Japan Visitor: What's happening in Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Shimane Japan

Home    Japan Travel Guide     Tokyo Guide     Contact     Auction Service     Japan Shop

Monday, July 31, 2017

Tenryuji Temple Arashiyama

天龍寺

Tenryu-ji Temple, in the lush Arashiyama district, is one of Japan's most famous and influential Zen temples.

Originally, Tenryuji was the opposite of a monastery: it started as an imperial villa built by Emperor Kameyama, and was intended for the extravagant pastimes of a decadent court. Here Kameyama's grandson, the great Emperor Godaigo, grew up to become the erudite statesman and connoisseur that history remembers.

Tenryuji Temple Arashiyama Kyoto.


About 1340, the powerful general, Ashikaga Takauji, worn down by the noisome and continual attacks of the warrior monks of Mount Hiei and Nara, sought to exploit the rising influence of Zen and establish Tenryuji as the headquarters for what he hoped would be a network of compliant Zen temples.

The warrior monks were not having it. In fact, it was only through the brilliant diplomacy of Ashikaga that the warrior monks abandoned their designs to disrupt the inauguration ceremonies of the new temple, and returned to their pastoral retreats.

From that time on, even though Ashikaga's dream of a Zen network never materialized, Tenryuji served as one of the eight chief temples of the Rinzai Sect of Zen Buddhism, and has continued to baffle the intellect and feed the soul ever since.

Most foreigners know Zen through Thomas Merton's writings, or through the enormously popular Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Abroad, Zen is renown for its spiritual practicality, its wit, and, well, the axle grease on your hands. So what to do when confronted with staggering beauty and obvious wealth? Where is the Zen in an arrogant monk, or in a meditation garden invaded by 250 hollering junior high school boys? How are you supposed to feel when you bow down on your knees before a Buddha, and find a statue of a wealthy emperor where the Buddha should be? It's better not to ask questions. One distinguishing feature of Zen is its total rejection of reliance upon the intellect. Enlightenment, or satori, comes only through a sudden burst of insight which, defying explanation and reason, joins one with all the workings of the universe, and reveals the purpose of the Ancient of Days in the simplest object--"wisdom in a grain of sand".

The garden of Tenryuji is one of Japan's great gardens, the end-product of many periods in gardening history, and like a Byzantine icon leads the ardent soul to contemplate reality and find its place in the universe. Because rational processes are eschewed by Zen, the garden became the prime means of sublimating the self and advancing the soul.

Tenryuji's garden is a hybrid of the large, sunny leisure gardens of the distant past, and the more austere, symbolic gardens of the religious eras. Its center is a large pond in the shape of the Chinese character for spirit, kokoro. Behind it and lifting it to the skies is a wooded mountain. Its murmuring hillsides stretch the lines of the garden until they blend seamlessly into God's own handiwork. The mountain range itself reaches its apotheosis in lofty Mount Atago. Thus, the pond becomes a metaphor for the soul, and the garden a microcosm of spiritual reality placed securely in the bosom of the natural world.

In the pond of spirit, are three jagged rocks representing the tribulations of life. They can be viewed as means of growth through suffering, to be hurdled through selflessness. A half-hidden waterfall centrally supplies an endless infusion of power.

The rhythm of the shifting foci and the quality of the diffused sunlight at the base of the mountain invite a meditative mood. As I gazed upon the serene surface of the water, a sudden chilling gust of wind swept down and transformed the pond into a shimmering, radiant mirror of sunlight. A space had opened inside me, and before a single astonished breath could expire, a vermillion carp leapt into the air from the depths of the pond. It was, to be sure, a Zen fish, for I have not been the same since.

Tenryuji means "The Temple of the Celestial Dragon", and the ceiling painting of the Celestial dragon in the first temple is awe-inspiring. Done in enormous strokes of ink, it is reminiscent of European early-modern art. This same strikingly modern quality is apparent in the standing screens depicting Daruma, an ancient Indian Zen monk who meditated for nine years and realized that he had meditated his legs away. Wherever you turn at the Temple of the Celestial Dragon, your expectations won't be met. Rather, they will be tempered by the unexpected, the spontaneous, and the well-planned. You may walk away knowing something real about Zen, and having very little to say.

Courtesy of Your Japan Private Tours (YJPT). Ian Ropke, founder and owner of YJPT (since 1992), is a Japan destination expert for travel and tourism. He specializes in private travel (customized day trips with guides / private guided tours) and digital guidance solutions (about 25% of our business and growing!). Ian and his team offer personalized quality private travel services all over Japan. To learn more, visit www.kyoto-tokyo-private-tours.com or call us on +1-415-230-0579.

© JapanVisitor.com

Goods From Japan delivered to your home or business

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...