Kannoji temple is a Zen temple and belongs to the Rinzai sect. It was founded by the Shimazu feudal lord Tadahisa in 1194 and this makes it the oldest temple of the Rinzai sect in Japan.
In 1868, when the new Meiji government established Shintoism as the state religion, Kannoji temple was totally destroyed and became a ruined temple. In 1880 however it was rebuilt as it is.
In 1445 the principal statue on the Buddhist altar was made by a sculptor of Buddhist statues in Kyoto by the name of Inryu. The name of the statue is “Juichimen-senju” kannon-zo, a statue of Eleven-faced thousand-armed Kannon. Kannon means the Buddhist deity of mercy. The statue is designated as important cultural property of Kagoshima prefecture. Fortunately, this statue was safe on the occasion of the movement to abolish Buddhism. Believers took it apart and put it into a jar, and then buried it into the ground.
In one corner of the precincts there were five graves of Shimazu feudal lords, from the first to the fifth. It is called “Go-byo-sha” meaning “Five mausoleum shrine”.
It is very difficult to explain Zen Buddhism. Believers just sit and meditate without saying much about gods or spirits. In this temple, believers practice zazen seated meditation every Sunday morning from 8:00 to 9:00.
Zen is a form of spiritual training, which is done through zazen, the practice of meditating for a long time in cross-legged position. The purpose of the zen sect, one of the denominations of Buddhism, is to meditate in order to eliminate hesitations of delusion and awaken the truth, which means to sit in silent meditation.
Sado (tea ceremony)
The custom of drinking tea was brought to Japan from China. Sen-no-rikyu made it an art in the sixteenth century. The simple and tranquil atmosphere of the tea ceremony provides spiritual training.
Haiku is a three-line poem with seventeen syllables in the pattern of 5-7-5. Including a seasonal word is an important aspect of this poem. Some of the most famous haiku poems were written by Matsu Basho in the seventeenth century.
Wabi (austere refinement)
A frame of mind in which spiritual richness can be found in the simple and tranquil. This mentality forms an important basis of the traditional tea ceremony.
Sabi (quiet simplicity)
A poetic ideal fostered by Basho in haiku in which profound meaning can be found in the detached and dispassionate. Evocations of sabi in painting are seen in scenes of desolation.
Kado (flower arrangement)
Ikebana is the art of displaying flowers following certain rules. It began with the buddhist monks who used flowers to decorate altars. This skill was made into an art by Ikenobo in the fifteenth century.