Ryoanji (Zen Photography – II)

Only when I am really and fully immersed in a situation or environment, I can take good pictures. It is nothing more than being here and catching the moment with my cheap little camera. If I fail to ban the atmosphere of a scenery, this tells me that I am not really aware of it, or just not fully present.

Usually I come back from Japan with a bunch of nice pictures, but I always failed to capture anything beautiful concerning the rock garden of Ryoanji-Temple in Kyoto.

While I enjoyed sitting on the veranda many times looking at the the famous stones in the sun, rain and snow, alone and with friends, I never managed to take a picture of the scenery I liked. Somehow, I concluded, in spite of their fame the couple of stones in the gravel do not
make much sense to me …

ryoanjiFor that reason I hesitated to visit Ryoanji this time. But a storm was announced, and so I decided to change my plans hiking near Takao in the north of Kyoto last minute and went to Ryoanji instead. This was good luck, not just because the storm later became really severe.

When I entered the veranda of Ryoanji, the garden almost talked to me. It felt like looking into a mirror, or at my own calligraphy right after writing, a completely unexpected and joyful experience. For the first time I could easily take a couple of pictures of Ryoanji garden, perfectly reflecting what I saw and felt.

It is not the 15 stones (all Japanese tourists count before taking their picture). The beauty of Ryoanji’s rock garden comes from the vast emptiness, merely intensified by the stones, and from the old wall in the back. A perfect expression of 色即是空, 空即是色 from the Heart Sutra. To really see it, you maybe must ignore it is so famous …

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