Ultimate Zen Time – Zazen at Tofuku-ji Temple
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Japanese Zen – 禅
The Japanese word “Zen” is now known around the world. Do you know the true definition of zen?
– What is Zen?
It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s the most difficult question in the universe. According to Daisetsu Suzuki (1870 – 1966), who is an eastern Buddhist scholar,
“Zen in its essence is the art of seeing into the nature of one’s own being, and it points the way from bondage to freedom. By making us drink right from the fountain of life, it liberates us from all the yokes under which we finite beings are usually suffering in this world.”
By the word explanation, it’s hard to understand what zen is, honestly. Seeing is believing. One eye-witness is better than many words. Why don’t you visit zen temples and experience zazen or a zen meditation?
Experience of Zen at Tofuku-ji
Tofuku-ji is one of the five “Kyoto Gozan” temples. It was established 750 years ago. There are 25 sub-temples of Tofuku-ji. One of the 25 sub-temples, Shorin-ji, offers zen sessions everyday such as a zen meditation, shakyo practice/hand copying sutra, yoga, and breakfast rice congee.
The temple has a beautiful garden. It’s famous for red leaves during the autumn season. It’s said that Kissho god, a god of beauty and love, lives in those leaves. Many maiko and geiko of Gion have visited the temple to pray for good luck on their maiko/geiko careers.
Last Sunday, I visited there to take a zen meditation/yoga session for the first time.
Shorin-ji is located in the northeast of Kyoto City. After 10 mins of walk from Tofuku-ji Station (Keihan), a simple, yet pretentious gate of Shorin-ji appears.
A zen meditation, called zazen (座禅), is a buddhist practice to seek oneself by sitting and breathing slowly.
Before doing zazen, there was a preparation time. A buddhist monk explained how to do it and create a mental attitude. He only speaks in Japanese, so if you’re an English speaker, you should take an English translator with you to understand his saying deeply.
After the explanation, a zazen time finally began. It’s divided into two sections. One section takes fifteen minutes. Between two sections, five-minute break is given.
It was much harder to sit down for 30 minutes than I expected, but the monk told that they usually do zazen for an hour without breaks. I came to realize again that they have very hard trainings everyday.
My mind got very calm and relaxed after a thirty-minute zan moment. Hot tea was provided by monks and everyone stared a preparation for the next yoga lesson.
A grippy yoga mat is given by a yoga instructor, so you don’t have to worry about it. How nice it is to do yoga with the beautiful view.
Between May and September, trees beautifully keep their light green leaves. Birds sing around trees. It’s hard to explain how wonderful and peaceful the atmosphere is.
The yoga instructor thoroughly taught several poses step by step, so it felt easy although I hadn’t done yoga for a while.
The session took about two hours in total. It felt like it was just one hour.
Such healthy morning it was. Zazen and yoga are very effective to refresh my mind.
This experience is highly recommended. Sightseeing around the city is fun, but we get tired usually, but how about this? Never makes you tired. Just to make your mind clear and relaxed by zen.
Check it out on http://shourin-ji.org/english/zazen/index.html
The nearest station ☞ Tokukuji Sation (Keihan Train): 10 min walk to Shorin-ji
Shorinji, B. (n.d.). Bishamon-do Shorinji: Zazen ＆ copy sutras and Buddhist images. Retrieved May 22, 2017, from http://shourin-ji.org/english/zazen/index.html
日本最古にして最大級の伽藍 東福寺. (n.d.). Retrieved May 22, 2017, from http://www.tofukuji.jp/
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