After having the pleasure of exploring
and enjoying various zen gardens for 10 days
in and out of Kyoto,
I’ve come to the conclusion that I am most definitely a Zen Garden person.
Just look at these gardens...
Here's one of them for example:
I can palpably sense a difference in the air when I go through each type of garden.
Different gardens create different atmospheres,
they vary from temple to temple.
Some temples welcome you with a beautiful scent of incense before you even arrive.
The gardens are open and allow a lot of sunlight in.
You can sit and contemplate at whichever side of the garden you wish,
you can stay for however long you like.
Some temples do not allow photos at all?
(like the one directly below).
All the displayed items are kept very secretive,
as if they are the most special temple on the planet.
It has a small and crammed raked garden,
both garden design and rock placements had strong symbologies
Which made them poetic and meaningful.
It was pretty dark inside the temple room
and quite chilly;
the outside - especially the biggest raked garden -
the one that represents emptiness - was the nice part.
Very serene, and worthy of taking a rest
and sit down for some quiet contemplation.
What I didn't like about this place, was that
they had an old sage-looking monk sell souvenir items at a table in the corridor,
which truly takes away the sacred spiritual quality the temple is supposed to embody.
The best kind of zen garden,
in my opinion,
are the ones where there is no staff except 1 monk on site.
Like that at Enkoji 圆光寺.
He is the sole caretaker of the site,
and weaves through the garden from the start of the day doing various groundwork tasks to ensure all areas of the garden are well looked after.
His presence does not interfere with the space
but becomes a part of the serene scene.
There is often a great empty space with simply patterned, elegant raked sand
This is supposed to represent either the sky with the seven stars
or the great ocean of peace after you have gone through all the chaos and ambitions and discarded all the desires from the worldly life.
That is usually the most expansive part of the garden, with nothing but a big patch of moss, or a hump with a Buddha-representative tree, or a couple of rocks that symbolise the mountain of that heavenly realm where the enlightened can finally rest in peace.
human beings can not reach that level of enlightenment
without shedding off almost all daily life duties and responsibilities,
and that's hard to near impossible to most;
don't forget all the things we may like to do or achieve or see or experience!
That place of pure enlightenment is perhaps...
really just a place of death.
But I feel that
to experience a healthy period of peace
and momentary serenity
is already a great accomplishment and enjoyment in itself.
That is something that a zen garden definitely can provide.
I love the zen gardens for that atmosphere of peace they embody and bring out in our own being;
Not for what it forces out of you - so much so that you end up putting on the robe and become a monk.
Just sitting there
and looking at that empty space of raked sand
contemplate on the meanings and implications of each part of the garden...
that alone brings peace to our often overly busy souls.
I love the feeling of peace,
there is nothing more important to me than to feel that blissful serenity.
That alone makes me a sucker for zen gardens like these.
I have also watched too many anime where the main characters would sit by the porch
enjoy some beautifully arranged snacks on little plates and drink tea
not to want to experience the same kind of pleasure.
Enkoji was my 1st ever zen garden.
And ever since Enkoji I became a bit addicted to that enjoyment,
with some food and drinks, with that great view in front, some sunlight.
Ahhh... nothing better.
The only thing that could match with the serenity and fulfilment of sitting looking at a zen garden
can only be
sitting at the head of the dock, watching the calm sea on San Pedro...
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