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Group D Hiezan Report (Grisham)

This past weekend we visited Kojirin, a Buddhist practice hall


monastery, in order to experience a typical day in the life of a monk.
We arrived during the afternoon on Saturday, and immediately we
were thrust into the lives of Buddhist monks after the opening
ceremony (during which chants were recited and prayers offered), the
monks took us to a larger temple down the hill in order to teach us the
ways of zazen. At the temple, we learned how to meditate and clear
our minds of all worldly distractions, allowing us to calm our spirits and
find a deeper understanding of ourselves. Afterwards, we had our first
Buddhist meal a simple few dishes consisting of white rice and a few
steamed vegetables. The most interesting thing about all of our meals
at the monastery was the no waste policy; we were asked to pour tea
into each one of our bowls once we were through eating in order to
wash them, then drink the tea at the very end of our meal.
At the end of the night, all of us were asleep by 9 pm in small
tatami-floored rooms, and we were awoken at 5 am by the sound of
gongs to do some more zazen meditating. Then, after a quick visit to
the gravesite of Saicho (the Buddhist master who founded the entire
Hiezan complex on top of Mt. Hiei), we had another quick meal under
the same stipulations from the previous night. We ended the day with
a two-hour lecture on Japanese history and weaponry, which then lead
into our final meal and the closing ceremony.
Personally, I really enjoyed our time spent at the monastery. I
particularly enjoyed the fact that no electronics were allowed, as it
gave me a total disconnect from my busy personal and academic life.
It was a really relaxing experience in the sense that I found myself
reflecting upon my actions more frequently and pondering serious life
questions during our zazen sessions. Overall, I would say that the
organization of our time at Hiezan was well structured and nicely
proportioned, considering that we all ran on the monks timeframe and
their predetermined schedule. I thought the content was also really
diverse and interesting it was amazing to do actual zazen meditation
in Buddhisms central location in Japan with real Buddhist monks. Also,
the visit to Saichos gravesite was really sobering; it made me
appreciate the sanctity and longevity of Buddhism in Japan, seeing as
how the complex he set up is still in place a millennium later.
I think the thing that will stick most with me from the program is
the Buddhist philosophy that we should always think about those who
came before and after us in order to become more thoughtful
individuals. Since the programs end, Ive found myself doing little
things to help the next person who has to use certain objects I use

(e.g. turning the slippers inside the bathroom towards the door so as to
make it easier for someone else to use them). Finally, the one bit of
constructive criticism that I would offer would be that we should be
able to bring watches at least (seeing as how all of the monks were
wearing watches), because I found myself constantly panicking over
not knowing when it was in the day.