Higashihongan-ji Temple,

East Hongan-ji Temple(東本願寺)
#higashihonganji #shinran #daishido

Higashi Hongan-ji

Higashi Hongan-ji Temple is located a few minutes on foot from Kyoto station, in Karasuma-dori st. In front of the gateway there is a fountain shaped like a lotus flower. The temple is under restoration work for few years, but today I could visit the Daishi-do, Founder’s Hall. In the middle of the Hall, there is a statue of the founder, Shinran. (親鸞:1173-1262).


The wide passageway outside the Daishi-do Hall

Shinran was influenced by the priest Honen, the founder of Jodo sect, “Pure Land”. Honen simplified the Buddhist doctrine, making it easier to understand to every social class, also the poor people. Everybody could obtain the Paradise by repeating the chant of Nenbutsu. (His temple, Honen-in Temple, is close to Silver Pavillion and Philoospher’s Walk). Shinran, years later, founded the Jodo Shinshu, “True Pure Land” sect. As his followers (and those of Honen) increased a lot, a big temple was built with the help of Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1591. But after few years, the new Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, decided to divide the temple into two branches: Nishi Hongan-ji in the original place and Higashi Hongan-ji to the East side of Nishi Hongan-ji, nowadays in Karasuma dori St. Nishi means West and Higashi East. Splitting the same temple into two, it meant to have better control of them, because Ieyasu thought the temple had too much power.. We can visit both the temples and try to catch the threads of their history and happenings.


Details of the roof

When I arrived at Higashi Hongan-ji, there were many students visiting the temple. I entered the temple after them, and I was surprised at the size of the Daishi-do Hall. It is the largest wooden building in Kyoto. The students were sitting on the tatami silently, while a monk was talking to them. I looked at the big pillars made of one whole tall tree each. I felt to be in a cathedral, with the five naves made from the aisles by pillars, an altar richly decorated in front of the statue of Shinran.. I imagined a lot of people coming here to listen to his doctrine. The size of the Daishi-do Hall shows Shinran and the following masters’ popularity. The students left the Hall, and I went to see closer the altar and the pantings of lotus flowers on the walls. It is not the first time to come to Higashi Hongan-ji, but today I discovered other aspects and details.


Daishi-do Hall

I left the temple with the same feeling I had when I visited big churches in my country. The spiritual halo of “True Pure Land” is for everybody. Due to the restoration’s works, I couldn’t see the other halls. The works will be finished at the end of this year. So I went to the beautiful garden Shosei-en, just a few minutes away. It was a former villa of Higashi Hongan-ji Temple’s abbots.


A long wall made of stones in different size and shapes

Shosei-en

The garden maintains the original features. Kyoto has been destroyed by fire many times over the years. So it were this garden and the temple too. The pond, a little stream, an arched wooden bridge, the trees and bushes are harmoniously designed. There are also a nice tea ceremony house, and a full moon viewing spot from the roofed bridge.


Ceremonial Gate

At a distance, I could see the shape of Kyoto Tower, which is located in front of Kyoto station. Also the modern buildings surrounding the garden reminded me of the reality. I was so relaxed and concentrated only on the nature. I spent long time around some plum trees. The plum blossom’s enchantment faded away. I walked through the garden once more before getting ready for my way to go to my afternoon job.


Plum Blossom and wooden arched bridge