The path of philosophy


Practical information on the Path of Philosophy

This walk is one of the nicest you can do in Kyoto. It starts at Ginkaku-ji temple and ends at the temple Nanzen-ji. It is also very popular with the Japanese who especially frequent in spring, during the period when the cherry trees are in bloom.

The Path of Philosophy: Introduction

This very bucolic walk, almost in the heart of the city, leads you along a small canal lined with cherry and maple. This small canal, called "Shishigatani" meanders at the foot of beautiful mountains "Higashiyama"; ie the "Eastern Mountains", "yama" meaning "mountain"; and the word "Higashi" as you guessed designates the East. This route is known as the "Philosophy of the Way"; as a philosophy professor Kitaro Nishida of Kyoto University was accustomed to borrow daily. The distance, in peace, is about 1 km. This walk is usually done from north to south. Clarification: you can not enter buildings. Recognized as National Treasures, the materials that were used in their construction are extremely fragile and can not therefore receive ongoing stream of visitors. You will perform a marked circular route cleverly designed to allow you to admire the best angle these wonders of Japanese art allowances lying in a beautiful park. Let's start with the "Temple of Money". To get there, take bus number 5 or 17 or 206 bus to Kyoto station to the terminal A 1, and get off at Ginkaku-ji Michi station.

The Villa Kansetsu

From the Ginkaku-ji Michi station, go up to the Imadegawa dori street to the Ginkaku-ji Temple. But before going into the Villa Kansetsu. It is right on the sidewalk when going to the temple. This villa was the home and studio of the painter Kansetsu Hashimoto, a painter of the first half of the 20th century. Hashimoto The painter is one of the great figures of the artistic movement "Nihonga" (literally "Japanese painting") that at the end of the last century arose in defense of Japanese painting while Japan had a passion for culture and Western art. Kansetsu Hashimoto acquired the site of the villa at the foot of Mount Daimonji at the age of 30 and spent the rest of his life to painting, drawing him even plans of the garden and collect the lanterns pagodas and stone Buddhas that decorate the aisles today. throughout his artistic life, the painter Hashimoto visited China more than 40 occasions and love for culture, aesthetics and Chinese landscapes is reflected in his work. the big stone in the bottom of the garden behind the workshop has an inscription, carved by one of his Chinese friends "the spirit of art must remain free." Kansetsu Hashimoto was also Master Tea (that is to say, c ' was he who presided at the tea ceremony, preparing the room, cups, etc ...) and the two tea houses facing each other on either side of the main pool offers a quiet retreat away from the bustle.

The Ginkaku-ji Temple

When you're back at the villa, going to the right and continue to go up the Imadegawa dori to Ginkaku-ji temple. This is a very endearing temple, human scale, and designed in a beautiful garden. We owe the eighth shogun, Yoshimasa. The Shogun is a military leader who runs the country on behalf of the Emperor, a kind of prime minister all powerful, from a family of the nobility, and therefore often very rich. Yoshimasa, who reigns in the 15th century, is no exception to this rule and devotes considerable sums to architectural projects. In 1482, he built a private retreat: a mansion in Higashiyama, called precisely Ginkaku-ji. On the death of the Shogun, this retreat is transformed into a temple and is so designated by the name of Jisho-ji. Both names, Ginkaku-ji and Jisho-ji, are still used today to name. This property had numerous buildings scattered across a garden. Only two of these buildings remain today: the "Silver Pavilion" itself, and the private chapel of Yoshimasa, the Togudo, located in the extension of a long pavilion named "Hojo" of later period. This place is, above all, the illustration of a new aesthetic, a very refined taste, which owes much to the doctrine of Zen Buddhism

The doctrine of Zen Buddhism

The introduction of Buddhism in Japan was an event of paramount importance in the cultural history of this country. The thought that shaped the spiritual life of millions of people in the Far East and South East Asia was born in India. Its founder, the Buddha, or "Enlightened" was born in the 6th century BC. King's son, he married a beautiful princess who bore him a son. But one day, realizing the terrible miseries of mankind, he decided to find cures; and for that left women and children. He then opted for a completely different life from the first. Abundance and princely luxury, he turned to a severe asceticism which led him, after careful consideration, to a much more balanced way done, after all, a sort of medium between the two. The adoption of this way of balanc

e brought him to consciousness decision of the Supreme Truth, and made him an "Enlightened", ie a Buddha. He taught, then, the new philosophy he had developed. This is summarizing this: the world is suffering! Why do we suffer? Because we have desires! To stop suffering, what to do? Answer: control our desires! The Buddha is often compared to a doctor who makes a diagnosis and offers a remedy: it is the "four noble truths" of Buddhism: an observation: the suffering and the search for the origin of suffering (our desires), the possibility of the absence of suffering (the existence of nirvana place where the pain is gone) and finally the path to nirvana. This new philosophy made many followers, spread throughout the world and was the source of many schools. Among these schools, there was the Zen school. Some fans claimed that only meditation, "dhyana" in Sanskrit, "chan" in Chinese (PLAYER: pronounced "chan"), and "Zen" in Japanese can lead to enlightenment. At the end of the 13th century, many eminent Chinese monks "chan" fled to Japan to escape the Mongol invasion, and helped the Japanese converted to Zen the dominant religion of the country. The emphasis on self-discipline, for example, deceived many warlike souls of Shogun. And although the Zen dogma professes no particular aesthetic doctrine, spontaneity, moderation, extreme simplicity became the guiding principles of Zen art. The minor arts such as tea ceremony, flower arrangement, Noh theater, the drama theater song and dance, in which the actors wear masks, are just born that self disciplinary rigor. The conventions that govern today the daily life of Japanese major roots for this philosophical crucible lined with a Confucian moral issue of China where intervene hierarchical principles: respect for the state, respect for the employee to the employer , respect for children to parents ... the influence of China becomes predominant at that time; amenities Zen temples are, moreover, directly inspired by Chinese models to the Sung.

Kannon Pavilion The

PavillDirigez now towards the entrance, and then win in front of the pavilion which stands before you. Upon entering, you will come across the famous "Silver Pavilion", which is made of wood. And it is unclear, however, if it were covered with silver leaf like the "Golden Pavilion" was gilded. It also calls the "Pavilion of Kannon" or "Kannonden" in Japanese. For it is dedicated to the deity Kannon. Of Indian imports, this deity has become the object of fervent worship from all the Japanese people, and his image, in various forms, is very common in the archipelago. But what is this precious divinity in the eyes of the Japanese? The god Kannon is therefore a "bodhisattva" Sanskrit word designating a "Awakened Being"; but above all, a being of great compassion, a Buddha in "power", in a way, which renounces Buddhahood to help humans. Of Indian origin, therefore, its image has gone through the space via China and Korea to reach Japan. His nature, male, was feminized during his visit to China; compassion is considered, there, as a feminine feeling. Important detail, it is associated to the Buddha Amida, the Buddha West; she is somehow its offshoot. His images are multiple, and often of great beauty! Unfortunately, you can only admire; the pavilion is inaccessible. The ground floor is called "Shinku-den", the room "Empty the Heart" hear "Empty" in its philosophical sense, positive course: the term here refers to the serenity. The first floor "Choo-den", contains the hall of "waves roaring"; calm opposed agitation somehow! As in religion, Zen decorative doctrine is indeed dualistic! The count and complexity meet. A simple and sober architecture whose prototype is the Golden Pavilion, you've probably already visited, and located in the heart of a garden whose design is inspired very much the famous Temple of Moss, equally famous. It Kannon

The Silver Pavilion

The Silver Pavilion remains an invaluable record of the said Muromachi period which covers about 2 and a half centuries from 1336 to 1573. This period is also called the era of "Ashikaga", named after the family of warriors headed the nation as shogun. The seat of government was located shogunal precisely in the Muromachi district of Kyoto. We consider this period as a rebirth in which the arts are adored. Note in the top of the roof a bird spreading its wings; just like his older brother at the top of the Golden Pavilion. It is a bronze phoenix! You know, the bird that always reborn from its ashes. No finer symbol for rebirth, is not it? A detail can allow you to recognize the Zen-inspired first glance. Watch the windows. Nothing special ? If a new detail. What is it? Coaching! Yes ! It is bell-shaped! These bell-shaped openings are inseparable from Zen architecture.

The dry garden

Continue your journey by following the signs and go now to the vast dry garden you see: an expanse of gravel raked well. You are now in front of what is called: the "Sea of ​​Sand Silver". It is a garden! This is a free plant garden, dry garden! In Japanese "kare-sansui". The surface of this "lunar" garden is designed to be contemplated in the light of the moon which reflects the rays. It is marked by long parallel ridges imitating the waves of a lake. Basically, what you see strange? It looks like a pyramid, is not it? This is a sand truncated cone! This small mountain of sand is the dominant element of the composition, called the cone, "Kogetsu-dai". According to Japanese tradition, the show moonbeams playing on the "Kogetsu-dai" gives contemplating the poetic and aesthetic enjoyment particularly intense, delicious wonder tinged with melancholy. In fact, it is a dry garden contemplative medium to be observed from the front porch of the long building which lies behind: the "Hojo" elegant and lightweight construction, completed at its end, in the same axis, a charming flag. This building is obviously reserved for the use of the monks, you can not access it. It is, in fact, the main building of the place or "Hon-do"; it dates meanwhile, not from the Muromachi period (14th / 16th) but the middle of the Edo period to the 18th century.

Sakya: Buddha Historical

It is dedicated to the Buddha History "Sakya". This Buddha History, therefore, one who lived in the 6th century BC, belonged to a specific clan, a family, a group called "Sakya". So it is called, to distinguish it from other more imaginary Buddhas, "the sage of the Sakya"; Sanskrit "Shakyamuni", "having" meaning "wise". " The Japanese have simplified this name "Shakyamuni" in "Sakya". The term "Sakya" thus applies to the Buddha history.

The dôjinsai

After a few moments of meditation, walk a few meters along the garden. Again, just follow the signs. You are now at the edge of a small pond. And you can see in the axis of the previous building along the dry garden, a charming little house. It is a square room completely independent so-called "dôjinsai". It measures 4 "tatami" and a half. In Japan, a play area is measured in effect "tatami", about 1.83m on 91cm. This small square room is the oldest example that survives of what is called "Shoin." The word "Shoin", literally "place of study" or library, originally meant the living room or the monks' workroom in Zen temples. In a more specific sense, it could mean a small read or write table installed in a workroom reserved for monks. This room can be considered one of the most important concepts of Japanese culture. And, say, in form and in spirit. Why ? Well, if we summarize: the shogun Yoshimasa liked to invite some friends to have tea in the pavilion. Tea served during this very special ceremony was a very dark green powder, which is mixed vigorously, rather than infuse as in England. This drink was introduced to China by Zen monks, who had first used for medicinal purposes and as a stimulant in their long hours of meditation. Its preparation and tasting gave rise to a whole ceremony which was held as a kind of exercise associated with a very precise codification where self-control came to an essential part. At the highest level, the tea ceremony involved parallel appreciation of gardens, architecture, calligraphy, painting, Noh theater, floral art, etc. New aesthetic rules were therefore introduced, and they still affect very deeply the Japanese soul. This small room is of major importance in the history of Japan because it is here that have developed these new aesthetic rules, and layout of the room with its shelves shifted, its pure color neutrality opposed a bright floral decoration example is undoubtedly the first testimony of the principles that govern any Japanese home. Now continue your way to the heart of this splendid garden

The Honen-in Temple

When you come out of Ginkaku-ji temple, now win the Honen-in Temple. Descend Imadegawa dori then-instead of continuing up to the bus station where we come from, turn on the left in the "path of philosophy" that runs along a river. You found it way along the river. Advance to find a Craft Shop and a cement bridge. Know that for the rest of the course, you will need along the canal and follow the signs and take the lanes on the left that all lead to the temple. The first temple on your left is the temple Honen-in. As the name suggests, this small temple you will discover is dedicated to Honen. Once through the door, you cross a dry garden, and you will pass between two mounds of sand whose shape varies with the seasons. Indeed, the monks responsible for maintaining the garden give a different shape to the mound during the year. You reach then a small basin called "The Pond Life Freed", frequented by many multicolored carp. We leave you the time to enjoy them at your leisure. You then cross a bridge to reach the buildings that are unfortunately not open to visitors (except the first weeks of April and November). You discover, after a large stone bowl, and the footprint of the Buddha carved from the Wheel of Law. Then you reach the veranda of the main room. A fitted cave shows a black statue. Would not it the image of a monk frozen in stone? This character is one of the most popular of Japan: it is called "Jizo".

The particular aspects of Jizo

So called: Jizo. Easily recognizable, he almost always wears a red bib, and sometimes a small cap (sort of charlotte) or even a small colored apron. He is dressed as a monk, and a very specific morphological detail characterizes: his head takes the form of an egg! It is a Bodhisattva! That is a being of deep compassion, a being of light who guides beings until the coming of the Buddha of the future, Maitreya, that of the golden age. This is the most accessible divinity, the simplest and most touching. Parents ask him to protect their children, and for that the dress bibs and small brightly colored aprons. It occurs very often: along the roads, in cemeteries, for example. Generally, this is not the case here, he holds a sistrum in her right hand and a ball in his left hand. Sistra is a kind of long walking stick whose upper part is provided with rings which collide walking: it is said that the sound they produce glad and especially soothes faithful. The ball he holds in his left hand symbolizes the jewel that grants all desires. This character, you still meet frequently during your walk.

The Shinto shrine Otoyo Jinja

Continue your route by following the signs and cross the bridge to the east. And you discover one of the few small Shinto shrines from Buddhist temples of Higashiyama Mountains: Otoyo Jinja. The term "Jinja" to temple or shrine applies only Shinto temple. Easily recognizable, its entrance is marked by a special portal called "torii". This kind of leaf without portal consists of two vertical pillars and two cross beams is a "torii"! Originally from India, this porch is almost inseparable from the Japanese landscape. The most common interpretation is that the "torii" is the perch of the rooster, the animal sacred herald sun that prized among all the goddess Amaterasu; others see the stylized form of the ideogram "sky" or simply, the jamb of the door of the proto-historic houses. Its function is, above all, to designate the entrance to a sacred place "Shinto".

Origin of the term Shinto

But what does the "Shinto" or "Shinto"? Shinto or Shintoism, ie the "way of the gods" or "the way of God" is the oldest fundamental religion of Japan. Shinto term appeared to differentiate this ancient religion of Buddhism, religious trend overseas. Shinto is a mix of animism and shamanism, that is to say, it assumes the presence of a soul in any natural features (rocks, plants, animals, etc.) and the possibility of communication between these souls and humans. The major concept is the sacredness of Nature. A deep respect for the environment resulting. The "kami" deities or spirits are Shintoism. A stream, a star, a charismatic figure, a mere stone or even abstract concepts such as fertility may be considered as "kami". So consider Shinto as a popular, traditional religion, but became, over time, inseparable from Buddhism, which it is mixed. As in all Buddhist place, you will inevitably find one or more Shinto shrines dedicated to a particular god.

Zen Rinzai

Let us continue our journey. The Koun-ji Temple, on the right is also known as Reishi-zan. It belongs to the Rinzai school. What this specific power of Zen Buddhism? Well, this is one of the main branches of Zen in Japan. It was founded by Eisai in the 12th century who introduced the branch of Chinese Buddhism Linzi, Japan in 1191 and in 1202. The Rinzai sect became popular among the samurai and nobles, and prospered thanks to the support of the Kamakura shogunate. As Linzi school Rinzai utilizes sitting meditation and the koan, riddles beyond any logical solution, on which we must meditate and which aim to develop an intuitive understanding.

The Eikan-do Temple

Come along the way. Advancing on your left now see the temple Eikan-do. It is also known to Zenrin-ji. It was founded in 856, but his name remains associated with that of Eikan monk who lived in 11th century. You can visit the various buildings of the temple which is built on the mountainside and has many corridors and landings. Inside, unfortunately, it is forbidden to take pictures. The main treasure of this temple is a strange statue of Amida Buddha, "Mikaeri No. Amidah" ​​(the Buddha looking over his shoulder). This is a very unusual position in the representations of the Buddha that due to the meeting of divinity and Eikan monk. This was meditating when he realized that the Buddha was sitting next to him. Troubled, he paused to pray. Then the Buddha turned to him, asked him why he stopped. The monk replied that he wanted to check he was not dreaming it ... But who is this Amida? Amida, therefore, is a multiple Buddha in Buddhist mythology. To summarize, that in the beginning of our era Buddhist philosophy has expanded to the point not to be limited to considering our universe, but to broaden its thinking to the entire space. This new vision then turns hopes to worlds located endless distances where Buddha preached near which aims to get reborn. All directions in space are concerned. Amida abridged version of Amitabha presides over the West. A field called "Blessed" or "Pure Land". In 1188, precisely in the building in front of which you are, the monk Honen, the founder of school "Jodo", initiated for the first time the faithful to practice a new religious movement called "Amidism". This shows the importance of this place! The worship of Amida Buddha, in fact, asked the faithful to keep repeating piously invoking "Namu Amidabutsu" ( "In the name of Amida") to be admitted to the blessed Paradise West after death. This new Faith (Faith in Pure Land) is elaborated in reaction against esoteric Buddhist currents too difficult to understand and practice for humanity. The success was overwhelming, this new faith won all strata of Japanese society. At the back of the room, you see, therefore, in semi-darkness Amida Buddha. As in many temples, there is also a moss garden. This temple is particularly popular in the fall for the beautiful maple leaves. In the temple, you now find our dear Kannon deity, Compassion! His image is special here! Look at her hair! So many heads? Difficult, no doubt, to count heads? Perhaps you are too far! Confirm: she was 11! According to legend, our divinity felt such compassion for human beings as his head finally burst into 10 pieces! With serenity, she gathered her 10 mini heads to get hair, taking care to add that of the Buddha which is the emanation: Amida. On top of the hair, we see the head of a Buddha. It is that of Amida! Total: 11 heads !

The Nanzen-ji Temple

Continuing your way along the marked route takes you to the Nanzen-ji temple, which marks the culmination of the "Path of Philosophy". Count 5 minutes walk from the previous temple. Nanzen-ji is one of the most important temples of Kyoto. Construction began early in 1291 on the site of a villa that belonged to the Emperor Kamenaya. Today the vast monastic complex is vested in the current "Rinzai" of Zen Buddhism. Very damaged during the War of Onin (a civil war that raged ente 1467 and 1477), all buildings have been extensively restored in the 16th and 17th century. You will cross, first of all, a huge door at two levels called "san-my" in "Zen" style. It was built in 1628 by Todo Takatora. You can go upstairs to admire the ceiling. Look at the ceiling! The paintings, admirable, you have before you were done with school painters called "Kano". The term "Kano" applies to a generation of artists of the 16th century Japanese, the name of the founder of this school of painting. Now go to the "hondô". The "HoJo" is adorned with a small but exquisite dry garden attributed to Kobori Enshu and paintings of the Momoyama period including a "Tiger drinking water," a masterpiece of Kano Tan'yû (1602- 1674). Besides you can enjoy a bowl of "koicha" (ceremonial tea) and a treat for a low price. Depressed, Nanzen-in Temple occupies the original site of the villa of Emperor Kameyama. Restored in 1703, it faced a garden surrounding a pond, amid mountains covered with thick forests. Before the Nanzen-in, the Aqueduct of red brick, western creation in incongruous appearance, is the Japanese eyes one of the great attractions of the site. This structure, one of the first enthusiastic achievements of the Meiji era, was built in 1890.Elle was part of an ambitious project to build a canal for the transport of goods from Shiga neighboring prefecture.