Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
Eiheiji Temple sanmon source: Daihonzan Eiheiji Temple

The Spirit and Teachings of 禅Zen, Unchanged for Over Seven Centuries

永平寺Eiheiji Temple was established in the year 1244 by Dogen Zenji, the founder of Soto Zen,as a Zen training temple, and is the main temple of Soto Zen in Japan.Located deep in the lush mountains of eastern Fukui Prefecture, this peaceful temple experiences the full beauty and harshness of all four seasons in Japan. The temple grounds cover some 330,000 m²,with some 70 buildings of various sizes for use in religious training. Visitors can see the Karamon and Tsuyomon gates, as well as Kichijokaku, Sanshokaku, the seven-structure temple compound, Joyoden (Founder's Hall), Shidoden (Memorial Hall), Rurishobokaku, and more. “Seven-structure temple compound refers to Sodo (Monk’s Hall), Hatto (Dharma Hall), Butsuden (Buddha Hall), Daikuin (kitchen), Sanmon (main gate), Yokushitsu (bath), and Tosu (toilet), where practice of the monk-trainees is centered. Today, Eiheiji Temple has some 150 monk-trainees who practice the Zen way day and night.

Eiheiji Temple Sanshokaku
Eiheiji Temple Sanshokaku source: Daihonzan Eiheiji Temple

Preparing and Eating Food is an Important Part of Zen Practice.

Food is the source of life. Eiheiji Temple’s meals are built around the philosophy that meals are also an important part of religious training. The Daikuin (kitchen) at Eiheiji temple is managed by a head cook monk known as the Tenzo. Buddhist Cuisine, called Shojin-ryori, uses only plants, with neither meat nor seafood. The dishes use seasonal ingredients and great effort is involved to create a balance of spicy, sour, sweet, bitter, salty, and plain flavors. In this way, one can experience the richness and depth of the cuisine. In short, from the moment one wakes up, through washing one’s face, practicing Zazen, reading sutras, eating, and working by cleaning the temple or maintaining the fields, to the moment one goes to sleep, everything one does at Eiheiji Temple is a form of religious training. To realize this, the monk-trainees follow many strict rules. Demonstrating appreciation for their meals, and eating the meals themselves, are both precious parts of their Zen practice.

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