In Which We Answer a Koan and Hike a Mountain

Hello all!

Today was a wonderful day — I may go so far as to say that it was my favorite of the trip so far. I woke up this morning at 7:30 — still very sleepy from being awake until 2:00 this past night! My sleepiness dissolved quickly, however, because I was so excited!

The very first full day that we were in Kyoto, we went to the Zen Buddhist temple Tofuku-ji and met with a monk named Kei-san. We sat zazen with him, and he gave us a koan, or a question, to think about this week. Today we were to give him our answers. I had thought about this question a great deal this past week. It was never far from my thoughts no matter what we were doing. I feel as though I’d been thinking about this question much longer than this week, even if I didn’t know that it was the question that I was trying to answer until the first time we spoke with Kei-san. I plan to discuss this question and the answer I gave in a more in-depth manner in my final reflection post upon returning to Williams, because I feel as though it was my most profound and will be my most lasting take-away from this wonderful trip where I’ve learned so many things.

We were able to sit zazen with Kei-san again. I hope to continue this practice upon returning to Williams. I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite so at peace. I couldn’t believe how fast the time passed! (And then I tried to stand up and about fell over because my legs had fallen asleep. I think I might need a bit more practice with this sitting thing…) Before we left his company, he served us tea. I don’t know what it was about the conversation, or the atmosphere, but that seemed to me to be the best tea that we’d had since we arrived. I wanted to really hang on to every moment that passed in Tofuku-ji today. It was a beautiful experience that I am incredibly grateful to have had.

After we left our meeting with Kei-san, we decided to explore the main body of the Tofuku-ji temple. The Zen gardens that we came across were beautiful. I could have stayed for hours if it hadn’t been lunchtime! We left Tofuku-ji and had lunch at a small ramen shop. After lunch, we decided to head to Fushimi Inari shrine and Mount Inari. It was definitely a hike, but I’m not going to say that it wasn’t magical (despite my huffing and puffing) to walk up the mountain as the sun filtered through the beautiful orange gates above our heads. We were able to get a beautiful view of the city from this vantage point. We then climbed back down the mountain in the gathering twilight and headed back to the Sanjo area for the night.

I’m writing this after dinner. Once I’m finished with this post, I’m going to try to plan an optimal route for seeing as much as I can tomorrow. I can’t believe that our time in Kyoto is almost finished! It is such an incredible city — I truly hope that I will be able to return someday. At any rate, there’ enough to see here that I’m sure I could explore for a lifetime and still not find everything! I guess I’ll talk to you all tomorrow. I hope that I get to a lot of places and have a fair amount to say!

See you tomorrow!


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