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Higashi Honganji - Kyoto

"Now, Life is living you"
I was struck by this message on the wall surrounding the Higashi Honganji mother temple. "Now, Life is living you".  I believe we should live life. Not the other way around. Perhaps this is a wake up call.  The Shakyamuni Buddha taught a path to self awakening. "Through this, one is able to become aware of the futility and suffering caused by one's actions and eventually come to truly appreciate life as it is." (from Higashi Honganji - The Teaching of Jodo Shin-shu) 
A door leading to the Goeidō
When Kennyo the 11th  Monshu (Chief Priest) of the Jodo Shin-shu sect passed away in 1592, he named his third son, Junnyo, his successor. This created a conflict between Junnyo and Kyōnyo, the eldest son. Hideyoshi who arbitrated in this dispute of succession asked Kyōnyo to step down. In 1602, Kyōnyo, received land from the shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu. There he built his own temple. Honganji was thus divided into two branches. Higashi (…

Ryōan-ji Temple

"When the mind is at peace, the world too is at peace".  P'ang Yun  The Rock Garden
The Ryoan-ji Temple was once the country estate of the Tokudaiji Clan. In 1450 it was bought by Hosokawa Katsumoto who converted it into a Zen training temple. Neither the origin nor the meaning of the rock garden is definitively known though according to the brochure, Tokuho Zenketsu, a Zen monk, may have created it around 1500. The rectangular garden has 15 rocks (both large and small) sitting on moss and look like islets amidst white gravel. It can be viewed from the portico of the Hojo which was the former residence of the head priest. There are stairs leading down to the stone garden where you can sit awhile and meditate on the significance of this creation. But at midday the intimate portico becomes too crowded and meditating or taking an unobstructed photo may present a challenge.
Tatami room
The Hojo has several tatami rooms divided by sliding doors called fusuma. These doors a…

The Faces of Bayon

Bayon was built in the late 12th or early 13th century by Jayavarman VII as a Mahayana Buddhist temple in the center of Angkor Thom, the capital of the Khmer empire. There are more than 200 facial sculptures on 37 surviving towers. Four faces are carved in each tower staring at four different directions. These faces are believed to be the bodhisatva of compassion, Avalokitesvara or Lokeshvara.

There are studies suggesting that the faces in the temple are similar to that of Jayavarman VII from existing statues of him. This is not far fetched in light of the traditional belief among Khmer rulers that they were devaraja (god-king), but unlike other rulers who practiced Hinduism, Jayavarman VII was a Buddhist and would have aligned himself with Buddha and the bodhisattva (enlightenment being).
Khmer army marching to battle
Bas reliefs cover the walls of  Bayon in exquisite detail. There are scenes of battles, celebrations after the battle, everyday life, the next life. It's a picture bo…

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

I got up at 4:30 a.m. to meet my tuk-tuk driver, Vanna, at 5:00 a.m. to make the trek to Angkor Wat for the famous sunrise over the temple.  The air was nice and cool and I could have used a light sweater but what a welcone change from daytime temperatures! At the ticket checkpoint a few miles from  Angkor Wat, the attendants there asked for my temple pass which had expired the day before. But since I had no intention of going inside the temple (as it is under renovation and the front terrace is covered in  tarpaulin), my driver negotiated for me to enter the grounds but not the temple. This worked out perfectly and at 5:30 a.m., I was well positioned to view the sunrise.
First blush
From where I stood, I had a great view of the causeway and the first wall which has three round towers. Behind that are the three conical towers of  Angkor Wat. There were many people around who woke up early to see this momentous event. On the causeway leading to the temple was a steady procession of tour…