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Goin’ Japanesque!

Let’s Learn the Life Enriching Religion “ZEN”

Zen is now a very popular religion worldwide and a lot of people are practicing it in daily life. “ZEN” is the word for the Japanese word ”禅” by which people know the religion. There is a facility called San Francisco ZEN Center in the United States of America and, in Europe, there are lots of seminars that provide people with the chance to learn the religion. Title Photo by flickr

As popularity grows overseas, it is regaining attention in Japan too and today people like business persons, students and house wives are joining Zazen or meditation seminars at Zen temples in the morning. It seems the famous Steve Jobs was also a practitioner of Zen. The effects that zen medication can have on the mind and body is immeasurable, and it is said that it can help practitioners get some inspiration or ideas for business for instance.

Zen is said to have originated in India and China but developed in Japan after brought in. Many Zen temples were constructed and many branches of the religion were invented with slightly different teachings. It can be said that Zen is now a unique part of our culture that has been developed in Japan although historically passed on from India and China.

In this article, I would like to tell you a little bit about the unique Japanese culture of Zen.


What is Zen anyway?

Photo by flickr

Zen is said to have been originally created in India and China and then passed on to Japan later as said earlier.

A monk called Daruma from the southern part of India is thought to be the founder. Zen branched from Buddhism with meditation as the main training and it was firstly passed onto China. Then many different groups arose and Zen itself as a religion developed.  However as time went by it lost popularity and was eventually replaced by other religions.

Around the same time, during the Kamakura Period (1185–1333) Zen was brought into Japan by some enthusiastic monks who made efforts to spread the religion in the country. It resulted in the occurrence of some different groups. People built Zen temples all over the country and cultural activities such as ink painting made so much development as well. Today you can see a lot of Zen temples in Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture.

There are many branches of Zen including Rinzai and Soto but they all have in common that Zazen or meditation is the main training even if they have slight different teachings. Today Zen teachings are being recognised again and help improve health, the quality of daily life and the growth of business.


Zen Teachings

Photo by flickr

There are a lot of books about Zen at the bookstore and the most popular ones may be those that collect teachings that could be good to know for the improvement of daily life. Here I’m going to show some.

1. Every day is a good day (日日是好日)

This teaching means that everyday can be a good day depending on your attitude.

For example, even if you make a mistake and think the day is a bad day, you can put it this way; the mistake is a lesson for the future that can make your life better so the day is very productive and therefore a good day.

2. Already satisfied (知足)

A man is full of greed and there is no end to it. If one has money, he keeps buying. If a friend has something good and looks happy, he envies and wants to be the same.

However he in fact is already satisfied and happy enough. It is only that he has not realized how satisfied and happy. If you know you are then you stopping demanding more and start feeling happy. 

3. Once in a lifetime (一期一会)

This teaches us that we should cherish the moment when we meet anyone.

This is because it may be a once in a lifetime event and we may never see the person again. If you think lightly of the encounter, you may waste the chance to acquire happiness as well. 

There are lots of books about Zen teachings and also you can find some websites on the internet. Just knowing the teachings could change your life so it is recommendable to do some research for yourself too.


Temples where you can learn Zen

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Books and internet could help you too but making a visit and listening to a monk at firsthand is good experience too. Today many temples hold meditation sessions so you may want to participate and meditate, hear teachings and learn more about Zen. This could help improve your life.

Here are some temples in Tokyo that allow you to experience the Zazen meditation.

1. Manpuku-Ji (Katsushika Ward)

This temple holds sessions of transcribing sutras as well as zazen sessions. Its website has a series of interesting talks by monks. There is a lot of useful information there that you may want to have a look at. Information: Map, Official Website

2. Taiso-Ji (Toshima Ward)

This temple is located near Somei Cemetery in Toshima Ward. This area tends to be very quiet so may be ideal for meditation.

This temple holds a meditation session at 8AM every Saturday. They also hold sessions of chanting sutras that may be interesting as well. Information: Map, Official Website

3. Ryu-un-Ji (Setagaya Ward)

This is a temple that is very generous to beginners. They hold sessions of meditation and transcribing sutra and there are also annual events that entertain visitors throughout the year. One may enjoy visiting this temple even if not doing meditation.

The garden has so many different flowers and trees throughout the seasons that you may want to visit here every season. Information: Map, Official Website


Now you may have understood why it is so popular that it is practiced worldwide.

Zazen or meditation empties your mind and calms you down. It removes anxiety, greed and other unwanted desires and when you open your eyes there is a new world in front you. Also Zen teachings help you have a simple way of thinking and gain more happiness.

There are lots of Zen temples where you can learn Zen and enrich your way of life. It is highly recommendable that you put visiting Zen temples on your travel plan when visiting Japan.

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Learning Japanese Culture: Lodging at Furumine Shrine in Tochigi

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About the author

Hi! My name is FJ. Travelling is fun and it's something that gives you life lessons and enriches your life. I hope travelling to Japan becomes one of those times for you too. I'm here hoping to help you have good times in Japan by providing information and tips on many kinds of things. Enjoy your travels!

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