Ryoanji: Six Stones

04 Feb Ryoanji: Six Stones

Visitors contemplate the rock garden at Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto. ©Don George

The rock garden at Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto is one of my favorite places in Japan and one of the most sacred places on the planet for me. In its sere simplicity, its stark purity, it’s a place that slows me down, quiets me, leads me to look within as well as without, and to find the connections that abide.

I’ll be visiting Ryoanji again this spring on a trip with GeoEx, and in anticipation of that, I’ve been reliving visits past. On my most recent journey there, last spring, I spent half a day sitting on the temple’s wooden platform, staring at the raked pebbles and the moss-circled stones and the trees beyond, and wrote these six haiku.

I think of them as stones in my own inner Ryoanji.

In April, rain on

Ryoanji: Pitter-patter

Pitter-patter time.

I sit and absorb

Just as 40 years before:

Rock, moss, pebble. Still.

Gust of wind, cherry

Petal lands upon my palm:

Welcome back, old friend.

Slow down, close your eyes,

Complete the garden in your mind:

Every absent stone.

The path I once dreamed

On the platform where I sit

Now: Sacred circle.

Empty your mind and

Open your heart: What garden?

There’s no garden here.

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Don George
Don George is the Adventure Collection’s Web Editor in Chief. A highly respected and pioneering travel journalist for more than three decades, Don is the author of "The Way of Wanderlust: The Best Travel Writing of Don George," and of "Lonely Planet's Guide to Travel Writing." Don is currently Editor at Large for National Geographic Traveler and Special Features Editor for BBC Travel. He has also been Global Travel Editor for Lonely Planet Publications, Travel Editor at the San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle, and founder and editor of Salon.com’s travel site, Wanderlust. In addition to authoring two books, Don has edited ten literary travel anthologies, including “The Kindness of Strangers,” “An Innocent Abroad," and "Better Than Fiction." He has won numerous awards for his writing and editing, and he speaks, teaches, and consults at campuses, conferences, and corporations around the world.
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