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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Grow

How a One-Eyed Hairy Monk Can Help to Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

One of the most valuable benefits of living abroad is that you are given license to make a fresh start with a new perspective.

One of my favorite new perspectives is how to keep my eyes on the prize.

Here in Japan, there is a unique way to set a New Year’s goal and to maintain focus until it is achieved. It is the not-so-friendly Daruma Doll.

The Legend of Bodhidharma

Bodhidharma (bō′dĭ-där′mə) was a Buddhist monk who lived from the late 5th century to early 6th century. Being a monk, he most probably took a vow of obscurity. Nevertheless, he became very famous as the founder of Zen Buddhism.

If you have never sat in folded leg meditation at a Zen temple, your legs will undoubtedly thank you. I once went to a Zen monastery in upstate New York and sat with the monks for two hours without moving. When the mediation was over, I was still not moving. Both of my legs were numb from the hips down.

Evidently, Bodhidharma was a master of sitting and wall-gazing. Legend has it that he once gazed at a wall for 9 years without moving. Apparently, he overdid it because as the legend goes on to say …he sat so long that all of his limbs fell off from atrophy.

To add to his charm, he was said to be ill-tempered, heavily bearded and wide-eyed. I imagine being wide-eyed helps if you are into wall staring.

How Bodhidharma Ended up a Doll

When most of us think of buying a doll, I don’t think our first impulse would be to buy one of a small, hairy man with no eyes. But despite that fact over 400,000 visitors a year go to the annual Daruma Doll Festival in the city of Takasaki, Japan to do just that.

It all started long ago when the founder of the Daruma Temple in Takasaki would draw good luck charms with the likeness of Bodhidharma on them and give them to people who came to pray.

Over time, these charms became so popular and that an over-worked priest at the temple decided it was high time for the DIY version. So when people came seeking a good luck charm, he sent them home with a do-it-yourself kit. (This may be the actual beginning of Home Depot but that remains to be verified.)

The One-Eyed Daruma

In Japan, Daruma Dolls have become synonymous with goal setting, especially at the beginning of the new year. People of all ages purchase them and you can even get one color specific to the desired goal

While red is traditional and all-purpose, a gold one might be your choice if money is on your mind. White ones are associated with pure-mindedness and are often selected by students eager to pass the dreaded entrance exams for high school or university. If you want success for your business… I would recommend the formal black Daruma.

When you purchase your Daruma Doll, regardless of the color, his eyes are blank (perfect for wall gazing)…and as we now have learned…wall gazing is perfect for maintaining focus.

Upon arriving home, you fix your mind on your decided goal and then fill in the pupil of one eye with black paint or a marker.

Your one-eyed Daruma should be placed where you will gaze on him daily and he WILL gaze back at you … giving you the needed pressure to take the actions necessary to achieve your goal. Your promise in return is to fill in the second eye when the goal is achieved.

Both Eyes Open!

It is truly an exhilarating day when you reward your little man with full sight. I have had the pleasure of filling in the second eye of quite a few Daruma Dolls over the years.

My trusty Daruma kept me on track to win a business competition, to publish one book and then a set of books, and to finally go to Hawaii.

Sanshiro proudly filled the second eye of his Daruma when he won his first national judo competition and has gone on give sight to many more Daruma eyes. Now he and his Daruma are eyeing the Olympics.

Saying Goodbye

Once your goal has been achieved and your Daruma can see his beloved wall clearly again, the time has come to part ways.

When you visit the temple on the following New Year’s Eve, you thank your Daruma one last time and throw him in the ceremonial fire. His job is complete and it is time for a new Daruma and a new and perhaps bigger goal.

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