Fall is under way and the upcoming festivities are almost among us. That’s right, time to get out all the decorations, favorite recipes for the holidays and shopping. Lots of shopping. If you’re like me, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed. I love the holiday season. I finally get to see those people close to my heart again that I haven’t seen in months. I bake my favorite pies and cakes and have small get togethers. It seems once the season starts it goes by in a blink of an eye. A little rest before the storm is always needed, whether it’s a day away or a few days. This year visiting a Zen Buddhist garden might be on my list of things to do.
The Ryoan-ji Temple located in Japan is a peaceful garden made with gravel, sand and stones. It is simple yet elegant with rocks placed throughout the garden. Each day the monks come out to rake the gravel around the rocks in precise rippling patterns. The patterns are for the most part the same every day. The garden consists of these fifteen rocks and the keepers of the garden say the longer you gaze upon them more you’re apt to understand their meaning. The number fifteen also signifies for Buddhist “completeness.” One cannot see all fifteen rocks no matter where they are standing while viewing the garden. According to the Zen masters the only way to see all fifteen rocks is to obtain enlightenment. Of course enlightenment is different for each person. That is the beauty of a Zen garden. There is no known reason why the original creator of the Zen garden placed the rocks in the pattern they now occupy, but it is known to be a spiritual place where one can meditate. It is one of the most famous in the world.
After visiting the garden you can walk down to the Kyoyo-chi pond. The pond was here long before the garden and boats used to wade across its waters. Now you can walk along the path and over the stone bridge. There is a temple that sits along the path Daishu-in as you make your way around the pond. Lily-pad and irises float on the water’s surface. Tortoises can be seen sunbathing during the day.
While this isn’t a vacation where you’re going from one place to the next, taking in all the scenery as quickly as possible, it is a time of quiet inner peace. A time to reflect upon the year that is passing and the new year that brings surprises and the idea dreams are about to manifest.