 billion yen that he would need for his journey.  He believed that he could accomplish his mission as he sold his paintings on the way.  He had such a strong faith that he had no fear or anxiety to earn money and made a miracle happen. 

Hannya Shingyo is difficult to understand, but if we have an ambition and pray with a benevolent mind, there shall be a way ahead.  The pirates did not hurt Mr. Hirayama.  He could manage to go on his journey.  His paintings would heal many people’s mind and provide power that would last for hundreds of years.

His mission was accomplished due to the couple’s love.  Mr. Hirayama and his wife supported and cheered up each other all the time so he could sketch in the sunbaked desert or in the Himalayas where it goes down to 40 degrees below zero.  It may not be easy to get rid of all the worries, but if you concentrate on the bigger hope, just like looking up to the Polestar without paying attention to anything else, as you look back, you’ll find that you have made a big accomplishment that is much more worthwhile than your five senses.  This is what I think Mr. Hirayama is trying to tell us even after his death: great way of life that Hannya Shingyo preaches us

You can buy Mr. Hirayama’s handbook at Tokyo Shoseki Co. Ltd.  It has many incredible paintings of the landscapes between capital of Tang and Silk Road, over the Himalayas, up to India, and backwards.  You may find a used copy for about 800yen. 

(Cited from Hirayama Ikuo Museum Official Homepage)