During the autumn season I took a trip to Ryoanji temple in Kyoto. It was a beautiful fall day, warm; with the brightly colored leaves blossoming everywhere. The temple grounds were peaceful, surrounded by green and lots of nature. Even though there were many people, it was still possible to enjoy the quiet of the area. I love being outdoors and enjoying the different plants that are native to Japan.
I also love to visit the many different temples and shrines here. The ones with dry landscape gardens are among my favourite. While I was sitting by the garden of Ryoanji temple, I began to wonder what the designers were trying to tell us with the stones. Wherever you stand (or sit), when you look at the garden you can only see 14 of the 15 stones that are positioned there.
After thinking about it for some time, I began to wonder if the garden represented life and the world. We can see many things in the world around us but cannot or do not want to see everything. In truth, you can see the 15th stone but it looks like it is part of a larger stone. From either end of the garden you can see the 15th stone. However, it looks like it is not individual, like it has no purpose, it does not contribute.
What if the 15th stone represents us as individuals? Many people refuse to see themselves for who they truly are. We all have a purpose, we all contribute. And we all think that we contribute in a good way. But do we? What if we can all learn to look at ourselves, at our contribution to life and the world? Look at it and recognize it for what it truly is. Perhaps then can we learn to live in peace and harmony. Perhaps then we will contribute positively and make the world as beautiful as the dry landscape garden.
Smith’ School of English Kyobashi