Path of the Philosopher-Warrior
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Milarepa , a major figure in the history of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism He would pace up and down his verandah when struggling with particularly difficult ideas, and he would stride up and down the podium when giving his lectures at Kyoto University. When he needed a break from the incessant workings of his brain, he would escape to the hills of Higashiyama for a walk. On such a meditative stroll he is said to have come to his first great insight into the nature of pure experience. When we walk this Path we are following in his footsteps.
What insights and experiences will it bring us? You will find cafes and galleries, all kinds of shops selling kimonos, crafts and antiques, and of course many sites of historical importance — some of which are easier to visit than others. Among the many random wonders along the way are:. There are many of these along the way. Some are more recognizably human in form, others simply appear to be pointy rocks wearing red bibs.
Jizo statues always wear red bibs and sometimes little red hats because Jizo is the Buddhist patron deity of children, and the bibs make him appear more friendly. He is also the patron deity of travelers, so today he is watching over us too. If you are in a hurry and want an expert guide to the area, the Ebisuya rickshaw company has drivers stationed at the top of the Path nearby Ginkaku-ji. A minute ride for two will cost yen, but there are other options available.
Check their website for details. It is certainly a romantic way to go. Apparently, the garden of this temple is very nice, but it is only open for a few weeks at the end of November. It is however possible to join in lengthy zazen meditation sessions here, if you are willing to take part in some chores around the temple first. Please check the Japanese website or have someone check it for you for details. The English website of the head priest Tanaka Kaju may also be of interest if you want to learn more about Zen philosophy.
Otoyo-jinja is noted for the unusual guardian animals that mark the entrance to one of the inner shrines.
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It is normal to see guardian dogs or foxes at the entrance to a shrine, but this shrine has mice! Otoyo-jinja is dedicated to the hero-god, Okuninushi, who had a particularly good relationship with mice. To get rid of the ardent young suitor he shot an arrow into a field of tall reeds and told Okuninushi to go fetch it. Hoping to please his future father-in-law, Okuninushi dutifully trotted off on his seemingly impossible task. Susanoo then set the field on fire on all sides.
Our hero was trapped and seemingly doomed, when he heard a tiny little voice at his feet. It was a mouse, who proceeded to show him a hidey-hole in which to wait out the fire — and when the flames had passed the helpful mouse brought him the arrow too! The mouse on the left is said to be holding sacred sake, a symbolic celebration of good harvests and happy childbirth. The mouse on the left carries a scroll, clearly symbolic of learning. Though the shrine itself dates back to , these guardian mice are not so old and have only been here since Back on the Path of Philosophy, the tomb of Emperor Reizei — is very easily missed as it is quite far removed from the Path and completely closed off from public entry.
Look out on your right for a grey stone torii gate standing before a green mound. Emperor Reizei was only Emperor for a couple of years before he was forced to retire, and even during that time his uncle ruled as regent in his stead. It was probably just as well. Though known for his good looks, Emperor Reizei was thought to be a bit mad. Here are some of the mad antics attributed to the young Emperor Reizei:. As I read these stories, I cannot help finding them rather humorous, and I like to think of him bravely singing in the face of adversity and loss.
Carved into the stone is a short poem by our eponymous philosopher, Nishida Kitaro.
2. Never be discourteous
People are people, and I will be myself. Regardless, the path I follow I will follow on…. Nishida wrote this poem in when Japan was falling increasingly under the sway of right wing nationalist ideology. The nationalists also viewed Nishida with suspicion, for his world view was inclusive and he saw Japanese culture, as one part of a greater global culture. Despite his concerns for his country Nishida took a long view. He knew that the bad times would someday pass, and that the legacy of his work would remain. This is his most famous poem and it expresses his stubborn determination to ignore the trends of the time and keep going his own way.