Ryosoku-in temple 兩足院
Zazen in Ryosoku-in temple
Temple Ryosoku-in in Kyoto
Credit: Tetsuhiro Terada
saururus chinensis in Ryosoku-in temple
A haven for meditation
Ryosoku-in Temple, in the historic Gion district in Kyoto, invites you for Zen meditation, under the precepts of Buddhist philosophy.
In the heart of one of the oldest monasteries in Kyoto, Kennin-ji, the Zen temple and tea garden Ryosoku-in can be found. It is one of the few temples which can be visited in the area. The sections that are open to visitors vary according to the season and national holidays, but June and July are the best months for exploring the tea garden. It's a great opportunity to admire the saururus chinensis, flowers which are quite rare in Japan, in full bloom.
The major attraction of Ryosoku-in is the possibility of reserving an initiation session to zazen, the Buddhist school of Zen meditation. You will be able to discover this ancient practice in a Rinzai Buddhist temple, Rinzai being one of the two schools of Zen, the other being Soto.
See also: Zen, a spiritual journey
This initiation lasts for one hour. The monk will first explain the basis of Zen philosophy (in Japanese). You will then spend 25 minutes on the practical session. Zazen aims for absolute relaxation. Zen practitioners must free themselves of their attachments, their fears and their desires to live simply in the here and now, with their body stabilized in the seated lotus position and a mind which is at peace and free of all thoughts. Once the session is over, you can drink tea while listening to the monk reciting a prayer, all for 1,000 yen.
Monastic cooking and yoga
You can also choose, after the session, to have a lunch cooked by the monks with kayu (rice porridge) and a vegetarian dish, not forgetting the gatha (or sutra) which is recited before a Zen meal. This will cost 2,500 yen for a 1 hour and 30 minutes session. A third option: combine your initiation to zazen with a yoga and breathing exercise session (3,000 yen, 2 hours 10 minutes). It's a good idea to book at least three days in advance to make sure you get a place!
If you don't like the idea of life as a Buddhist monk, you can spend the rest of your day strolling through the historical district of Gion and take a trip through the Kyoto of days gone by.