n one of my visits to Japan (1984), I took along a copy of the book: Japanese Gardens: Design and Meaning (Bring & Wayembergh, McGraw-Hill, 1981). When I visited a temple described in the book, I would ask the monks to do calligraphy about the temple on the title page of the chapter about that temple (actually, I did not ask: I presented a piece of paper with my request in Japanese, which I had asked a native Japanese speaker to write for me, since I did not know the language). Above is what I got at Daisen-in temple, in the Daitokuji temple complex, Kyoto. (Some of the colors in the picture are not "true" -- esp.: the paper is white, not pink and blue; click here to see a slightly different rendition of the same digital photograph.)
I visited Daisen-in many times. Daisen-in is interesting, both esthetically and sociologically. There are several gardens, the two most famous being: (1) a large flat expanse of raked gravel ("sand sea"...) with two small conical gravel mounds in one corner and a small tree in the opposite corner, and (2) a scenic reproduction of a waterfall, in stone and shrubs.
The chief monk is an impresario, collecting entrance fees from many busloads of tourists. He had a sign posted on the temple wall, to the effect that Buddhism is not just contemplation, but also work, and that if the visitor wants a real taste of Buddhism, he or she could do some chores in the temple. I volunteered to do anything that wouldn't require me getting down on my knees (since I have "knee trouble"). The chief monk handed me a carpet sweeper, and I spent the afternoon sweeping the carpets in the main temple building. The monk seemed surprised by this -- my guess is that few visitors "took him up on" his challenge. He gave me a free cup of green tea.
Another interesting aspect of Daisen-in are the ceramic figurines of tanukis(sp?) -- medium-size raccoon-like animals indigenous to Japan. According to legend, the tanuki is sly and mischevous. There was even a sign near one of these figurines, saying that monks hide their cleverness under their robes (at a different temple in the Daitokuji complex, the senior monk tried to seduce me...). (I use small cobblestones in a way similar to how tanukis are deployed in Japanese Buddhist temples: please have a look....)
I liked visiting the temples and their gardens. I like best the most "abstract" gardens, including the "sand sea" at Daisen-in, and the Shinto shrines at Ise. I am fond of many aspects of Japanese culture, e.g., Bizen ware pottery. I would like to go back to Japan again.
Meditate on raking cat litter.
Go/Return to page about Bizen ware sake cup, by Kakumi Seiho.
View Mt. Fuji.
More faces: See spirits of the forest....
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10 April 2006CE (2006-04-10 ISO 8601)