Friday, January 13, 2017

The Grace of Jizo

Recently the NY Times ran a small story on Jizo, the Japanese Bodhisattva, one of the most beloved and revered Bodhisattvas in Mahayana Buddhism. Jizo is the embodiment of the Bodhisattva Vow, the aspiration to save all beings from suffering. He is the protector of women, children, and travelers in the six realms of existence. 

"Most prominent today in Japanese Zen, Jizo is understood to be the protector of those journeying through the physical and spiritual realms. This bodhisattva is closely associated with children, believed to be their guardian before birth, throughout childhood, and after death."

In India he is known as Ksitigarbha, in China as Dizang, in Korea as Jijang Bosal
and in Japan as Jizo Bosatsu.

Long before many of the fantasy and fairy elements of my world showed up in Bewilder and Pine, I was making Jizos. I had learned about them while studying Zen just after the turn of the Millennium and when I was trying to find the comfort zone in my desire for solitude and silence around me.

I fell in love with the figure and the meaning behind him.

Visiting a monastery that had a "Jizo Garden" with statues large and small, each dedicated to a child who had died and lovingly placed and cared for along the forest paths, my interest deepened.

Then I read about the Onegai, or "wish granting" Jizos aNihonji Daibutsu, where thousands upon thousands of tiny Onegai Jizos surround the larger statues, all placed by folks making wishes or prayers as they visit.  The Onegai is one of over 70 various Jizo versions I have seen described! 

Over the years I have been so blessed to have created a few hundred or so of these little guys and they have grown along with me. I change the listing photos every few years as they mature and grow with my skills. 

The story in the Times led about 15 or so folks to the shop, all within this last week, and I have been graced with making Jizos one after the other to meet the demand there, as well as with the few little boutiques I sell thru who also happened to see the article. I've also been graced with the stories of some of these new customers who are buying them who read the article, searched the internet for Jizos, and happened upon my little guys. They sometimes share stories of the children they lost in childbirth or far too soon thereafter. Some purchase them for just that purpose, others as travel companions for protection. and some just for their own altar in the role of a "wish-granter". 

The thing is, and many of you know this about me, I am usually not fond or making things over and over in short spans of time. But I have to say that I felt none of that this last week creating two dozen or so Jizos to fill the purposes they were requested for. It's a whole other realm. It feels like a deep and true service. . . 

It's possible, especially when Bewilder and Pine is fully stocked, to miss them altogether among the fairy magic and mythic gargoyles and such. . . but below are a few of the images of some that I made this last week. If you have never heard of Jizo, there's a lot of information out there. But if you are truly interested in the meaning behind Jizo,  I'd recommend the book written by my previous Zen teacher from that time, Jan Chozen Bays called:  "Jizo Bodhisattva - Guardian of Children, Travelers and Other Voyagers".  She has worked with and studied Jizo for years. There's no better introduction to Jizo than her book. 

It's been a hectic week. . .  but every step of the way it's been a wonderful reminder of how you can touch people with creativity. The meaning found within and the wealth of warmth and love one can receive from the service of creating. . . 

Hope the New Year is treating you all so wonderfully thus far!!


Onegai, Wish-Granting, Jizo

Just over 2 inches (5cm) tall

I offer them in the same aged patina finishes as my statues in Shadow of the Sphinx too.

I hope you enjoyed the glimpse of these little guys. 


  1. Life has a way of connecting things. I hadn't read this post or the article in the Times but I posted a photo of the Jizo you made for me in my small magic post today... and then I came here to add a link to you and found your post on Jizos! I love mine that you made and I am so pleased people found you when searching to get their own.
    Unfortunately my post was deleted (and it was a very long one) by the app gods so I will have to rewrite it. I'll try to get to it this weekend.... a late bit of small magic. Take care Nicolas... you do create such magic for the world.

    1. Andrea, I am so sorry to hear your post vanished!! I do hope you will recreate it and yes, do link to it! I will do the same above. :) It's been a lovely week. . . people from the US, Canada, Australia, the UK and Ireland all discovering Jizo and coming to my shoppe. I feel very blessed to be able to offer these Jizos and to know they bring comfort and joy to others.

      I am so glad you love your Jizo too. : ) And thank you, from my heart, for your kindness Andrea. In essence, magic, in whatever form, is all I want to create. . .

  2. Love, Love, Love Nicolas! I love these little guys! Thank you so much for sharing about the Jizo. I have never heard of them before. Big Hugs!

    1. It's great to discover something like Jizo isn't it? The NYT article certainly opened that door for quite a few folks I believe. It's been a wild week or two but I love that I get to send them out into the world. :)

  3. Incredible pieces! Wow, you continue to amaze me with your work. I hope your new year is off to a wonderful start and wishing you a FABULOUS and magical new year!! x

    1. Thank you Alexandra! These have come so far. As one of the few things that I actually began making all the way back when I first took up working with polymer clay, it's also been humbling to look back this week and see the growth of my skills over that time. Wishing the same for you in all the days to come!

  4. Wishes! Gah! I will have to have a Onegai of my own. Now to decide on a crystal color...

    1. You know, when I first saw pictures of that temple in Japan dedicated to Jizo, I thought, well, if I make these, I may end up with 100 of them and if no one wants them, I will just have my own Jizo shrine! Something about the images of hundreds of the little Onegais all standing next to each other under the monuments and trees. . . sort of like coins in a wishing well. . . you can FEEL the wish magic there! I fell in love with them so quickly. :)

  5. I had never heard of them either! Even from my hobbit house! Thank you for alerting me to these and your amazing creations Nicolas, you have done it again :) I so love reading your posts, as they bring me to a world I may have otherwise not seen.

  6. I am glad you were able to discover Jizo through my blog Louise! I have a goal to blog more this year but, so far, I have to admit I haven't been able to manage it. But perhaps after the winter thaw, along with a welcomed spring renewal. . .

    Thank you, as always, for your thoughts and for dropping by!

  7. Thank you so much for making these. I love mine so much and he is helping me through a tough time right now. I'm going through a miscarriage and have found solace in keeping Jizo with me. Thank you for the work you do- it's important!