Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The sound of one hand clapping

I've always had a great deal of sympathy for the intuitions that underlie the teachings of Buddhism. I listen and I think hmmm, there's something in that. Sure there are loads of platitudes, but these are accompanied by a batch of startling profundities.

En cambio....when the basic Christian myth is set out: that some charitable Jewish bloke, whose mother incidentally was a virgin, sort of engineered his own execution by the Roman occupiers of Judea so that everyone afterwards could have a chance of eternal life, I listen and I think hmmm, huele a bollocks.

This rectangular rock garden at Ryōan-ji in Kyoto is one of Japan's greatest and most recognisable treasures. It measures twenty five metres from east to west and ten metres from north to south, and consists of fifteen carefully placed rocks set within equally carefully raked gravel. It's the late fifteenth century work of a painter and gardener called Saomi and is considered the quintessence of Zenniness.

Usually only fourteen of the boulders are visible from any given angle, though one can know one has attained enlightenment the moment one also sees the fifteenth. Anyway, it was hard enough for me to get a view of the garden which didn't also include una molotera de turistas, for the most part deep in contemplation of Saomi's mystery.

The walls around the Zen garden were made from clay boiled in oil, so that a peculiar surface patina would emerge as the centuries passed.

Nearby there's a wash basin (Tsukubai) for the tea room, featuring the inscription 'I learn only to be contented'.

1 comment:

Mark said...

It does all seem improbable, doesn't it? And yet even more so is the impact and longevity of the Church setup by said 'bloke'.