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“Through our eyes, the universe is perceiving itself. Through our ears, the universe is listening to its harmonies. We are the witnesses through which the universe becomes conscious of its glory, of its magnificence.”
― Alan W. Watts

honen in

It takes several minutes of walking to approach the humble thatched gate at the Honen-in Temple.  When it first comes into view, the brain is confused, after seeing so many grand and imposing temple gates in Kyoto.  This gate looks as if it grew out of the ground from a special seed, happily coexisting with the trees and foliage on the sides of the path.

Pause  to make sense of it.


Pass through the gate to behold another wonder.  Two large rectangular blocks of sand, perfectly shaped, each imprinted with a hand drawn design, redrawn every few days, reflecting the season.   Man’s embellishment seems designed to connect you to your place in nature.  The sand mounds serve to purify the visitors as they enter the grounds.

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Pause once more and allow their beauty and the elegance  of their simplicity pass through you.



What did these seekers, born hundreds of years ago, understand that allowed them to create such a place?  All elements of this space float together in harmony.  Each assumes its place in the grand design of the whole, enhancing but never overwhelming.

Camellia blossoms from the garden adorn the fountains and the statues of the Amidah Buddha.  Their colors and beauty demand our attention, but we know, even as we admire their beauty, that all life is transient and their beauty will fade.

All the elements of Honen-in are silent witnesses  to our living in harmony with nature and understanding the eternal truths that are so lovingly expressed here.





Dianne Vapnek

In an attempt to slow life's quickening pace, I'm writing to share my personal perspective on the aging process, its dilemmas, the humorous self-deception, the insights and the adventure of it all. I spent the bulk of my time in beautiful Santa Barbara, CA, but manage to get to NYC a few times times a year. I've been a dancer/dance teacher and dance supporter almost all my life. For the past20years, I help create and produce a month-long creative residency in Santa Barbara for contemporary American choreographers and their dancers. It's been incredibly gratifying. This year, I decided it's time to retire! Big change. I also now spend several weeks a year in Kyoto Japan, residing for several weeks in the spring and the fall. I've been magnetically attracted to Japan for many years. Now I live out a dream to live there part-time.