source: Official website from Ryoanji Stone garden
In a time where everyone is rushing about, wearing a stern expression of “I don’t have a moment to spare”, visiting a Zen garden seems oddly out of place, a remnant of a time past. Maybe the thought of just sitting somewhere without actually “doing” something is in this multitasking society not acceptable.
The first time I was in Kyoto in 2006 the famous Ryoanji termple stone garden was a must see on my list and I was glad the weather on that particular cold late february day was at least not rainy. Of course I had seen the pictures before and I am not sure if I went there with any expectations, but at first glance I have to confess I was disappointed. The blue plastic canvas covering half of the wall because of reparations did not make it better. I had dully read all the information material about the design and arrangement of the garden, yet I stood there and did not really know what to do with myself after I walked around it and saw every angle.
Unsure whether I should just leave again or not I looked around and decided to follow the other visitors example and just sit down on the wooden planks for a moment.
While sitting there, staring out into the stone garden, suddenly all the thoughts in my head started to get gradually smaller and I felt so calm and at peace that I thought I was about to cry. It was there that I learned to appreciate the impact and force a seemingly so simple garden can have. I was so excited for my trip to Japan and saw so many places, things and people each and every day that I didn’t notice how “loud” everything was until it was suddenly silent.
On my next trip to Kyoto I very much looked forward to visit the stone garden again and I have never been disappointed since and enjoy my hours there.
Of course the Ryoanji temple stone garden is not the only one, but probably the most celebrated and famous karesansui (“dry landscape”) and is mentioned in every guidebook and tourist guide. The garden consist of 15 “islands” of stone that are arranged in five groups that are surrounded by waves of white gravel and although on first glance it seems to be a small and confined space the scene appears endless when looking at it in silence.
If you get the chance you should visit the garden. Or maybe you were already there? Tell me what you thought about it (^_^)