Practice Makes Perfect


Good morning!


Dogen said, “Even though this Dharma is abundantly endowed, it never develops without cultivation, it can never be attained without verification.” His Recommendation for the Right Zazen recommends that all cultivate and attain this Dharma, Buddha Dharma, Buddha nature. It is perfectly penetrating, free, pure, and here and now.


“If, however, there is even the slightest discrepancy, you become separated as far apart as heaven and earth.” Karma creates a discrepancy from the Dharma of nirvana and awakening. Zazen is stilling karma, seeing the Dharma, serving and saving all in freedom, purity, here and now. It is attained here and now, not anywhere else, any time else.


Freedom from karma frees all problems and sufferings produced by karma and allows anyone attain nirvana and awakening. The right form of Zazen allows anyone to become the true dragon, awakened one. Awakening in nirvana is the wish-fulfilling gem, enabling the treasure house, opened in its nature, to be appreciated and used at will.


In Zazen cultivation is verification, free function is full function, stilling karma is seeing the Dharma, the triple world is the treasure house in peace, purity, and prognosis. Only this practice here and now makes this possible. May all acknowledge the universal recommendation and attain unconditioned peace and unsurpassed awakening!





The following photos were taken and kindly sent by Mr. Noriyuki Otsuka,

Shimoda, Japan


























































The following three photos of Mt. Fuji were taken on Feb. 12, 2017 C.E.





















The following three pictures of Mt. Fuji at dusk were taken 

from Fujinomiya, Japan in January, 2017 C.E.
























Posted in cultivation: verification (修:証), Nirvana (windless: asankhata | Leave a comment

Films Created by Our Members

Here are films our members created:
Produced by Cole Hieronymus:
1. Colorado | True Nature – Hier Films 
2. “Life is a Pattern.” – Alan Watts | Who are we?

   (scenes from St. Louis region)
Produced by Dan Sadicario:
3. Meet Your Farmer: Blue Heron Orchard
Posted in Beauty: | Leave a comment

From Karma to Nirvana



Good morning!


We have now beautiful magnolias, daffodils, forsythia, plums, and pears blooming according to the universal natural law. However, humans are now blasting the holy harmony of the natural world due to their individual karma idiosyncrasies. Only humans create wars, weapons, nukes, global warming, mass extinction, etc., causing suffering not only among themselves, but for all others, leading to the destruction of the world.


The Four Sufferings are birth, sickness, aging, and death, and the Eight Sufferings are these four plus not acquiring the desired, parting with the beloved, meeting the hated, and, in short, the rampant raging of the Five Aggregates. The Two Roots or Sources of sufferings are craving and nescience (delusion of a separated self, identification, lit. no witness, of the selfless nature of all), which are the prime movers (karma) of suffering and samsara.


The Triple Poisons of delusion, divisiveness, and desire poison all to perish. Karma (cognate of ceremony, formations) creates psycho-physical systems (Five Aggregates and their worlds), their actions, habits, and heredities, recreating these cycles. Karma (forms and formations as the Five Aggregates and the Triple Poisons in the Twelvefold Dependent Co-origination) is the fundamental problem to be recognized and resolved. Karma solutions is in stilling karma.


Zazen stills karmas (old and new physical, verbal, and mental actions, habits, etc.), leading to nirvana (no wind, of karma) and awakening (witness, prognosis) in it, which he attained and actualized. In Dogen’s Universal Recommendation of Right Zazen we read, “Learn the right form and never doubt the true dragon…The treasure house will open by itself, and you will appreciate and use it at will (nyoi).” Those who have the nyoi-shu, wish-fulfilling gem are dragons.











































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Shikoku Pilgrimage 2016 by Garyo, 35



Closing the Circle (temples 1,2,3 and Koyasan)



It took me two days to return to the first three temples (45km).  On the second day

it was raining so hard, that I was totally wet when I arrived in Gokurakuji (temple 2).

In Gokurakuji, the temple of Pure Land, I stayed overnight.







Colorful schoolchildren walking in the rain







A temple I passed on the way



Coming back to the first three temples was a great experience.  I remembered the

stress I felt in the beginning of the pilgrimage and could enjoy the atmosphere now

much more.







Pagoda of Ryōzenji







Main hall of Ryōzenji (temple 1)







Two story pagoda of Konsenji (temple 3) surrounded by lush, green trees


It was sucha contrast to the wintry scenes weeks before!


Gokurakuji has a nice garden with a Cedar tree over a thousand years old.  It is said

that Kōbō Daishi planted it himself. The tree is known as “Chomeisugi, Long Life

Ceder,” and pilgrims pray for long life. In Gokurakuji, I stayed overnight in the

shukubō. To my surprise, I met Ella again.  It was great!







The temple had also a rock with the footprints of Buddha.







Picture of Buddha’s footprints expressing Buddha’s life, practice and teachings as a

wanderer. The marks were most probably added gradually starting with the Dharma

wheel. The seven auspicious marks as shown here seems to start from the heel – the

dawning (awakening) over the mountains, forming the Triple Treasures, spreading

the Dharma, sharing and enjoying limitless light, life, liberation and love.


I related to the feet of Buddha very much.  I thanked my own feet for their support,

for each step bringing me forward and closing the circle. I thought about Daikai-

san’s words in the Zen monastery saying, that in the Zen way, it is the body that

teaches the mind. My feet, on this 800 miles long pilgrimage, were my teachers.

After leaving Shikoku, I stayed for three nights in Koyasan. I was lucky that

Hongakuin, the temple I stayed in at the beginning of my pilgrimage, had a place

for me. In Hongakuin, I also left my staff.  This was hard.








The entrance gate to Hongakuin







One of the corridors of Hongakuin







View from my tatami room out into the garden







Soji, a student helper, serving food



In this temple, the food is brought to your own room. It was delicious!

I spent my three days in Koyasan visiting the many temples. In the Okunoin

(cemetery), I met a nice group of Japanese women.













Okunoin with moss covered grave markers







The huge, ancient Cedar trees were most impressive.







Konpon Daitō (Original Great Pagoda)



Kōbō Daishi originally designed this pagoda, built in 816. The area where the pagoda

stands is called Danjo Garan (Temple on Platform, lit. Platformed Monastery).

Shingon priests perform many rituals and ceremonies in front of the buildings being

erected on this sacred ground.








Danjo Garan bell tower







Shingon priests reciting Sutras in front of one of the buildings of the Danjo Garan



At the end of my pilgrimage, I visited again the Okunoin (Mausoleum, lit. the Hall of

Depth) of Kūkai. I thanked him for my safe travel, for the beauty I could experience,

for the wonderful people I met and for everything that happened on the Ohenro-no-

michi (Pilgrim’s Path).


I want to also thank you for walking with me as a reader and I hope that you enjoyed

it as much as I did.  In deep gassho, Garyo



We with all readers wish to express our great appreciation for Garyo’s travelogue

with intimate and intriguing pictures of her long wonderful walk and work.

Posted in Shikoku (Four States or Provinces) | Leave a comment

Shikoku Pilgrimage 2016 by Garyo, 34




Ōkuboji, temple 88



Just opposite of Nagaoji (temple 87), I stayed overnight in the Ryokan Azumaya

The lady of the house was extremely nice and served for breakfast an egg with two

yolks.  “Dōgyō-ninin” she said, meaning “ same practice, two people”.  The second

yolk was for our protector, Kōbō Daishi.







The egg yolk with the lightly beaten egg white mixed with rice tastes really good.







Lady owning the Ryokan Azuyama



Temple 88 is located on Mt. Nyotai (800m). On the way up, I passed the Maeyama

Dam and some beautiful rice fields.



















The last part of the hike to the top of the mountain was very steep and wild. I thought

that I had lost my way.  The only signs were in Japanese so I could not read them.

To my surprise, in the middle of the forest, a monk was sweeping the forest path and

ensured me that I walked in the right direction.














Some parts near the summit required climbing up metal rungs







Temple 88 is located passed the summit.







Ōkuboji, the temple of the big cave, is the last temple of the Shikoku pilgrimage.

At the entrance gate, I met a pilgrim with a red name slip, indicating that he did the

whole pilgrimage between 8 – 24 times. During my pilgrimage, I got from different

pilgrims two brocade name slips (indicating they had done the pilgrimage over 100

times), several golden name slips (between 50 – 99 times) and one silver one (25-

49).  These name slips are supposed to have special powers.







Ohenro with a red name slip



Beside the calligraphy written in the pilgrim’s book (nōkyōchō) and the leaf I got in

each temple, the monk in the last temple was writing a certificate that I finished the

Shikoku pilgrimage by visiting all 88 temples.







Many pilgrims leave their staff (kongōzue) in this place.  It is said that Kūkai left his

own Shakujo (monk’s sounding staff, lit. tin stick) staff in this place after returning

from China.







Place where the Ohenros leave their staff after finishing the pilgrimage



The fee is 1000 yen (about $ 10).  I continued my pilgrimage back to temple 1 –

3, closing the circle.  Therefore, I did not leave it in Ōkuboji.


It was a very nice surprise to meet Ella again.  We celebrated the finishing of the

pilgrimage together.  Overall, I was grateful that I was able to walk it but sad at the

same time that this wonderful time was nearly over.  I expressed my gratefulness

by lightening candles and incense.


























Posted in Shikoku (Four States or Provinces) | Leave a comment

Public Talk & Discussion On Paradigm Shift:

Public Talk-Discussion


Paradigm Shift: 

From Karma to Nirvana





1:3– 1:35                      Introduction: Leonora Kham


1:3– 3:30  From Karma-delusion to Nirvana-awakenin

                   Dr. Rosan Yoshida: Director, Missouri Zen Center                              

From Ego-global warming to Eco-life healing

DrBenjamin de FoyProfessor , St. Louis University

 From Nuke Winter to Nukeless Spring

  MT, MPH. Steven Starr: Professor, University of Missouri, Columbia


From National System Ethic to Global System Ethic

 Dr. David Oughton: Professor, St. Louis University


3:30-4:00              Panediscussion, Q&Aconclusion


4:00-4:30                                      Refreshment


 SATURDAY,  MARCH 11, 2017

 1:30 p.m. – 4:00 pm

 Fo Guang Shan St. Louis Buddhist Center

 3109 Smiley Road, Bridgeton, MO 63044

    For more information, call (314) 517-0468



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Shikoku Pilgrimage 2016 by Garyo, 33




A Sense of Time (temples 85 and 86)



When walking out of Takamatsu City, one of the reliefs on a bridge showed an

ancient warrior fighting on a horse, telling the story of the defeat of the Taira clan

in a naval battle in 1185. I was surprised that in Japan, the memory of battles is still

alive after nearly 1000 years.








The scene above depicts the famous samurai Nasuno Yoichi  (1169 – 1232) in the

battle of Yashima (1185, when Heishi, Taira clan, was defeated and Genji, Minamoto

clan, established Kamakura Shogunate).  He became particularly famous for one

action: Sitting on a horse in the wavy waters, he aimed at fan atop a pole on a ship.

(It was placed there by the Taira clan to challenge the Minamoto clan, the enemy).

With a single shot, he hit the target. Later on, Nasu became a Buddhist monk and

founded a temple.  For hundreds of years, this temple was handed down to the

next generation, until the temple was destroyed during World War II.


Legend says that the pond at Yashimaji turned red after the warriors, who fought at

this battle, washed their swords in this pond. Relics of the battle can be seen in the

Treasure house of Yashimaji.







Rurihō-no ike, Pond of Emerald Jem or Pond of Blood in Yashimaji







Shishi-odoshi (scaredeer), an art object by the artist Jin Hasegawa, was exhibited

after the entrance gate of Yashimaji.  It looked a bit lost and scared itself.







The temple grounds also show two large, stone images of Minoyama Daimyojin, a

tanuki (raccoon dog) that is able to change shape and assume other forms. Legend

says that a tanuki changed into the form of an old man meeting Kōbō Daishi.

Tanuki are also said to have taken part in the Sino-Japanese war (1894-1895).

The main hall nearby is a 15th century construction and a cultural Treasure.







In Yashimaji, I also met Marylin, a Canadian woman who did the whole pilgrimage

by camping and sleeping in the rest huts provided for the Ohenros.  We immediately

bonded.  It would have been great having met her earlier on the trek.


On the way to Yakuriji (temple 85), I visited the Isamu Noguchi museum. Noguchi

was an American/Japanese artist.  In a book called “The voice of Isamu Noguchi”,

he stated that Japan needs to teach the world a sense of time, a time which goes in

all directions.







Changes in a garden’s trees and rocks take place with the flow of time, he says. They

change as humans change. The purpose of a sculpture is to teach human beings

nature.  I love his philosophy.







Yakuriji nestled against powerful cliffs








Two story pagoda in Yakuriji


It was already late in the afternoon when I arrived at Shidoji (temple 86).

Untrimmed trees and shrubs and many flowers were surrounding the temple halls

where the little son of the priest was chasing butterflies. I immediately felt connected.







Five story Pagoda at Shidoji








Alert and with big eyes, the son of the priest was looking at me.

Posted in Shikoku (Four States or Provinces) | Leave a comment

Shikoku Pilgrimage 2016 by Garyo, 32




Setouchi Triennale 2016



On my 88-temple pilgrimage, I kept walking nearly every day. There were two

exceptions, however -one was the 8 days long stay in the Zen temple Zuioji and the

other one was in Takamatsu City, where I wanted to visit the Setouchi Triennale.

This International art festival is held every three years on 12 islands around

Takamatsu.  It was created to bring vitality and life back to an area, which lost

importance in the time of globalization.


Unfortunately, I arrived on the last day of the festival. I did not see most of the art

objects.  However, what I saw was stunning, inspiring and beautiful.







Beyond the Borders – the Ocean by Lin Shuen Long from Taiwan



The art object depicts a floating seed and is placed near the harbor of Takamatsu.








Image of the root of the floating seed with a golden statue in the center



I spent a whole day with Ella, my French pilgrimage friend, exploring the islands of

Naoshima and Teshima.  In Naoshima, we saw the Red Pumkin and the Naoshima








Red Pumkin by Yayoi Kusama







Light play inside the Red Pumkin







Naoshima Pavilion by Sou Fujimoto at the Marine Station







Teshima Art Museum by the architect Ryue Nishizawa and the artist Rei Naito



This building is a fusion of architecture, art and nature.  It offers an amazing space

inside with totally white walls and floors and the sky and tree tops coming into the

building through the huge, round opening at the ceiling. The building could only be

entered barefoot. Silence was required. The Teshima Art Museum symbolizes the

flow of seasons and the passage of time. I was not allowed to make a photo, but the

visitor center nearby could be photographed.







Visitor center of Teshima Art Museum overlooking the Seto Inland Sea



The artist Mariko Mori created a fascinating art project.  The path to the object was

leading through a jungle like forest area. The monument, called Tom Na H-iu

symbolized life and death and was placed in the middle of a pond.  It was connected

to an observatory recording supernovas.  Every time a star exploded (death of a star),

the monument glowed.









Tom Na H-iu by Mariko Mori, the artistic recorder of supernovas







The Archive du Coeur by Christian Boltanski was a similar project recording the

heart beats of humans and connecting them to a light bulb in a huge, dark room.

With every heartbeat, the light went on.  I recorded my own heartbeat and it was

fun to see the rhythm and the power of the heartbeat in a visual form.








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Shikoku Pilgrimage 2016 by Garyo, 31



Tamura Jinja and the Ritsurin Garden (temple 84)



It is estimated that there are around 100, 000 Jinjas (Shinto Shrines) in Japan.

Shinto means “way of the Gods.” Originally, the sun, the moon, mountains, trees

rocks, waterfalls, etc. were worshiped as gods or spiritual beings – spirits living

in them. Kamis were worshiped to ensure good harvests, prosperous life, etc.

One of the most fascinating Jinja’s I visited on my pilgrimage was the Tamura Jinja,

Ichinomiya (temple 83), the First Shrine in Sanuki Province now Takamatsu City.







A huge Torii (gate) at the entrance of the shrine symbolizes the transition from

profane to sacred ground. Torii means literally bird’s abode. In Japan, birds are

thought to have connections to the dead. 







Hotei, god of contentment and happiness, is one of seven Gods of Good Fortune

(sometimes, identified as Miroku Bosatsu, Maitreya Bodhisattva, Future Buddha,

Bodhisattva of Friendship) at the entrance of the shrine.







Many Torii’ are indicating the sacredness of the place (sometimes donated with

donors’ names).







The building, called Haiden (lit. player building, for the visitors to pray to the

the enshrined kami of the shrine.  Behind  this building stands Honden (lit. main

building), which is not accessible to the public.  The ritual in front of the Honden,

after cleaning hands and mouth, includes bowing, donating money, bowing twice,

clapping the hands twice, and bowing once (called ni-rei, ni-hakushu ichi-rei).







The Ox is dedicated to students.  If a student wants to pass an exam, the student first

has to turn the golden ball in the mouth of the ox, then crawl underneath a hole

under the sculpture and finally pray at a specific spot.







Many sculptures of dragons can be seen in Tamura Jinja.  Dragons are large,

wingless (unlike Western counterparts) and serpentine mythological creatures

associated with rainfall and bodies of water.  Unfortunately, I did not know much

about them, except that I loved these creatures (Eastern dragons may be more

benevolent than Western ones in relation to humans).







Dragon with Nyoi-shu, Wishi-fulfilling Gem







Torii with dragon and Shimenawa



Besides celebrating Matsuri (big public festivals), purification rituals for different

stages of life (birth, wedding…..) are performed. The photo below shows a ritual for

a new car to ensure safety and good luck.





The city of Takamatsu is also famous for the Ritsurin Garden, one of the most famous

historical gardens in Japan. Typical for Japanese gardens, every step I took provided

another beautiful view of the scenery. The Garden is located near the Shikoku-no-

michi, the Ohenro walking route.








Lake surrounded by black pines in the Ritsurin garden







Interesting bridge









Hako-matsu Pine trees (translated as box shaped pine).  The formation is achieved

by meticulous pruning methods. The scenery created by these pines is unique in the










This black pine tree is one of the most beautiful pine trees in the garden. It

symbolizes a white crane spreading its wings on an enormous tortoise back (rock

symbolizes the tortoise). The Tsuru-Kame-Matsu (Crane-Tortoise-Pine Tree) stands

for longivity. It is said that cranes live for one thousand years and tortoise for ten

thousand years. This tortoise composed of some one hundred rocks.






Wisteria trellis







White Wisteria in full bloom







Lady in Kimono in the Ritsurin garden




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Shikoku Pilgrimage 2016 by Garyo, 30




Waraji, the traditional shoes of pilgrims and travelers (temples 81,82,83)



The walk up to the Shiromineji (temple 81), called also the temple of the white peak,

was very beautiful. The temple is located on a mountain plateau called Goshiki-dai

(five-colored-grounds).   Shiromine (white peak), Kimine(yellow peak), Akamine

(red peak), Aomine (blue peak) and Kuromini (black peak).







Ishi-dōrō (stone lantern) on the way to Shiromineji



Like many other temples of the Shikoku-no-michi, Path of Shikoku, Kūkai originally

founded temple 81. One of the emperors of the Chrysanthemum throne, Emperor

Sutoku (12th century), has a mausoleum and memorial here. The memorial is called















Many temples and shrines have donation stones with the inscription of the donor’s

name – like the line of stone tablets along the stairs in the photo above.







The stone is a typical path marker.  In this case, the hand pointing to the left says

Negoroji (temple 82).  The hand pointing the right points in the direction of

Shiromineji (temple 81)


On the walk to Negoroji (temple 82), I met Ella, a French pilgrim.  We got along well

and spent the next couple of days together.







Ella admiring the spring blossoms



The middle of April was a great time to hike. Spring was everywhere. Wisterias, a

protected plant in the Kagawa prefecture, were starting to bloom.  Every year from

April 26 – May 5, the Wisteria Festival is celebrated in Kagawa.












Six feet tall Kujaku-Fuji (Peacock wisteria) with a small Shinto shrine



Negoroji (temple 82) is also located on the same mountain plateau, but on the blue

peak mountain Aomine.


At the entrance, two enormous straw sandals called Waraji are exhibited in front of

the temple gate. This is not unusual. The huge sandals are there to trick evil spirits

into staying out of the temple ground by making them believe that the shoes belong

to giant guardians of the temple. Little sandals are often attached to the wooden

fences of the gate. In the old days, these Waraji were the traditional shoes Japanese

pilgrims wore on their pilgrimage. They only lasted for 24 hours. Foot problems are

the most common problems on a walking pilgrimage.







Huge Waraji with little straw sandals attached







Vegetation in Negoroji 



Ichinomiyaji (temple 83), called the temple of the First Shrine, had two interesting








Two Ohenros reading the tablet inside the sculpture of a lotus bud –

the Heart Sutra, Ohenros chant at each temple









There was also a shrine dedicated to Yakushi Nyorai, the Healing Buddha.  During

Taiho Period (701-704 C.E.), Ichinomiya-ji (temple 83) was built connected with the

Tamura-jinja or Sanuki Ichinomiya (1st Shrine), and separated later, like many other

temples and shrines. The stone is probably a left over from this connection. It is told

that Kōbō Daishi built this shrine to warn people of the boiling sounds of the Hell

Kettle to wake up. If wrong-doing people put their heads in, the door shuts up and

catches them. Legend tells that one time an old woman with the name O-tane, Seed,

did not believe in it and tried to put her head in and was caught by her head hearing

the boiling sounds.  She repented the wrong doings, the door opened and let her

free.  She awakened. The story of the roaring sounds of fire might be rooted in the

volcanic activities in Japan.











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