Mind a Blank.

During the day as I get on and off buses, walk round temples, eat meals etc. small events catch my attention and I think ‘now that would be good to write about’, however now faced with the blank screen…my mind goes blank!

Being in the presence of 1001 statues of Kanzeon and about that many school children was interesting and memorable. The power of that many images of Kanzeon completely over-took everything else going on in the hall. It was deeply moving.

Sitting gazing out across raked gravel and rocks at Ryoanji’s famous zen rock garden was equally moving. There is no explaining it, I could have sat there all day even with the crowds rising and falling around me.

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Eiko the Cook.

You might want to go and read one of the comments attached to the posting titled Eiko. Edera, Iains wife, kindly translated a posting Eiko had put on her blog around the time we had lunch at her place. Eiko is a cook we might want to take example from in terms of her attitude of mind as well as her wonderful ability to make food that feeds not only the body.

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Up a Mountain.

While the destination(s) each day are significant in that they are temples where my spiritual ancestors took important steps in their lives, the journey there holds or contains important steps in my life. Today was no exception.

We pointed ourselves at Mt Hiei rising 4000 ft. out of the valley where Kyoto spreads itself. Dogen Zenji was ordained on this mountain at Enrakuji as a boy of about 12. We saw the ordination platform where this took place, it being perhaps the oldest building on the mountain. There were a vast number of buildings, many steps up and down, all the while a huge bell was being rung by devout pilgrims. Sitting by the ordination platform one got a sense of our tradition stretching back into distant time, to China and India where the Buddha taught over 2500 years ago. Yes, certainly a deep sense of continuity shown, or connected with, on todays journeying.

One thinks of a mountain of that size as being bare at the top with rock outcrops, not so with Mt. Hiei. We took a somewhat unusual route by bus and train and then two separate cable car rides. And then…no temples! There are several temples scattered in the heavily forested hill side, but we had come in via the ‘back door’. Following a party of pilgrims we found ourselves at the very top of the mountain scrambling on uneven ground, nothing dangerous by the way. Eventually we caught up with the party and since they knew the way we walked into the first temple via the ancestors grave yard, very impressive.

Later in town we went to Kennin-ji, a Rinzai temple near the centre of Kyoto, where Dogen departed from to travel to China with Myozen when he was 21. While we were on the tour a young monk ran after us saying “Dragon ceiling” and proceeded to escort us to the hall where indeed there were dragons painted on the ceiling, very impressive. It was the first time we encountered Zen gardens and I must say I really like them! Watch out for pictures when we get a chance to publish them next week.

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Kosho-ji, Uji.

Hi there. It is raining to-day and I felt like I needed a rest…however we took off late from the Hostel for Uji. Uji is sort of the green tea capital of Japan, from the train we saw rows of tea bushes and I’m growing used to drinking green tea. The green tea ice cream is growing on me, as it were!

At Kosho-ji Zen Master Dogen wrote some of his major works notably Fukanzazengi, and about half of the Shobogenzo as well as Daishingi and Gakudoyojinshu. I will type some information I was given while at the temple:

“Dogen returned to Japan at the age of 28, and first of all returned to the temple Kennin-ji (we will visit there tomorrow I think), but later moved to live alone in a tiny dwelling. To this place came many disciples and from this humble beginning developed the temple of Kosho-ji. During a period of 11 years of staying at Kosho-ji temple, Dogen strove to expound the principles of Buddhism, not only by direct teaching but also from four important books…..” (which are list above)

Latter in the information is the following:
“The temple has endeavored to follow and expound the Zen Buddhist teachings of Dogen and today this temple continues in this tradition. In the present difficult situation for Japanese Buddhism, this temple endeavors to continue to be true to the essence of Dogen’s interpretation of Zen Buddhism, and to exist as a Buddhist temple rather than as a tourist showplace”.

I was amazed that it was possible to walk into the shrine for Dogen, offer incense and make bows. This temple was very much ‘alive’ with practice and it did indeed feel like a temple rather than, as they put it, a tourist showplace. The setting was amazing, it being up in a wooded valley away from the town, fresh green trees in every direction. There were four monks going about their work, one was mending the paper on the sliding doors that act as walls as well as doors in Japanese buildings . We left them as they were having a tea break in the kitchen which was equipped, from what I could see through the door, in a traditional temple way.

That’s about it for to-day. My one hour of free Internet access is almost up and it is time to get back to the Hostel. Thank you to all of you who write comments, it is good to know you are there traveling along side. Now who is going to be the brave person to add there photograph to their Blogger ID. Adrienne, how about it?

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In Kyoto.

Just landed in Kyoto and this computer is in the dining room of the Hostel where I have a room for four nights. Thankfully there is not a que behind me to use the computer so I have taken this opportunity to catch up with email and to check the Blogger. As it is late I’ll not attempt to write in detail but just give you the event that stands out in my mind for each day since last writing.

Raigakuji, Koho Zenji’s temple. Eating dinner informally in the temple kitchen with Misawa Roshi who revealed the year of his birth. Iain and I spent the next ten minutes doing silent mental arithmatic and both coming to the conclusion that he had to have made a mistake. He looked at least 20 years younger. We did a memorial for Koho Zenji at his grave marker both in Japanese and then in English.

Yokoji, the temple where Koho Zenji was ordained and at one time was Abbot, the 512th! For Iain seeing Keizans grave, yes Keizan died here at this temple. For me, gulp, it was celebrating morning service chanted in Japanese. That came about by my saying ‘yes’ to what I thought was an invitation to join the lone priest for morning service, only to find him advancing on me hold a lotus sceptre. A great big long red one and there was no turning back! Iain said afterwards ‘I’ll never forget that’, and nor will I. I can only say ‘I did my best’. We did a memorial for Koho Zenji here too.

Eiheiji, founded by Dogen Zenji and one of the two main training temples in the Soto Zen Sect. Let’s see…having tea with Matsunaga Roshi after evening meditation rounded off a day on trains, five of them. The joy and serenity that eminated from him was awesome. And for Iain? ‘The warmth of the welcome we discovered there’. Morning service, in the presence of 330 trainees was ‘big’ really big and then being led up to offer incense in memory of Dogen Zenji was beyond words.

And then there was the adventure into the mountains to visit Hokoji a temple established by a contemporary of Dogen Zenji. Poor yet happy monks, eleven of them. More on all of this another day.

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Practice Within The Order of Buddhist Contemplatives