My favorite place was a simple little temple on the western outskirts of Kyoto called Jizo-in. I found it while searching for a temple dedicated to Jizo bodhisattva, the protector of children to offer prayers for a sweet baby girl who was lost during childbirth. It was hard to find but as soon as we walked through the bamboo forest to the old wooden gate, it felt so utterly familiar that tears came. Did I live here in some previous lifetime? How to explain the sense of coming home, this strange feeling of remembering an almost deserted Japanese country temple I’ve never seen before?
We left Kyoto’s budding plum blossoms and camellias opening under grey skies, a smattering of tears falling as I looked out the rain-streaked window of the train to Osaka airport. Although we were here for less than a week of rare, liberated wandering through Zen temples, gardens, ancient sculptures, paintings, walks, I felt completely at home. It’s sad to go. There’s so much to learn from the remarkable subtlety, sensitivity, selflessness in the arts and the dignity, grace, and kindness that pervade the very atmosphere in Kyoto.
Sitting in meditation by the green, mossy garden, it’s clear – the outer beauty reminds us of our own home temple, the inner garden we carry with us wherever we go. Wherever we are, taking a conscious breath, practicing mindfulness and compassion can open the gates to our inner garden. We can find the same peaceful, bright presence in the harmony of our inner temple, sitting and walking in the loving awareness that is our silent refuge.