Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Zen and Samu

I finished my Zen garden today. There have been many chores to do over my break and one appeared to require action above the others. The horizontal rocks came to this house four and a half years ago and had been placed waiting for the garden to appear around it. In the end this all occurred in two days.

The result was blessed in the Shinto tradition last night purifying the space and self, generating the seeds of generativity and welcoming flow, sanctuary and potential.

In the end this little stone garden (kare sansui) contained the many elements of a traditional design in a modern confluence. The tsukabi (water basin) is found adjacent to the ishidaro (stone lantern) which sits behind the hindo seki (prostrate rock triad) as framed by the sode gaki (bamboo screen fence) led to by tobi ishi (stepping stones) from the chiriana (refuse hole) at the entrance (with apologies for Western translation that loses the wider meaning of these terms).

Overall there is a feeling of a safe haven 'resting place' in an archipelago that winds through islands in a vast ocean. The smallness of the place summons the elements of a world lived elsewhere. Inspiration came from visits to Halong Bay in Vietnam and the Japanese Tea Gardens in San Francisco.

What surprised me most in this practice was the engagement with sitting contemplation (zazen) prior to execution in meditative action (samu), where what was envisaged after inquiring into the form of the space in relation to the surrounds of the house was enacted simply by following the steps.

Rock was split, earthed moved, kilograms of stones carried, bamboo transported, piping laid, screens built and sand spread. The work was the practice with the main effort being in the effortlessness in the selection, orientation and placement of each feature stone (ishi-otateru).

The place is a space for contemplation to return to when creativity and sanctuary escape me.

shujo muhen seigan do
bonno mujinseigan dan
homon muryo seigan gaku
butsudo mujo seigan jo

Sentient beings are numberless, I vow to save them all,
The passions are inexhaustible, I vow to cut them off,
The Dharma is unfathomable, I vow to master it,
The Buddha’s way is supreme, I vow to attain it.

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