A Zen Experience in Kyoto
There is a Zen temple called Koshoji, located near Kuramaguchi Station in Kyoto, which is not a typical tourist sightseeing spot. There is even a signboard saying “no sightseeing” to discourage tourists from just going in to have a look around. Then why is it still an interesting place to visit? If you are serious about attending a zazen meditation session, this is one place where you can do this.
My Zen Experience
It was an early morning, as the meditation session starts at 6 am every day. Participating is free of charge. After entering the temple, I was ushered to a spacious hall where thick quilt cushions were lined up facing the garden. Some people were already sitting, and I chose my place with a comfortable-looking cushion to sit on for a while and a fine view of the garden. Although I experienced zazen a couple of times before, I’ve never done it this early in the morning. The fresh and cool air, not a sound heard except for birds’ chirping, the smell of incense; every element made it a very special experience.
However, this was not all. Unlike the zazen practice in other temples, this Koshoji temple asks participants to help with the voluntary clean-up after the session. The chief monk, who was the only one monk working at that moment, said performing zazen is not only the practice of meditation; the clean-up is also a part of Zen practice. All participants stepped out to the garden with a broom. Collecting fallen leaves, weeding the moss bed; it was a truly refreshing time and I felt that it was easier to empty my mind during the work rather than during meditation.
After working for one hour, we were treated with rice porridge and miso soup for breakfast, which was all prepared by the monk and very delicious. I felt like I got close to the temple, and I am fascinated by the charm of Zen, zazen, and the honest meal afterward.
If you are interested in this experience but feel unsure about communicating in Japanese with the people at the temple, you can have this experience with one of our local guides. Please contact us for more information.