Spirit of Zen, Mind of Rei
In Eiheiji, a well-known temple of Zen Buddhism (Eiheiji town)
January 23rd, 2017
by Yoshihiro Hosokawa

In order to ease mental stress, mindfulness has surged in popularity over the last few years in western countries, applying to various fields, such as medical care, education and business.  It is the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to things as they are, which is based on Zen (禅), the mind concentration and meditation to take a good look at ourselves.

Eihei-ji (永平寺) was founded in 1244 as one of the two main temples of the Soto school (曹洞宗) by Master Dogen (道元禅師), a Japanese Buddhist priest and the founder of the Soto school of Zen Buddhism.  It is located about 15 kilometers east of Central Fukui,where 600-year-old cedars and 70 large and small buildings line up.  Today, surrounded by perfect silence and clear air, 150 Buddhist monks called Unsui (雲水) practice their Buddhist austerities there. 

An Unsui spends two hours in Zazen (座禅), seated meditation, everyday.  He follows the teachings of Dogen known as Shikantaza (只管打坐); nothing but precisely sitting, doing only Zazen whole-heartedly.

Everything in his daily life, including Zazen, is a part of the ascetic practices.  According to Dogen’s strict manners, he gets up in the early morning, washing his face, taking a meal, cleaning, bathing and sleeping at night.

Eihei-ji Junior High School near Eihei-ji has had the unique education of Rei-no-Kokoro (礼の心) based partly on Zen Buddhism for about 30 years so that students may foster their autonomy.  Under the education, they learn to exercise self-control and conform to the rules of etiquette and formality at school.  For example, they bow politely to the school building in arriving at school.  And then, they meditate before class.

Mugon Seiso (無言清掃), cleaning up silently, is also a part of the education.  They wipe the floors of the classrooms, corridors, a gymnasium and restrooms without talking anything for 15 minutes; facing themselves and refining their minds.  They spontaneously cultivate concentration and patience through Mugon Seiso.  Other schools in and around Fukui have also introduced such Mugon Seiso for educational purposes.

Elementary and junior high school students in Fukui have had a top-ranking academic achievement and physical fitness.  A study by schoolteachers visiting from outside of Fukui suggests that Mugon Seiso may be one of the keys for high academic achievement.

Zen is not only a Buddhism school but has greatly influenced Japanese culture as a whole.  For example, judo (柔道), kendo (剣道), sado (茶道) known as Japanese tea ceremony and shodo (書道) meaning Japanese calligraphy, are based on the concept of do (道), mastering one thing whole-heartedly, which is very similar to that of Zen.

Zen also influenced Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple.  He had met Zen when he was young and his inventiveness and creativity were greatly inspired by it.  He devoted himself to Zen to seriously attempt to become a priest of Eihei-ji for a period of time.

Zen gives you a chance to face yourself and even guides you into a new world.  Eiheiji has Zen practice programs that involve staying for a night or a few.  Why not stay at Eiheiji, face yourself and find something new to you?












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