【KAMAKURA】 Touch a Piece of Buddhism at Engaku-temple
Written by Marina Wada
It's about a minute walk from Kitakamakura station(北鎌倉駅). That's where Engaku-ji（円覚寺/Engaku-temple）is; which was entered by famous Japanese novelist Soseki Natsume(夏目漱石) in such a convenient location.
The World of Japanese Buddhism Through Temple Precincts
Engaku-ji is a Rinzai-syuu (syuu=sect) temple which practices seated meditation, you might know it as Zen. Let's just walk around enjoying the garden scenery. You will feel calm in this atmosphere of the middle ages.
If you`re lucky, you may see people practicing Kyuu-do (Japanese archery). Since kyuu- do is sometimes referred to as standing meditation, it has a deep relationship with the Zen of Rinzai-syuu. I feel like time stops when I watch the bow fully drawn and the power behind the it`s release.
If you go down farther, you can see the "Sanmon" gate. By going through this gate, it is believed that one can rid him\herself of earthly desires.
When you arrive at Buddha hall, you will see the principal image of Buddha in this temple. But don`t forget to look up the ceiling! A valiant dragon will be staring down at you.
There are also "Syari-den" or " oh-gane", which are designated as national treasures. But if you go till the end, there will also be other simple images of Buddha as well. I was able to squeeze a 1 yen coin in. If you have time, please go find them.
Have a Peek into the World of Zen
I recommend the"gyouten-seating meditation" from 5:30 am (starting at 6am from November to March) at the Buddha hall for free. All sorts of people from beginner to expert and people in Buddhist priest clothes to business people in suites take part is this meditation session. You can experience seated meditation, or Zen, for yourself; which is a basic practice in Rinzai-syuu at the Engaku-temple.
Zen requires us to not think about anything. But this isn`t easy at all if we try. "What do I do after this?" "How many minutes have passed now?" Even as we try not to think about anything, pointless thoughts pot up, one after the another. On top of that, sitting cross-legged for long time gives me pins and needles. We aren`t even allowed to change leg positions, nor make any noise.
However I found out that all pointless thoughts disappear after about 30 minutes of concentration. After I get over the peak of tiredness, I didn`t care about anything. And I realized how we keep getting bombarded by noise all the time without even noticing; such as; announcement at the train station, TV shows, advertisements, and information from smart phones. I wondered if this realization came from my attainment of Zen.
When we finished our seated meditation, we all read out loud, "Hannya-sin-kyou" (（*1）a famous sutra). The chief priest gave out booklets of the sutra, I tried to read it out loud, too. You don`t have to feel overwhelmed if you can`t read it as well as some of the more veteran readers there.
Let's have a deep ZEN experience while walking through the garden or participating in Zen gatherings.
（*1）Hannya-sin-kyou：A text book which tells you the basic philosophies of Buddhism
Rinzaisyuu Daihon-zan Engaku-temple
Address：〒247-0062 409 Yamano-uchi Kamakura-shi kanagawa
7 days a week (Depends on the weather, it closes sometimes)
Unable to use credit card
Closest station:Kitakamakura JR yokosuka-line
Entrance fee：Adult 300 yen、 Children 100 yen ※There is no special fee for group
Official web page：http://www.engakuji.or.jp/top.html