May 30, 2010

A Chozubachi (hand-wash basin) in Engaku-ji temple

In the grassy and serene garden of Obai-in ("the house of winter jasmine"), I found this moss-covered old Chozubachi (hand-wash basin) filled with calm and transparent water.

The bright blue sky of early summer and the shadows of dense branches are beautifully mirrored on the specular surface of the clear water. The fallen leaves under water are adding elegant touches to this quiet scene.

The mental state of enlightenment which all trainee monks of Zen pursuit is often expressed with the Zen-word of "Meikyo-shisui."

Meikyo-shisui means "a cloudless mirror surface and a waveless water surface" and symbolizes the absolutely serene and clear mind which is never disturbed by evil thoughts and emotions.

In the deep stillness of the garden, the calm and clear water in the stone basin reminds me of this profound word of Zen.

A Murasaki-tsuyukusa (Tradescantia ohiensis) flower in Engaku-ji temple

In the bright and clear sunlight of early summer, various flowers vigorously bloom one after the other and diverse insects ecstatically fly around flowers to seek nectar.

The cycle of life keeps spinning around perpetually.

The shadows of maple leaves in Engaku-ji temple

The sharp inky shadows of maple leaves are drawing the elegant calligraphy of an enigmatic and beautiful Chinese poem on the white plaster wall in the dazzling sunlight.

Yuki-no-shita (Saxifraga stolonifera) flowers in Engaku-ji temple

The San-mon (three gates) of Engaku-ji temple

"San-mon" (three gates) means "the three gates for spiritual salvation" through which we are allowed to be released from our earthly delusions and desires and enter into "Butsuden" (a Buddhist sanctum).

The first gate is "Ku-gedatsu-mon" or "the salvation gate of nothingness" which preaches the emptiness of the entity of all things. The second gate is "Muso-gedatsu-mon" or "the salvation gate of formlessness" which preaches the mental state of being perfectly delivered from earthly and material existence. The third gate is "Mugan-gedatsu-mon" or "the salvation gate of desirelessness" which preaches the perfect freedom from the attachment to the phenomenal world.

The San-mon usually has no door, which represents the ultimate mercy of Buddha who compassionately allowed all living things to embrace the Buddhist faith.

Fresh green leaves are growing vigorously and luxuriantly on the Sakura trees which were once in full bloom in last spring.

Ajisai (hydrangea) flowers in Jochi-ji temple

Fern in Jochi-ji temple

The Hojyo (main hall) of Jochi-ji temple

A Kihamagiku (Telekia speciosa) flower along the wayside

The best time for insects has begun. They are zealously and joyfully flying, buzzing, chirping, crawling, running, hopping, hunting or laboring everywhere in the brilliant gardens of summer.

The garden of Chojyu-ji temple

A Suiren (water lily) flower in my garden

Tokiwa-tsuyukusa (Tradescantia flumiensis) flowers along the wayside

In this season, these small and delicate flowers (about 1.5 centimeters in diameter) bloom prosperously almost every corner in Kita-kamakura.

A Bodhidharma statue in Kencho-ji temple

Bodhidharma is the legendary Zen master who is believed to be the founder of the Zen sect. It has been said that he was born as the prince of a kingdom of south india and spreaded the teaching of Zen Buddhism in China in the 6th century.

This newly elected statue of Bodhidharma is a gift sent to Kencho-ji temple as a token of friendship by Shaolin Monastery of China. In this Shaolin Monastery, Bodhidharma continued to sit and meditate (Zazen) before a stone wall for nine years to achieve spiritual enlightenment.

The stern and fiery expression of this Bodhidharma image appears just about to shout angrily at us ("Katsu" in Zen) so as to awaken us from spiritual darkness.

Bamboo and maple in Kencho-ji temple

The Butsuden (main hall) of Kencho-ji temple

May 23, 2010

A Shaka-nyorai statue in Tokei-ji temple

In the clear and bright sunlight of early summer, among the flourishing leaves of Iwatabako (Conandron ramondioides), a Shaka-nyorai statue is quietly sitting as if to meditate about the salvation for all living things.

When I found this statue shining gracefully in the sun, I had the illusion that I saw Buddha himself sitting here under a sacred pipal tree and experiencing his spiritual awakening.

The rusty colors of the robe, which might be caused by long and harsh rain, are marvelously harmonious with the quiet greennes of the surrounding leaves.

Soon the tiny violet flowers of Iwatabako will appear one after another from the shades of leaves and grace this statue beautifully.

Fern and moss in Tokei-ji temple

Ayame (Iris) flowers in Tokei-ji temple

The flower buds of Iwatabako in Tokei-ji temple

Under the glossy leaves of Iwatabako thickly growing on the rock surface, the small flower buds of this plant are secretly beginning to emerge in succession with the coming of early summer.

The Japanese name "Iwa-tabako" means "rock tobacco" because this plant grows on the rock surface and its leaf looks like that of tabacco.

Due to the very unseasonable weather of this spring, the appearance of these flower buds is much slower than in the average year.

A tiny violet flower of Iwatabako has the shape of pentagram. The magical and exquisite beauty of this small flower heralds the opening of summer in Kita-kamakura.

Fallen Kalmia flowers in Tokei-ji temple

A Hana-abu (Syrphidae) in Jochi-ji temple

This Hana-abu seemed to be intoxicated with the sweet aroma and nectar of the tiny flowers of Hime-utsugi (Deutzia gracilis).

In Kita-kamakura, with the coming of early summer, these milky-white flowers bloom simultaneously and flourishingly here and there.

A Suiren (water lily) flower in my garden

Summer has just begun in Kita-kamakura and water lily flowers are blooming one by one on the water surface of the basin in my little garden.

This lovely flower is a long-awaited and welcome gift from early summer. I wonder how many flowers of water lily bloom in this basin this year.

White Ayame (Iris) flowers in Tokei-ji temple

Maple leaves in Engaku-ji temple

Hime-utsugi (Deutzia gracilis) flowers in Engaku-ji temple

A pond in the garden of Engaku-ji temple

Yuki-no-shita (Saxifraga stolonifera) flowers in Engaku-ji temple

May 14, 2010

Shaga (Iris japonica) flowers in Jochi-ji temple

In the undergrowth of this quiet garden, the Shaga flowers were modestly blooming under the bright young leaves of fern as if they realized the passing of their joyful springtime.

A Shaga flower, which has fulfilled its destiny as an elegant symbol of lively spring, will soon and secretly disappear from the garden of Kita-kamakura.

The seasons are rotating forever.

Maple leaves in Tokei-ji temple

Moss in the garden of tokei-ji temple

I found tiny green moss (Marchantia polymorpha, namely liverwort) vigorously and densely growing on the moist rock surface.

Such inconspicuous plants stealthily support the eternal cycle of life in this beautiful garden similarly to various unobtrusive fungus.

Suzuran (Convallaria keiskei) flowers in Tokei-ji temple

Maple leaves in Tokei-ji temple

I noticed the subtle and beautiful gradation of green in the maple leaves in the gentle sunlight of spring afternoon.

This maple tree is located near the steep stone steps leading up to "Matsugaoka-bunko" (Matsugaoka library), where D.T.Suzuki spent the later years of his life giving himself up entirely to the perpetual quest for Zen and Buddhism.

Ayame (Iris) flowers in Jochi-ji temple

Fern in Eisho-ji temple

Eisho-ji temple is the only Buddhist convent left today in Kamakura. This temple was founded in the middle of 17th century by Lady Okatsu (also known as Eisho-in), who was the highest and beloved concubine of Shogun "Ieyasu Tokugawa" (the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate).

This type of gravestone is called Gorin-to (a tower of five rings) and is composed of five stone pieces piled up one upon another. These five pieces generally represent, from the bottom upward, earth, water, fire, wind, and heaven respectively.

I imagine that a deceased beautiful nun is sleeping eternally beneath this moss-covered little Gorin-to in the quiet bamboo grove.

The lively green leaves of fern are brightly adorning this solitary Gorin-to. The vivid crimson leaf left on them seems to imply the elegant feminine spirit of this departed lady.

Kalmia flowers in Tokei-ji temple

The garden of Tokei-ji temple

A Naniwa-ibara (Rosa laevigata) flower in Engaku-ji temple

Nanjya-monjya (Chionanthus retusus) flowers in Engaku-ji temple

A Botan (peony) flower in Engaku-ji temple

Maple leaves in Engaku-ji temple

A flying-dragon sculpture on the gate in Engaku-ji temple

Nanjya-monjya (Chionanthus retusus) flowers in Engaku-ji temple

Shiran (Bletilla striata) flowers in Engaku-ji temple

May 4, 2010

A Botan (peony) flower in Kencho-ji temple

A Botan (peony) flower is traditionally called the flower of flowers in China and Japan.

Its elegant fragrance is believed to drive out evil vapors and its excellent figure symbolizes the highest happiness and honor.

A peony flower is the emblem of good omen which is sculptured and painted in many Japanese historical temples and buildings in the same manner as a sacred lotus flower.

Botan (peony) flowers in Kencho-ji temple

The garden of Kencho-ji temple

In the front garden of the Zazen-do, namely the hall for practicing Zen meditation, the full-blown bright flowers of Botan (peony), Tsutsuji (azalea) and Matsu (a pine tree) were shining calmly and joyfully in the gentle spring sunlight.

A Botan (peony) flower in Kencho-ji temple

In the eighth century, Buddhism was introduced into Japan from China. A Chinese tree peony (Botan) was also brought into Japan as a precious medicinal plant along with this teaching of mercy and wisdom.

The cortex of its root is still used as an ingredient of a prescription for traditional herbal medicine for purifying blood and reducing pain.

Botan (peony) flowers in Kencho-ji temple

A Botan (peony) flower in Kencho-ji temple

Tsutsuji (Rhododendron) flowers in Eisho-ji temple