On a sunny, breezy, and crisp day last week, I set myself free to Sanzen-in in Ohara, Kyoto. The temple is located between the Ryo-sen River (呂川) on the north and the Ritus-sen River (律川) on the south at the foot of Mount Hiei. The area is said to be the home of "Gyozan shomyo 魚山声明", the Tendai way of chanting of Buddhist hymns in chorus with special singing tone.
Before starting to explore the precincts, you can purify yourself by washing hands at Tsukubai basin at the corridor of Kyaku-den Building. Two Tsukubai basins are set side by side.
Shuheki-en Garden in front of Kyaku-den Building is a nice place for a quiet contemplation before moving to the Main Hall.
- A brief explanation of the complicated history of Sanzen-in -"Deng-daishi Saicho (767-822), the founder of Hiei-zan Enryaku-ji, built a small hall in Todo of Enryaku-ji in the year 788. This is said to be the origin of Sanzen-in.
Sanzen-in became a "monzeki" temple in 1130 when the second son of Emperor Horikawa became the 14th head priest. While a nun called Shin'nyobo-ni founded Jogyozanmai-do (present day Ojogokuraku-in) in Ohara in 1148. This temple was incorporated into Sanzen-in in Tenmon era (1532-1555).
In the mid 12th century, many invocation-chanting-monks lived in Ohara and the monzeki temple set up mandokoro to govern them. This governing body eventually became the present day Sanzen-in. The temple moved in to mandokoro, the present site, in 1871 after changed its site several times. The name was changed to Sanzen-in at that time. Ojogokuraku-in had been separated from Sanzen-in for a while but incorporated into Sanzen-in again when the temple moved in."
"Monzeki" is a temple of which the head priest has been a member of the imperial family and of the nobility.
往生極楽院 Ojyo-gokuraku-in, Temple of Rebirth in Paradise
|Built in 1148 and repaired in large scale in 1616.|
It enshrines a statue of Amida with two kneeling attendants, Kannon and Seishi.
Rhododendrons were blooming profusely throughout the precinct.
|Yusei-en Garden near the Ojyo-gokuraku-in with cedars, moss, and seasonal flowers|
There are six stone O-Jizo-sama peeking out ouf the moss. Can you spot some of them? They are called Child Jizo since their figures and poses remind people of innocent children.
Can you spot another one beside a pond?
All the things there including greenery, trees, rhododendrons, fallen camellias, blue skies , sunlight .... were contained in the water world. How enchanting!
Tsukubai basin outdoors
The lute sound played by one of the Seven Deities of Good Fortune melts into the sound of breeze.
Kitayama cedars are soaring into the sky.
Cherry blossoms bloom from mid to late April at this temple.
A few of other seasonal flowers
Thanks to the gardeners, the gardens are always kept clean and beautiful.
Sunlight flickers playfully down through the leaves to the mossy ground.
This Suzaku-mon Gate used to be the main gate of Ojyo-gokuraku-in which was incorporated into Sanzen-in. Suzaku-mon Gate is the main gate traditionally built in the center of the south end. Suzaku, or the Vermilion Bird, was the Guardian of the south. This gate is not used currently.
|Suzaku-mon Gate seen from the inside|
Exploring the temple consists of lots of walking, but you wouldn’t care how much you walk as grandeur, beauties, and wonders appear one after another ceaselessly. It is a good experience for both soul and body. After leaving the temple, I had my late lunch at this restaurant close to the temple.
The path leading to the temple is as charming as the temple itself.
To be continued....