Kurama Dera Message: Gazing at the Light

Bronwen and Frans StieneEnglish, Photos 2 Comments


現代へのメッセージ Message for the Present Generation

(This article is a rendering of a chapter in the book, 古寺巡礼 Old Temple Pilgrimage, Kyoto, by 信楽 香仁 Shigaraki Konin, 貫主 Abbess of 鞍馬寺 Kurama Dera, 2007, pp 81-94. Presented by Okunomichi with the permission of the Abbess and the anonymous translators.)


信楽 香仁 SHIGARAKI Konin, 貫主 Kansu, 鞍馬寺 Kurama Dera


山の心 森のことば    Heart of the Mountain, Words of the Forest

For over 1200 years, this temple has been important for protecting the palace of Heian-Kyo from the north. Located in the southern end of the mountain range of Wakasa Bay, in deep green forest, is Shizen-no-Hohko, Nature’s Treasure. These forests serve the people of Kyoto as their source of pure water. Therefore people respect the forest and appreciate the water. They feel awe of the kami and buddha spirits residing there. They pray for the sacredness of the place. The energy of life comes from this place and goes down to Miyako.

In the daily life of this mountain temple, we are surrounded by the verdant forest. We behold the appearance of the mountain, the color of the sky, the voice of the birds, and the changes of the four seasons. All these are teachings of heaven and earth without words. When with a clear mind we harmonize with heaven and earth, nature and people, and body and mind, we feel the Heart of Heaven and listen to words from earth, and we find real treasure. By being humble and respectful, being with nature, and becoming aware of the realm of Great Life energy, this is true happiness.

Modern living and the uniformity of the daily life of people are far removed from nature, and we are so busy that we forget our real heart. While chasing after material comfort, it is hard to taste the deep joy of true abundance.

When we go to Great Nature and inhale deeply the air of the forest full of energy, when we open our hearts and take off all the layers of sadness, joy, and troubles that we wear, then the light of the sun, the breeze of the forest, and the fragrance of the earth fill us with the Great Life energy of nature in both body and mind. Nature is our true home and the cradle that nurtures life.

Nature’s forest teaches us that being born, existing, changing, and dying — these are the truths of life, the Law of heaven and earth. In the places where kami-buddhas reside, let’s leave everything to heaven and earth, leave the future to Mother Earth, and receive vitality!

Prayer is the meeting of the energy of the universe (Heart of Heaven) and your own life energy. Nature’s forest is the place where all these energies come together.

Going up the mountain on the zig-zag paths is seeking Boddhisatva-wisdom; going down is helping others. Heaven, earth, and Great Nature is one great living sutra.

– From Kurama-KouKyou Kyoujo teaching book

響き会う羅網の世界 Reverberating Net of the World

A single life was born on earth a long time ago. Then it took eons to attain countless life forms. Now there are many humans like me living here. And inside me is life from ancient times continuing to now.
Connecting with many different lives and being one of them, living in the knot of a web of life, we cannot live by ourself. It is only we humans that cannot exist by ourselves. Heaven, earth, and nature — all things make it possible for me to live.

Close your eves and picture life existing in time and space. This is the invisible bond of life, the net of jewels. This is the greatness of the resonance of life. I will call this the Net of Life in the Universe.

The Net is the Buddhist term for a net of jewels displayed in a heavenly palace. This expresses the connection of everything resonating with each other in Amida Kyo Gokuraku Heaven. This explains the greatness of the Pure Land with the seven-layered net of jewels.

In Kuramayama, we revere universal Great Life as Sonten. The main statue of Sonten has a net of jewels hanging in front of it representing the power of cleansing the impure, awakening to true wisdom. The power of correcting the wrong, the light of guidance to true wisdom and compassion, and the love are represented by three symbols. They are the Earth / Power, the Sun / Light, and the Moon / Love. Around these three symbols are different jewels that represent all the different people who are the nodes of the net.

Making this place, Kurama Doujyo, solemn and majestic at the same time, this life connects with the golden thread of life that wraps around everything. You and I, the flowers, birds, insects, and even bacteria, are each one of the jewels in the net. This is the Teaching of the Net.

When one of the knots in the net moves, the vibrations go in all ten directions of life. A single node of the net continues on to the world, and it vibrates to the entire universe. Each one of us has this power, and we want to have the awareness of this power.

Our important shinmei mission is to connect with other humans and all life forms in the Net. When I ponder what energy makes me act on this mission, the answer is kokoro, the heart-mind. Kokoro is the origin of both words and action.

“Everything begins in kokoro, and kokoro makes it happen. If you talk and act with your pure heart, everything will go smoothly, just as your shadow always follows you. We are not alone. There’s a world that vibrates and moves with the movement of my heart. Conversely, other hearts move my heart also. When everyone has a pure heart the whole world becomes a place of pure heart, and the jitsu-gen actualizing the world of harmony starts from everyone’s harmony of the heart.”

– Hokkukyo 法句経

When the wisdom of the Light shines,
you can see everything that has life from Universal Life.
You and I, flowers and birds, too,
we receive life in this world.
The golden Net of Life is displayed in the universe,
linking life from ancient times.
I am one of these lives,
together holding hands reverberating with Life.
You and I, trees and water, too,
we are all living magnificent Life.

人それぞれの香ぐわしさ Each Person’s Fragrance of Character

Flowers survive the cold winter, then mountains turn a fresh green, and life shines in the early summer sun. Trees have different colors and shapes and yet they are all in harmony, making a beautiful and abundant forest which gives shade for people to feel calm and rested.

Ancient people with their delicate sensitivity called the green color in the forest by different names: bush-warbler color, willow-brown, young bamboo shoots, young green, leaf-buds, green pine, light green, deep green, and so on. When we connect with trees, open our hearts to wild flowers, and feel and contemplate on these lives, we realize that the ancient people who thought of all these names must have connected with trees and wild flowers with warm and sensitive hearts. Nature’s scene is not uniform, and it always has variations with overall harmony.

Surrounded by flowers and pointing to Heaven and Earth is the statue of the Buddha over which we pour sweet tea and celebrate the Buddha’s enlightenment. It is a heart-warming spring event and it provides an excellent opportunity for children to learn the true teaching.

The new-born Buddha is quoted as having said, “Between Heaven and Earth I am the only Great One.” This is a deep teaching about the majesty of humanity and the deep and wide Great Life. The teaching is: “Each person is given life with a different character, and we are all different. That’s why it’s good, and we should understand each other’s differences and acknowledge and respect each other, and it is most important that we can still live in harmony.”

These days, everyone wants only material things and they want to fulfill their selfish desires. However, when we think of true joy, as human beings given life in these modern days, we should deeply understand the “Heaven and Earth” teaching and reflect on it.

The wonderful power of the forest is born out of the big and the small, all the different plants living earnestly in all the different shapes and colors, mutually supporting each other. The sacred beauty of the natural forest shines out. The little flowers along this path have different colors and fragrance and characters, and so they are both interesting and precious.

Many lives have been born from Great Life. None are the same. Each and every person is different; it is out of this difference that harmony is born, and the world of shining life is created.

The world of shining life that includes every life is coming when people respect each other, recognize their differences, and live in harmony. 

No One the Same

There’s no one the same as me in the whole world,
There is no one the same as you.

It is precious that you are you,
It is precious that I am me.

Flowers and trees and birds,
each one is precious just as they are;

Different personalities cooperating with each other,
the world shines with Great Life.

When people with different attributes
are in consonance with each other,
then Great Life sparkles.

Because the world is full of different things,
you see the depth and grandeur of the world.

夜あけの光 The Light of Dawn

Life continues over long cycles, sometimes visible, sometimes invisible;
visible and invisible are aspects of Life beyond life and death.

Form is Emptiness and Emptiness is Form;
everything around us is manifestation of Great Life Body.

It is Sonten in Kuramayama;
everything is, in fact, Sonten.

Life of flowers, Life of birds, and Life of people:
the origin is the same Life.

I want to live today by feeling like this –
slowly and calmly watching the light of dawn.

Comments 2

  1. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi All,
    Love this article. So many pointers towards Mikao Usui’s teachings as well.

    First of all within this article about Kurama, they talk about heaven and earth. Two concepts within the system of Reiki as well and especially symbolized by the choku rei and sei heki.

    We need to seek Bodhisattva wisdom, anshin ritsumei, remembering our True Self, the aim of Mikao Usui’s teachings.

    The net of jewels represents our interconnectedness which is symbolized by hon sha ze sho nen.

    Kokoro is the key, our heart/mind, again and again we see this pointed out within Mikao Usui’s teachings.

    It also discusses the concept of Harmony which is teh quality of sei heki.
    “When the wisdom of the Light shines, you can see everything that has life from Universal Life.” This is Reiki -viewing things from our True Self. Daikomyo, the great bright light.

  2. Avatar of Julie Abrahams

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