Faith, Doubt and Tortoise

Painted with acrylic colors including metallic silver and gold on linen. The picture includes a full inscription and an offering of 7 wooden Karma Coins. This is an APTOTROPAIC painting, meaning “having the power to prevent evil or bad luck”. This type of art was quite common in ancient times.


The title and theme for this painting came when I heard that the three pillars of Buddhist practice are “Great doubt, great faith, and great determination.” After some research it seems this wisdom comes from 16th century Zen master Torei Enji Zenji. I decided to make a religious painting that embodies this great and very sensible way of life. I decided to exchange “Determination” with “Tortoise” which I feel characterizes the same concept.

From left to right, Faith resides in a pink pavilion, hands in gassho with an empty bag. The empty bag represents the open receiving attitude a person of faith must have. Faith’s pavilion has a golden bell, which calls everyone to contemplation. Above that a bird house occupied by a family of Blue Happiness Birds. To the left of Faith’s pavilion is a wishing well, which symbolizes hope and dreams. Is it possible to live without hopes and dreams? Above the Faith Pavilion is Thunder Bunny floating in the breezy sunlit blue sky. The glass Peace Office tower is there, a great accomplishment of Faith.

In the center Buddha sits under the Bodhi Tree with his finger on the exact spot. I left two offerings for him, peanut butter and jelly sandwich with banana, tangerine and ice tea on one side, and flowers, incense and candle light on the other. Tortoise walks forever on the gameboard circular path of life, in and out of the tunnel of birth and death. Tortoise gets to go under the two deer who often accompany the Buddha when he preaches.

Doubt resides in a sturdy yellow pavilion with red trim and flickering flames. There is a wisdom owl in the attic. Doubt holds a strong flashlight, and around his neck is a sensitive BS meter, that he can use to check for inconsistencies. On the right of doubt is the proverbial dumpster, where all unwanted and unnecessary end up. Wonder Mew the rain cloud cat sprinkles the rocky landscape beyond the volcano. Fields of wheat sway on the distant hill.


  • Date: September 1, 2012
  • Size: 32 x 45 in
  • Medium: Acrylic on Canvas