April 23, 2019
Over the stone steps leading to the old "Sangedatsumon" gate of this temple, the white cherry blossoms are now fully blooming with all one's might and are shining brightly in the liquid spring sun to celebrate the true height of spring.
By the side of these blossoms, the fresh young leaves of maple have just erupted in a breath to accompany this grand celebration of spring.
The "Sangedatsumon" means "three gates for entering into nirvana" to pass through before reaching the true enlightenment. This gate is symbolically composed of three gates, that is, ku-mon (the gate for awaking us to the emptiness of our realities), muso-mon (the gate for awaking us to the formlessness of our universe) and mugan-mon (the gate for awaking us to the delusion of our desires and passions).
I recently visited Mt. Yoshino (Nara Prefecture of Japan), which is the most renowned place for magnificent cherry blossoms in Japan.
Mt. Yoshino is also one of the most important places of mountain worship in Japan, where the ascetic practices of Shugendo (Japanese mountain asceticism-shamanism comprised of Shintoism and esoteric Buddhism) have been continually inherited from the remote past.
Kinpusen-ji temple, which is located in the center of this sacred mountain area, is said to have been founded by En no Gyoja, who was a legendary holy man known for his practice of mountain asceticism during the second half of the 7th century.
For over a thousand years, numberless "Yama-zakura" cherry trees have continued to be planted in this area as the sacred trees dedicated to Zao Gongen which is the principal image of Kinpusen-ji temple and the highest object of worship in Shugendo.
(Additional new photographs of the cherry blossoms of Mt. Yoshino and Kyoto will be uploaded to my another photoblog, "Like floating clouds and flowing streams.")
With the deepening of spring, the splendor of life is gradually overflowing in the gardens.
It is one of my greatest pleasures in spring to see countless cherry blossoms fully blooming again. Cherry blossoms gloriously bloom in unison as if to muster up all their vigor and soon scatter all at once like a brief daydream in the sudden sweep of warm wind.
According to the teachings of Buddha, what has a form is just a fleeting illusion which must pass into nothingness, no matter how beautiful it is. Each mid-spring, I am awoken to this eternal truth under the splendid cherry blossoms.
March 29, 2019
As spring blooms into full glory, the bright sunlight reaching the ground increases more and more. In concert with this deepening of springtime, every living thing, which starved for the glaring sunlight in its winter sleep, rapidly regains its true life force for regrowth.
As if to suddenly release the rich vigor saved in quiet winter, various kinds of young leaves and colorful flowers instantly appear in the lively gardens which are full of the gentle warm sunlight.
A cascade of silky Haku-mokuren flowers are blooming radiantly in the deep blue sky like the white lotus flowers ascending high into the air, which gives me heartfelt joy of spring this year also.
A tiny stone image of Jizo Bosatsu (Jizo Bodhisattva), that looks like an innocent infant smiling benevolently, is enshrined quietly in the shallow hollow on the thickly moss-covered rock-face.
The young leaves of Iwa-tabako (Conandron ramondioides) have just come out from the narrow cracks in the stone-wall and are surrounding this small avatar of Buddha as if to offer up spring prayers.
Jizo Bosatsu reveals the Buddha's salvation for the lost souls cast into Hell and is also widely accepted as a guardian deity of children in folk beliefs in Japan.
In accord with the earth's revolution and rotation, living organisms keep cycling the sequence of their lives.
The flowers of each season bloom beautifully and fade away quietly by their own private nature.
The cherry blossoms are silently blooming above me without unveiling their secret stories and histories. Although I rejoin them every spring, I know nothing about them but their curious given-name and touching beauty.
March 3, 2019
The dominance of the wintry coldness has already become weaker and weaker. In response to the coming back of the fresh spring sunlight, various living things in this garden have begun awaking out of their winter quiescence one after another.
In the gentle spring sun, the white scented flowers of Ume are gloriously blooming in unison while vigorously emitting their pleasant aroma into the air, which makes me have a fantasy that the numerous flower-fairies of this garden are secretly dancing for joy at the long-awaited arrival of spring.
As spring advances gradually, the sun ascends into the sky at a higher altitude.
The bright sunbeams shining through the leaves of the trees reach these hollows in the rock, where the small stone-images of Kannon Bosatsu are enshrined in perfect tranquility.
The trees and plants have steadily resumed their inconspicuous regrowth and are giving off the pleasant fragrance of life force into the quiet air surrounding me.
The perpetual revolution of the earth around the sun causes the continuous change of the solar energy reaching the surface of the earth. The seasons and the seasonal scenery are ceaselessly rotating based on this orbital revolution.
Every living thing proceeds with its cycle of birth, death and rebirth, while synchronizing with this eternal rotation.
In the beautiful spring gradually awakening in front of me, the birds have just broken the silence and begun singing their lively songs again in the trees to rejoice over the return of spring.
In a shady corner of the garden, I found the very small flowers (about 1.5 cm in diameter) of Baika-ouren secretly blooming on their stalks which stick out from the wet ground thickly covered with dead leaves.
What looks like the white petal of this small flower is actually its sepal and the true form of the flower is its tiny spoon-shaped yellow potion.
February 11, 2019
The pale winter sunlight of the westering sun is streaming into the silent bamboo grove and the bamboo stalks are casting their long shadows on the cold ground which is thickly covered with the dead leaves.
In this wintry garden, every living thing is waiting patiently for the return of the gentle spring sunlight which will awaken it up from deep winter sleep.
The fallen leaves quietly keep decaying to provide fertile soil for the lively resurgence of life in the prime of the year.
In the seasons which rotate ceaselessly, all the living and lifeless things of nature are harmoniously woven into the distinctive scenery from each time of the year.
The further winter deepens, the nearer spring approaches. In the freezing air of midwinter, I saw small flower buds enduring coldness on the dry leafless branches of apricot trees.
The fallen leaves have gathered at the feet of the moss-covered image of Kanzeon Bosatsu, which is staring steadily at these decaying leaves while giving them a warm merciful smile.
Just underneath the cold ground, innumerable microorganisms are zealously wriggling and working without cease to decompose dead plant and animal tissues and to recycle their nutrients for the awakening and rebirth of life in the coming spring.
January 24, 2019
The soft radiance of the slowly declining sun is tinging the sea, the sky and a range of distant mountains with various shades of pale violet and greyish gold.
The northern wind has just subsided into a cold breeze and the sea keeps rippling gently in silence.
In this watercolor seascape which is changing moment by moment, I find something eternal and remain standing here, staring into it as the sun goes down in the distance.
The cold transparent air of midwinter makes it possible to clearly see the fine silhouette of the faraway island of Izu Oshima from this beach.
The sea and the sky are subtly colored with faint crimson by the slanting rays of the sun.
People come to this seashore just as if they were led by their innermost voices and silently keep gazing at the far horizon to seek answers to the voices in the depths of their hearts.
In the amber glow of the sinking sun, a bank of fleecy clouds drift away like a flock of seabirds returning to their nests hurriedly.
A girl is watching fixedly the blaze of the sun transforming every moment above the gently undulating sea.
A boy is running by the water's edge as if to try to chase the time which is swiftly going by toward the night.