Our second day in Kyoto, Japan, we began with a meeting with the head monk of Kennin-ji Temple who explained the history of the temple who taught us how to meditate and then led us through a formal tea ceremony with tea cups that were several hundred years old and examples of the best ceramics artisanship in Japan during that period. Kennin-ji Temple is believed to be the oldest Zen Buddhist temple in Japan, dating back to the 13th century (the original temple buildings, like much of Kyoto, were destroyed by fire). At present, there are three branches of Zen in Japan – the Rinzai, Soutou and Oubaku schools. Kennin-ji belongs to the Rinzai tradition. The temple was founded in 1202 by the priest Yousai (1141-1215), the Buddhist monk who introduced both Zen Buddhism and tea cultivation to Japan upon returning from study trips to China. The head monk talked with us about Zen Buddhism and gave us insights into an old Japanese Zen saying, “sou iu mono do” (“that’s how things are”) – an excellent perspective for dealing with the vicissitudes of life, both the ups and downs. We then had the opportunity for an extensive tour of the temple.
“Zen Buddhism heavily emphasizes meditation or zazen. Zen evolved into much more than simply a philosophy, and came to permeate the arts including the tea ceremony, whose practitioners pursued an imperfect, rustic beauty. It was quickly patronized by aristocrats and the warrior class, including the ruthless 16th-century shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who commissioned the tea room found on the temple grounds.” — http://www.jnto.go.jp/ph/spot-activity/kansai/kyoto/kenninji-temple/
Totekiko, the inner rock garden at Ryogen-in Zen Buddhist Temple, is the smallest rare stone garden in Japan. The main point of the garden is the sandy ripples of the stones. The garden shows the truth that the stronger the power of a stone thrown into water is, the larger the ripple are.
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