Tuesday, March 26, 2013


It is actually covered in sheets of pure gold!

This is the Golden Pavilion Temple, also called Kinkaku-ji in Japanese. This magnificent Zen temple was built in 1397 and it is located in Kyoto. It was intended as a shariden, storing the remains of the Buddha’s ashes. The entire temple is surrounded by a beautiful garden that looks out on the Mirror Pond.

But what was originally designed to be a tranquil setting, with waterfalls, quiet gardens and expansive space for prayers and contemplation was shattered by the crowds of Japanese tourists who flocked to this site. Cameras clicked, people commented at the beauty of the setting, and the curio stalls did a roaring trade. People queued to ring the prayer bell, and wave the incense of the prayer sticks over themselves. My first reaction was one of sadness. Here was a secular curiosity at the ‘old ways’, which is now nothing more than a commercial venture.

It was my daughter Amy’s astute comment that changed my mind: “Look at the age of these tourists Dad” she said. The majority are young people. She noted that these young people come back again and again to sites such as these. They come for picnics in summer, and see this as a suitable place to take a girl/boyfriend on a date. This has become one of the places of pilgrimage for the youth of Japan. This is not a visit done in solemn silence: it is noisy, talkative and interactive. But they keep coming back.

So I sat outside of the monk's platform, where they used to pray overlooking the lake - and offered a prayer for God's blessing on all who seek a spiritual life.



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