“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
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.
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.