A new experience can be fresh and exciting. You might have expectations, but your mind is open to possibilities. We arrived to Kozan-ji not knowing what we would see. I imagined another temple, but what we got was nature itself.
We actually passed an elderly woman sweeping the moss with a wicker broom and picking debris off it. This leaves all the carpets of green moss that add to the beauty, as if the forest itself is a great hall filled with giant pillars (cedars) and lined by carpets of moss.
Much of the scenery reminded me of Koya-san, likely because both temple grounds belong to the Shingon Sect of Buddhism. One brought from China centuries ago by a man named Kukai.
Have you ever seen the video “History of Japan” by Bill Wurtz? It went viral a few months ago.
In it he mentions, “A rich hipster named Kukai goes to China and learns a better version (of Buddhism) and comes back.”
You can check it out here:
It’s told in a joking way, but Kukai’s influence was quite significant. Without him, Esoteric Buddhism would not have survived.
After Kukai returned to Japan, the Chinese Emperor burned down all its temples and teaching in China. Japan became the last refuge for Shingon Buddhism.
In Esoteric teaching, they believe that words and existence can’t be separated, and the true essence of Buddhism can’t be explained in human language. The phenomena around the world hint at the true reality.
In contrast to this, exoteric teachings are concerned with discerning meaning from the surface of things.
There was so much beauty in the nature around Kozan-ji. It was breathtaking. There was an energy in the air.
Kosan-ji Temple is renown for its numerous historical treasures (one now kept in a museum in Kyoto). It was registered as part of the UNESCO world heritage site in 1994.
The temples are construction in the Wayou style — using simplicity and a refrain from ornamentation. Shingles and bark cover the roofs rather than tiling. They are also made to adapt to the natural environment and blend into the surroundings unlike Zen Temples which favor symmetrical layouts.
If you would like to see more then please check out the video I made on our experience: