“Autumn in Kyoto,” — 秋天京都,洛陽景 (Nov. 2010)
(“a view of Luoyang”) by Michael Saso, Tohgendo collection, Sanjo St., Kyoto

Kyoto in autumn is one of Japan’s (if not the entire planet earth’s) most beautiful visions. Once the ancient capital of Japan, (during the Heian period 平安時代 Heian jidai, 794 to 1185), the city is modeled after, and still bears vestiges of Luoyang 洛陽the Tang dynasty (619-905) “eastern” capital of China.

Each year, thousands and thousands of people, high school students, the elderly, and those who just love the splendor of nature’s seasonal changes, come to Kyoto. Cherry blossoms in Spring, and maple leaves in autumn draw the greatest crowds. This past week, due to the splendid display of autumn maple leaves throughout the city and surrounding hills, more visitors came to Kyoto than ever before. Not a room in the entire city was vacant.

Our website provides for its readers a series of pictures taken this past week, in Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, and forest hill side, giving a glimpse of Kyoto and the structure of ancient Tang dynasty Luoyang, that hide within it.

Mt Hiei, northeast of Kyoto, is the home of Tendai Buddhism, brought from Tang dynasty China by the monk Saicho in 803-804. Tendai Buddhism ( 天台 Tiantai in Chinese) is from the sacred Mt Tiantai, a 4 hour ride by bus south from the city of Hangzhou. When Saicho returned, he built the Kompon Chudo temple, and lit a lamp in Lord Buddha’s honor; the lamp is still burning today, a perpetual memory of Chinese Buddhism’s deep influence on Japan and the rest of Asia.

From this mountain top four of Japan’s great Buddhist schools evolved, Zen, Pure Land, Shin Pure Land, and Nichiren’s Lotus Sutra school. Red, yellow, purple, and mottled Maple leaves abound throughout Kyoto, in all of these temples. We selected only a few scenes from these temples, listed one-by-one below. The last picture is taken from a scroll, in the Enryaku-ji” Ryokan (Inn) atop Hieizan. Its words read: “All our faults, like morning dew, are melted away by sun light’s compassion.”

“The act of contemplating maple leaves, cherry blossoms, gravel and stone gardens, cleanse our minds and hearts from all worry and sorrow,” the ancient Buddhist master chants, as pilgrims pass through Kyoto’s ancient temple gardens.

1st photo: Mt Hiei, the pathway from Enryakuji Kaikan to Kompon chudo temple. 2nd photo: Entrance to Kompon Chudo, Mt Hiei. 3. Photo from Daitokuji, Zen temple. 4. Photo from Nanzenji, Zen temple. 5. Photo from Sanzen-in, Tendai temple, Ohara, NE of Kyoto 6. Photo from Bishamondo, Tendai temple, between Kyoto and Lake Biwa. 7. Photo of the scroll, “sunlight of compassion.”

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