A temple of strict Buddhist practice by Zen teacher Dogen within a beautiful spectacle
Eihei-ji Temple was established in 1244 by the Zen teacher Dogen as a place of Zen meditation. Losing his parents at a tender age, Dogen left home at the age of 14 and headed over to China at 24. After receiving harsh training, he returned home and opened a dojo in Kyoto, but to avoid persecution from the conventional Buddhist influence at the time, he moved the dojo to what is now Fukui Prefecture. Focusing on zazen (seated Zen meditation) in his teachings, Dogen exerted the importance of incorporating that spirit into daily life. He ascertained that Zen was the truth behind things and the preparation of the workings of the human mind to respond correctly. The trainee monks at Eihei-ji, known as unsui, treat their entire lifestyle as training. They begin with morning zazen, chant sutras, have their meal, clean the temple and even consider their bathing and trips to the washroom as training so the hard work continues all day and night. At Eihei-ji, you will be able to sense the lofty spirit of the teachings of Dogen not just from the beauty of the many cultural properties but also from the well-polished corridors due to the morning cleaning by the unsui and their treatment of guests.
Many examples of architecture as cultural properties imitating zazen in the heart of the mountain
Within the huge 330,000㎡ grounds of the temple, a stillness flows that is surrounded by the 700-year-old cedar trees. There are 70 structures of varying size which are cultural properties which center upon the shichido-garan, or complete temple compound of 7 buildings, and consist of solemn buildings such as the Shoyoden, the grave of Dogen that has been called the holy ground of the birthplace of the Soto sect; the aforementioned hatto; and the honden main hall which is dedicated to the principal image of Shakamunibutsu. The shichido-garan refers to the specific arrangement for a Zen Buddhist temple, and to compare with a person taking part in zazen, the hatto lecture hall represents the head as the highest point of the temple, the butsuden (Buddhist hall) is the heart, the daikuin which is the kitchen preparing the meals and providing hospitality to guests is the left hand, the sodo meditation hall for the monks’ zazen, meals and sleeping is the right hand, the sanmon gate is the lower back, the bathroom is the left leg and the toilet facilities known as tousu represent the right leg; these all reflect the world view of zazen.