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Ryoanji: Zen rock garden facts

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Kyoyochi pond

龍安寺の紅葉2016

Ryoanji temple has a beautiful pond called Kyoyochi. In the guide book of Kyoto called “都名所図会 (miyako meisyo zue)”, published in the 18th century, Ryoanji is famous for the pond and mandarina duck lived there.

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About Zen

Ryoanji is famous Zen temple in Japan. So, let us talk about Zen and make a closer inspection on the rock garden, shall we?

不立文字

“不立文字 (furyu monji)” is the most important principles of Zen. The sentence means that Attain enlightenment with Zen meditation, not with written words, i.e. we can attain enlightenment and the truth only through experience because written words always brings us rendition.

macha ice cream

Let me show you an example. This is a “macha” ice cream. Macha is Japanese green tea served for tea ceremony. we don’t drink it on regular basis. If you asked me its taste, all I could say is “Taste like macha”.

My answer has at least two issues.

  1. If you didn’t drink macha, you couldn’t have any idea about its taste.
  2. If you knew the taste of macha itself, you couldn’t have any idea about that of maca-ice cream because it has “macha-like taste and doesn’t have the same taste as macha.

In the end, you can not know the taste of macha-ice cream whether you know the taste of macha or not. All we could do is to eat it.

悟り

Let us discuss abut other principle. “悟り” is a state of enlightenment. In this state, a thing has a meaning its self. Nothing outside of it can add meaning to it.

The rock garden in terms of Zen

Now let us go back to the rock garden. We discussed about the hypotheses on the meaning of the garden. We have tens of hypotheses on the garden but as I indicated before, we can not reach the truth with words. These hypotheses has nothing to do with the rock garden itself, or its truth. We can not give any meaning to it exist as it is. If You wanted to know the garden, you better visit there. You might find its existence and yourself.

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