Kyoto Day 10: The Kōan, Tōfuku-ji, Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kusama

Today, we woke up drowsy (I won’t go into it) and headed back to Taikō-an to meet the Zen priest Kei-san for our second session of zazen and to discuss the kōan he gave us at our first meeting. After leaving Taikō-an, and saying goodbye to Sachi-san and Mitsue-san, we headed as a group to Tōfuku-ji. Then we had lunch and most of us went to Fushimi Inari shrine, where we dispersed and CJ and I ended up separated from the group. When we descended from the Fushimi Inari viewpoint, we decided to head to the Yayoi Kusama exhibit that is currently in Kyōto before heading home and getting some grub.

While I found it kind of difficult to stay awake during zazen (I won’t go into it), after we discussed the kōan, I had a rather profound experience different from anything I had experienced during meditation. I guess the easiest way to say it is to say that I engaged with my emotional past more than I ever have during meditation, and that the whole thing shook me.

After we gave our answers to the kōan, but before my profound experience, Kei-san spoke at length about getting in touch with the first floor of your psyche, explaining that, when you’re born your 心 only has one floor, and as you grow and develop you add a second floor that’s cluttered with all of your memory of experience. In this analogy, the goal of zazen is to get back to the first floor. The floor analogy really worked for me, and I’m sure I will be thinking about it more.

Both the garden at Tōfuku-ji and the Kusama exhibit were interesting in that they are examples of contemporary art displayed in very traditional forms or settings. The garden at Tōfuku-ji was designed by Shigemori Mirei in 1939 and features a contemporary spin on the kare sansui (rock) garden, including a rendition of the great bear constellation in foundational support columns from the temple, and a mosaic of moss and stone. While Yayoi Kusama is a fiercely contemporary artist, her art was in this case displayed at the Forever Museum of Contemporary Art, housed in the Yasaka Club, a building with tatami floors and a stage for traditional dance performances. An introduction even explained that the art was displayed lower than it normally would be in order to facilitate viewing it from sitting in Zazen on the floor.

The Kusama exhibit itself was rich and fascinating. While I am a fan of her work and have seen a few exhibitions, this one featured many pieces of types that I had not seen before. In particular, there were collages featuring pictures of nature (including a bird feeding its young) with glittery dots superimposed that were both visually interesting and very funny. There were also some paintings that were more abstract renditions of animals and flowers that were beautiful.

Our visit to Fushimi Inari was beautiful and strenuous, as it always is. While we didn’t climb all the way to the top of Mount Inari, we saw a lot of red torii gates and some nice views, and took a lot of pictures!

CJ being cute at Fushimi Inari

Do the boars know their Miranda rights?

Tradition, Modernity, and CJ

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