So we agreed in meeting in front of this temple on a Saturday morning at 9:30 o'clock. The meditation is offered twice a month on Saturday morning. In case you want to give it a try, use Google Maps to look for the temple and follow the map from 品川駅 Shinagawa station.
Once we met we entered the main hall, took our shoes off and want to kind of lobby, before the inner sanctum, where black cushions on 畳 tatami mats were prepared for the meditators. A monk explained to the people, that those attending the meditation for the first time can wait in the lobby for a general introduction into meditation.
The first thing he said, was that it is actually a bit ridiculous to give an introduction into meditation, since it is something everybody can do very naturally. Also that it is an individual thing and that we would need to explore our own way to do it.
Then he gave some general tips and guidelines like
"The meaning of meditation is not to suffer, so if our feet or something else hurts, there is no point in enduring it and suffering for the rest of the meditation."
"Forcing yourself is the wrong way. When you start forcing yourself you will actually cling more to the normal state of being, though you are trying so hard to get away from it."
"Meditation does neither require a temple nor a monk like me. You can and should do it where ever you are, at home, at work, at the train."
"Finally there are many ways how to meditate. You probably have heard at least of the 禅 Zen way of sitting in 坐禅 Zazen while not thinking of anything and just letting thoughts wander by unnoticed. Today however we will do a meditation originating from Tibet, where we focus our mind on a image. The image will be found in front of your seat and you can try and create it mentally while I speak. Think of it as a kind of visual mantra for your head."
After this explanation the monk went back to the room he came from and prepared for guiding the meditation. While he did that, Kusayanagi-san explained to me the meaing of the image, we were about to try and create in our mind. (We had already deplored our bags in the inner sanctum and had already seen the picture, the monk spoke of).
On the picture I could see a disc, in which's middle a flower blossomed. The flower had white leafs on the outside and was red and yellow in the inside. In the center of the flower a kind of opal green platform was standing. On the platform some kind of letter seemed to be dancing.
Now Kusayanagi-san explained that the disc represents the moon, and the letter is Sanskrit and means Goddess. He said meditating about an image like this, actually can be compared to summoning. At least in Tibet, where traditions and religion date far back into the history of humanity, this kind of meditation was used to summon the power of a goddess or other beings for enlightenment, guiding or help.
The we seated ourselves on the black pillows and the monk started the guided meditation. He talked for almost one hour (as my perceived feeling of time) and between some point and another we meditated for 30 minutes.
I couldn't follow everything the monk said, because it is still hard for my to understand Japanese (btw I was the only foreigner attending), especially for such a long time and such difficult topics. What I could get is that he gently asked us to picture the moon in our mind. Now the tough thing he said was, we should gradually and slowly try to expand the moon and picture it in our mind in its real astronomical size. That our minds were not restricted like paper or computer screens, which allows us to actually picture a heavenly body like the moon in its full size. (Try it, it is really difficult!)
After a while he continued with the flower, which was growing on the moon. And yes you probably have guessed it already, he told us the secret that our mind is actually that powerful that it can both picture the moon and the flower on the moon both in their actual size, as impossible as it sounds.
Finally the goddess appeared on top of the flower. I didn't quite follow his explanation anymore at this point, but think the appearance of the goddess was left to the meditators, since it is very individual.
When I tried to meditate thousands of other thing came to my mind and I could not find myself at ease. And every time I could focus a little, my feet started to hurt so bad, that I shifted them, but then I had to start all over.
Now the funny part. Short before the meditation was over I gave up and relaxed. And just at this moment, all by itself, a flower started growing in my mind. I did not do anything and just watched as the flower, which was slightly different from the picture, was growing. A wooden platform was build in the center of the flower and someone was dancing on top. Red and yellow leaves were floating through the air, while this someone was dancing. Finally, when the people next to me were already standing up and leaving the room and the lights turned back on, I was seeing a huge moon.
I wanted to remain and seated and keep the picture in my mind, finally having found it, but that moment when I consciously tried to keep it and fend the noise of the people standing up off, the picture was gone as fast at it had appeared and left without a trace.
高野山 Kouyousan has an English version of its homepage here: http://www.koyasan.or.jp/english
An access map can be found here: http://www.koyasan.or.jp/english/visitors/access.html
And finally some information about the meditation group can be found here: http://www.koyasan.or.jp/english/visitors/taiken/ajikan.html
It was a really nice experience and I am eager to try it again!