Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Zen for Kappa No He


In commenting about last weekend’s Walking this Way in San Diego Patty wondered “about the Zen stuff” and I had to explain to her the peace and harmony of the two rocks in sand on the beach. Turns out she didn’t recognize the photo as sand and rocks but in the process I explained

“The peace and harmony of this pair of rocks, can't you see it? There is a famous Zen garden in Kyoto, a rectangle with sand and 13 rocks. No matter how you locate yourself, only 12 rocks can be seen at any one time. Everyone convinced they are the one who will see thirteen rocks spends hours looking at the garden from different angles. By that time, their arrogance has become peace and harmony.”

Kappa No He from Japan came back with

“Wow, I didn't know that about the Kyoto temple. Although I can totally see a bunch of monks from ancient times trying to make that. "Hey, Masuyuki! Stand over there, how many do you see now?!" I'll have to look that up.”

The garden is at the Ryoanji Temple, a World Heritage site, and I was wrong about the rocks. There are 15 rocks arranged such that only 14 can be seen at any one time, regardless of the angle viewed. Only with enlightenment can you see the last invisible stone in the mind's eye. The garden was created in the 15th century, and remains in its original simplicity. There have been interpretations the rocks represent islands in the ocean or tiger cubs crossing the ocean among others, but it is up to the viewer to find out for himself what the garden means. It is an experience much like watching the sun change angles at the Taj Mahal.

7 comments:

Sonnjea B said...

It's beautiful; have you been there?

Pat said...

If I cross my eyes, I can see 28 rocks. Does that count as enlightenment?

Katharine said...

Sonnjea -- I have been there. I have spent the hours looking at it and it more amazing than the picture. Kyoto is filled with temples, but this 600 year old garden of just white sand and 15 rocks is considered to be a masterpiece of Japanese culture. I think it must speak directly to the brain in some way.

Patty, You're just weird. How did I ever get a sister like this?

Pat said...

That doesn't seem like a very Zen-like thing to say.

(Hee hee...I crack you up and you know it!)

Pat said...

And I fixed your link to KNH, so you owe me! That nice Chico's gift card will settle your bill...

Sonnjea B said...

I would imagine in America there would need to be guards to make sure hooligans (I like that word) didn't rearrange the rocks or spell inappropriate words with them or something.

Kappa no He said...

Thank you, you are so sweet!

Boy, am I embarrassed. I am a veritable temple nut -- although you'd never guess with my ignorance of Ryoanji, and the fact that we DID visit there when we went. **shame**

I just asked my husband and he confirmed it. He said I probably don't remember because we took my parents and that was when my father had an extremely upset stomach (from too much incense) and I was running him around desperately looking for a toilet, preferable western style.

Wonderful post and you gave me an idea for something to write about too!