Physical Training June 2005
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A Visit to Shimane II

Copyright © Sebastien Cyr 2005. All rights reserved.

Shimane temple

After my visit to my sensei I bade farewell to my hosts and left for the central part of the village of Tsuwano to catch the train that would take me back to the Shin-Yamaguchi station where I could reach the Shin Kansen back to Kyoto.

A couple of days before I came to Tsuwano they had received quite a bit of snow and still on that morning you could see a lot of it in the streets and on the roofs of most houses. About 300 meters from the street where I had to turn to go to the local train station I saw a sign that indicated the path to a Soto temple. I checked the time and saw that I had a couple of hours to spare so I decided to visit. The temple was located about 2 KM behind the village in a quiet, secluded area. All that could be seen was a couple of houses that I suspect where the houses of the people who worked around the temple.

Shimane temple 1

I reached a steep stone set of stairs that were quite slippery, since they were full of ice, that were leading to the Sanmon (Main gate) of the temple. Before entering the main part of the temple grounds I saw a small shrine and after approaching it saw that a statue of Kobo Daishi (Kukai) was enshrined there. Although this temple was Soto we can see that it had some link with the Shingon Mikkyo (esoteric) school even if the Soto School is considered as a Kengyo (exoteric) school. This can be seen as well in the Rinzai school in various temples but compared to Soto, the Rinzai school links itself to the Tendai school when it comes to Mikkyo.

Shimane temple 2

So I decided before entering to pay my respect to Kobo Daishi by reciting the Komyo shingon. When I entered the temple cloister I heard a bit of noise so I approached and saw an old lady preparing some Omamori (Charms). I greeted her and asked if the head monk was there. She told me to wait a bit. About 5 minutes later the head monk appeared in front of the main hall.

I give him the customary sanrai (3 full bows). Although he was looking in my direction it seemed as if I was not there. I tired to start a conversation explaining from where I came, where I was going… still same thing!!!! I was just not there!!! What the !@#$!!! I said to myself at that time. The only reply I got from him was a hand gesture indicating I should follow him. So I took off my footwear and got up the stairs and into the temple. Once I was inside we proceeded around the temple’s multiple gardens.

Shimane temple garden

Each time he would open the shoji to show me the garden, he would stare at something within that made him smile in awe. I tried my best to see what was so wonderful but could not see anything, at least I could not see what he was seeing. So this went on until we saw all the gardens. After the visit was finished he decided to speak to me. He explained that what was so wonderful was only in his heart and could only be seen by him. As a monk, I had already received the jewel (Teachings of the Buddha) and all I had to do was polish it from its raw substance and make it beautiful, but at that time only, would I be able to fully understand its meaning and not before. Enlightment is a personal thing that can not be transmitted. Only the methods to reach it can be transmitted and as a young monk I should never forget this fact. He then bowed to me and left without any other greeting. I still did my 3 bows to him even if he was not present and left for the station.

Shimane temple 4

This leads me to think that the same happens in Budo. You can be taught techniques but the true essence and application of a technique will only be understood by you, so it is useless to try to speak and explain what YOU understand when you teach budo. Just correct the students, make them understand what they did wrong and let time do its work.

Sebastien Cyr (Gishin) is a Rinzai priest and iaido instructor in Montreal Quebec. His iaido teacher is Miura Takeyuki Hidefusa. You will find Cyr sensei's webpage at

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Physical Training June 2005