Not too much

I love Kyoto, and as usual, I feel very sad the evening before I have to leave. I guess, with the years and during my many visits, I began to love it too much.

Too much, even of something good, is not so good any more! I love eating as well, but if I don’t stay 20% hungry after each meal, I will gain weight quickly. Eating too much is also not healthy, of course. Too much, regardless if too much of good or bad, can kick you out of balance and drag you away, physically and emotionally.

Though, if this was the end of the story, it would be a bit disappointing moral teaching today …

I am quite sure, that the experience of eating too much, drinking too much and loving too much has to be made! So I encourage you, if you feel like going for it, do all this, beyond all limits!

If you hold back and restrict yourself all your life, maybe because you just believe in rules, or what someone told you, or because you are simply too shy to give it a try, inside yourself, there will always remain this longing for the better, regardless how much you already have.

Once you enjoyed the perfect food and the perfect love and the perfect happiness, it feels like you arrived, you finally reached your destiny – and for a short moment, this longing is over! Waking up after the first night with your perfect love, you feel so light and free and just there, not want to be anywhere else on earth, not missing anything. Just here, right now, it is good!

But it won’t last forever. And from the day it is gone, you will miss it too much. You just remember the ultimate moment of happiness you once enjoyed, where nothing was missing, and you feel terribly sad.

If you are lucky, and if you don’t lock your sadness away or jump to the next climax of an ultimate achievement (and this is important, and to endure this, practising Zazen is a very good support!), you might eventually realise, that it is just the end of longing for something or someone, which once made you so ultimately happy, and not the person or the thing you believed to possess!

And from then on, the things are just right, as they are …

So, I have to leave Kyoto tomorrow … and it is just good! Also, the rainy season started today (though, Kyoto is too beautiful in the rain)!

Shinto (and other Believes)

Today, I visited the Kurama-yama, a mystic and beautiful place in the hills north of Kyoto. It is one of my favourite trips outside the city, and I try to go there every time I visit Kyoto.

What means mystic place? Do I hang on some pagan beliefs, or any, at all?

tree1In Japan, I love visiting the Shinto shrines (not all of them, that is…), and especially those surrounded by  old trees, hidden away in nature, on the hillside or in a forest.

I do not much care about who or what is enshrined and why. Sometimes even the Japanese devotees don’t know, I have heard. Let aside some anthropologic interests, I don’t need to know about this god or that, causing this effect or the other after listening to your prayers … washing my hands at the basin, bowing and clapping is for me expressing my gratitude to the nature, to the many things around me, which support our life, although they are beyond our understanding. It is the acceptance of my limited brain, of an existence beyond words, and maybe my expression of love for the nature…

Does that contradict Zen? No! I believe, Zen can integrate any religion, which respects other human beings and the nature, which is non-aggressive and does not contradict the idea of a happy life for all.

Don’t worry if you feel a conflict between your Zen-practice and your religion! Doing Zazen will help you to understand yourself and your religion much better!

You don’t have to give up your beliefs before coming to my Dojo, just don’t let them disturb your Zazen! No problem, since you now know I am sometimes clapping hands in front of old trees …

Why I am writing this Zen-Blog

I got quite mixed response from friends after starting this blog: “Zen cannot be taught on-line!” … “Why expose yourself so much?” … “Why give all your ideas away for free?” … “Students should come to the Dojo, not study Zen on the computer!” … “The true teaching should be hidden, not on-line!” and so on …

I guess there is a misunderstanding. It is like mixing up the menu with the dinner. Would you try to eat the menu, or complain that a potato in reality is not flat, as shown on the picture? Come on!

The purpose of this blog is to give you a first impression of the Zen-teaching at my Dojo, so maybe you will find your way to this remote place in the far West of Germany a bit more easily. It is nothing but a map, a guide-book to a place for Zen-study.

You won’t complain to the editor of Lonely Planet, that their book about Kyoto is not the city itself, or that people are mislead if they just read the book and don’t go to Japan, or that their information is dangerous, because it differs so much from the real experience. Would you?

This blog is just the menu, the guide-book … you must come and eat yourself, practise yourself, with your own body, of course!

Practice and Pain

Today I climbed up  Daigozan, the hill behind the famous Daigoji-Temple outside Kyoto. It is a place of importance also for the Yamabushi, the ascetic mountain hermits. Their exercise is extremely hard, the Yamabushi dedicated themselves to walking long distance every night in the mountains and pray, for several years.

While climbing and sweating and catching for breath, I wondered, if all “real” or “efficient” exercise has to be painful at some point, and why?

For sure, if you always stay safely within your comfort zone, physically and emotionally, you cannot progress. You just stay where you are, and who you are. Only leaving this zone stimulates your body and soul to change!

We all know from sports, if the heartbeat does not go up, there is no stimulus for the body to adapt to higher demands. If we do not use our brain, the neurons re-organise, and we will loose our intellectual ability.

So, I thought while still climbing, the pain is no purpose on its own when practicing, it is just a signal from our body or soul, that a change is requested (and will for sure happen). No need to fear or avoid a certain healthy level of it …

Does this ask for a fierce and strict teacher then? I hope not!

I believe, if painful exercise is forced upon you, it can cause severe damage! The motivation to reach out beyond your current limits comes from inside yourself, it is your intrinsic motivation, which might well let you accept the pain and tiredness coming along with the joy of intense practice. But there is no you must from the outside!

Your Zen-teacher is maybe just an example, someone who might help you to discover your own intrinsic motivation. For sure, he himself went through all this pain to a certain degree, and that is why he is as he is. And hopefully he protects you from doing too much, when super-motivation drives you beyond healthy limits of exhaustion.


The view from the top of Daigozan is just great! It was worth all the efforts … but the more dangerous part of a mountain tour is always descending, not climbing up!

Affiliation with Shunkoin-Temple

Shunko-in (Myoshinji) / Kyoto

Shunko-in (Myoshinji) / Kyoto

Around last year, by accident, I discovered Shunkoin, and visited it the next morning for Zazen. Shunkoin is a beautiful Rinzai-Zen Temple inside the big Myoshinji Temple area in the West of Kyoto. It has a very interesting and long history, and it is very open for foreigners who want to experience Zazen!

Today I went there once more, for Zazen, and to speak with the deputy head priest Rev. Taka Kawakami.

My last year’s very positive impression was confirmed during my visit today, Shunkoin is really a place open for western lay-people to experience Zazen without any fear or prejudice. I very much like the friendly and open attitude of Rev. Kawakami!

The Doraku-An Zen-Dojo is now Shunkoin Temple’s official association in Germany. I am very grateful to Rev. Kawakami for his support!

A Journey to the North

This time I visit Japan to meet and support friends and colleagues, especially those in Sendai (which was severely hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011). It is my 23rd visit to Japan, but the first one I planned with pity and sorrows, instead of joyful and happy anticipation!

My journey started in Kyoto today, with a few days of rest coming, and then it will go up north.

Besides seeing my fellow Japanese researchers, I hope to find inspirations and ideas for my new Zen-Dojo in Kinzweiler (near Aachen, Germany).

Although Zen-temples are easy to find and to visit as a tourist, a direct contact or participation at Zazen is usually much more complicated, and often requires some knowledge of the Japanese language. I still vividly remember my first attempt going to the Gyoten (sunrise) Zazenkai at Engakuji in Kita-Kamakura about eleven years ago.

All announcement was written in Japanese (I could not read back then). So I phoned the temple the afternoon before, and with lots of repetition and back and forth, eventually I half-way understood where and when to go. Still, it was a real adventure, and I was much afraid “to do something wrong”.

Things changed a bit for the good during the past couple of years, and there are more and more places which welcome foreigners nowadays.