Zen Kyoto & the Techno Priest

Kyoto must rank as one of the world’s great cultural heritage cities. It seems to me like it is split in two according to either Buddhism or Shintoism.

In my previous post I mostly covered the Shinto side to the city. Usually Shinto shrines are bright orange. Japanese Buddhist temples offer somewhat of a contrast
This is the main gate, Sanmon, of the Chion-in temple complex. It’s a very big wooden structure
Honestly I was, at first, disappointed by the Buddhist temples but like so many things in life, I had simply missed the point. It is unfair of me to compare Buddhist temples I’ve seen in Thailand, Bhutan, China or elsewhere to those I’ve seen in Japan. Other temples are highly decorated and very colourful so the Japanese versions seem very plain and simple in comparison. However I just had to realign my expectations and appreciate the simple elegance
As a contrast and to make my point, here is a temple which had much brighter colours, similar to what I’ve seen elsewhere. Somehow I now prefer the clean, simple design and nice natural, neutral colours. Seems much more refined and suitable for Japan
I said simplicity of design but the wooden structures can still be very large and impressive
As large buildings go it’s doubly impressive that they’re made entirely of wood. Of course that makes them very vulnerable. Fire is a constant worry
Finding places without many tourists is a challenge but is very rewarding if you manage to get a little bit of peace to yourself
This beautiful garden was a relaxing place for coffee and cake. Actually this was situated inside Nijo castle
This heron added a little bit of magic and life to a beautiful garden
Too many steps
Finding a place for quiet contemplation is not too difficult simply due to the fact that there are so many temples and shrines that eventually you will find one or a time of day without people
This is a famous zen rock garden called Ryoan-ji. It’s very easy to dismiss this as basically nothing but that would be missing the point (again. I seem to do a lot of that)
Lines in the gravel can be straight, wavy, curved or circular. This was a spot in another temple
I found a bit of peace and calm in the wonderful Nanzen-ji temple. This is a posy photo. Somehow it didn’t seem right to have a smiley photo as it didn’t seem in keeping with the place
Quiet contemplation is well and good but I decided I needed some help and that it would be a shame to miss out on an opportunity for meditation in a Zen Buddhist temple. So I checked the internet and that’s when I found the Techno Priest
The deal was green tea and a tour of the temple but firstly and more importantly, a guided meditation. First he described that some of the preconceptions or stereotypes could be harmful and wouldn’t allow you to get the most from the experience. A good example is that meditation doesn’t need to be done sitting crossed-legged on the ground. So I opted for the chair rather than these uncomfortable little cushions. I wouldn’t be able to achieve a higher state (jk) when my ankles hurt so much
Why did I dub him the Techno Priest? Well he has developed these glasses and an associated app that can monitor your movements, breathing and eye activity during meditation. Then afterwards you can check out your performance on your smartphone or ipad
Another myth he dispelled was that Zen Buddhism is not the pursuit of attaining enlightenment but, according to him, was much more grounded and down to earth. It’s simply a way of dealing with the stress and troubles of daily life. There is solid scientific evidence to support that meditation is actually good for you. At this point he started into a description of neuroscience and the effects on the brain. Then he asked if there were any scientists in the room as which point I was able to proudly thrust my hand into the air. Luckily he didn’t put me on the spot and ask me about neuroscience and brain function…
He also explained that raking the gravel was a sort of meditation. “How can you make a straight line in the gravel unless your mind is on the task at hand”. Yes these are curves but the logic applied too
Also he said the point was to remind us that nothing was permanent and that a heavy rain or something else can erase the lines


Autumn colours were incredible. More on that later

Next up: Hiroshima and the A-bomb


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