Our next stop in Kamakura was the Kencho-Ji Temple.
Kencho-ji is the first-ranked of the five great Zen temples of Kamakura, and is the oldest Zen training monastery in Japan. It was constructed by order of the Emperor Gofukakusa during the regency of Hojo Tokiyori (1227 – 63). Work was completed in the fifth year of the Kencho Era (1253), from which the name of the temple is taken.
The Founder of Kencho-ji was Rankei Doryu (Lan-hsi Tao-lung, 1213-78), a Chinese Zen master of the Sung Dynasty. He left China in 1246 to teach Zen in Japan, spending several years in Kyushu and Kyoto before coming to Kamakura to found Kencho-ji. After his death the memorial title “Daikaku Zenji” (Teacher of the Great Realization) was conferred upon him by Emperor Gouda. This was the first time in Japanese history that such a title was given to a priest of the Zen sect.
Something of the nature of Rankei Doryu’s teaching can been seen in the following quotation from his “Recorded Sayings”: If you have lost your true self, all phenomena bring you nothing but annoyance. If you discover your essence of mind, you can follow nothing but the true path.
Sanmon (Main Gate): The present Main Gate was built in 1754 by Bantetsu, the chief priest of Kencho-ji at the time. He was aided in this project by donations from the people of the Kanto (Eastern) region of Japan. Legend has it that a badger helped the cause by transforming himself into a monk, in order to repay the kindness he had been shown by the priests of Kencho-ji. Thus even now the Main Gate is called “Tanuki Mon” (Badger’s Gate).
Now I know why Shawn wanted to go to this Temple (and why his halo was shining so bright)!
Bonsho (Temple Bell): This bell, cast in 1255 and bearing an inscription by the Founder, Rankei Doryu, has been designated a National Treasure by the government of Japan.
Junipers: These trees, designated as Natural Treasures, were planted over 700 years ago from seed the Founder brought from China.
Hojo (Main Hall): This building was moved to Kencho-ji from its original location at the Hanju Zanmai-in Temple in Kyoto. It was first used as the chief priest’s residence, but is now used in the performance of religious services for the believers of Kencho-ji.
You are required to remove your shoes to walk around the Main Hall and the Garden behind the hall. We were able to see the sights inside the hall, but were not allowed to take photos.
Garden: Located behind the Hojo is a large garden, designed by Zen master Muso Kokushi. The pond in this garden is in the shape of the character representing “mind”, and thus the pond is known as the “Shin-ji Ike” (“Mind Character Pond”).
The information in italics is from the temple info pamphlet.
Before we end this post…the newest g-pa is is having a birthday today! Rather than post incriminating photos of you, we decided to just go with this…
Have a good birthday!