Experience authentic zazen in a scenic Zen temple,
Mt. Tenshin Shinsho-ji Temple, completed in 1965, is a temple of the Kennin-ji sect of Rinzai Buddhism. T Along with being a place for memorial services there are many temples and buildings in the precincts include the Tahoto Pagoda, Mumyo-in Temple, and the International Zen Training Hall. Shinshō-ji, known as the “Zen Museum and Gardens,” opens the door of world of Zen to not only Japan but overseas as well.
The temple offers a very popular Zen retreat to the public, where anyone can experience the balanced spiritual training of a monastery in the Rinzai Zen tradition such as Zazen and Sutra Copying.
Challenge Yousef to Zazen: a form of seated meditation through practice on breathing
This article shares with you an experience of a one-day Zen retreat that started about five years ago. It’s said to be visited by many Japanese that are interested in Zazen and by a small percentage of foreigners.
Upon reception, it is time for zazen. With careful explanations by the priest, even first-timers can experience real zazen at ease. The key is “breathing.” Breathing techniques help regulate the mind and body.
Concentrating on your food is part of the practice.
Zazen is followed by meals. Mealtimes are also part of the practice, as monks eat in prescribed ways and rituals. First, they recite a Buddhist sutra called “Gokan no Ge”(Five Reflections) before eating. The food served is " Shinsho-ji udon". On the days that ending in the number four or nine, yudame udon are for lunch at Kennin-ji Temple, the head temple of Shinsho-ji Temple.
At Gokan-do, the experiencer is asked to imitate the way monks eat, following every detail of etiquette and rules. It's not quite as strict as the actual practice, but you can experience the same eating process as the monks.
Concentrate on copying sutras and enter the state of meditation without distractions
Sutra copying takes place at the Hibutsu-do where the statue of Amitabha Tathagata is enshrined. Sutra copying is the same meditation practice as Zazen. Zazen is about attaining unity of mind and body by focusing on the awareness of the breath, while sutra writing is about inner peace by focusing on the writing stroke by stroke. It is more important to be attentive and mindful than to have beautiful handwriting. At the same time, Sutra copying is also a kind of prayer, and the scriptures can be enshrined in the Buddhist hall.
After the practice, we take a break to enjoy some tea and snacks.
In the midst of a rigorous spiritual experience, a little rest is sometimes needed. Ganku-in is a tea house that offers sencha tea and snacks. In fact, this process is originally part of the practice, as it can relax and recuperate the body and mind while experiencing the etiquette of drinking tea.
Ganku-in in Shiga Prefecture was built in 1377 when it was relocated from Eigen-ji Temple. Once destroyed by fire, it was rebuilt in 1563. Here you can take the closest look at this historic building.
Shinshoji Zen Museum and Gardens
Shinshoji Temple uses its precincts as a museum to convey the charm of Zen, art, architecture, and gardens. Art pavilion "Kotei", temple office "Shodo" designed by Terunobu Fujimori, "Shogon-do" which permanently displays Zen paintings by Hakuin, a Zen monk from the middle of the Edo period. the "Shoshintei" just inside the main gate, and the dry landscape garden in front of the main hall designed by Kinsaku Nakane are fun just to walk around and take in. There are also restaurants and bathrooms, making it a popular spot to experience Zen while having fun.
Shinshoji Zen Museum and Gardens
- 9:00am-5:00pm (Admission allowed until 4:30pm)
General admission: 1,500 yen
University and high school students: 1,000 yen
Junior high and elementary school students: 500 yen