Symbolic Saiho-ji and Otherworld Journeying

Saiho-ji Kokodera Garden Kyoto
Saiho-ji Kokedera Garden Kyoto

This post on the symbolic Saiho-ji and Otherworld Journeying was prompted by the synchroblog project sparked by Mahud at the Sundoor to the Yonder World.  See the end of this post for a list of all participants in this blog post project relating to “Otherworld Journeying.”

The process of otherworld journeying suggests a movement elsewhere (be it physical or transcendental travel).  This outward motion can be (and is) absolutely true and necessary to our expansion.

However, I propose that all types of otherworld journeying are really just Pathways back to the True Self.   Effectually, Otherworld Journeying could be synonymous with Inner Arrival.

Historically, humankind labors to remember or reunite itself with its true identity. We carve feature, function and meaning into our lives with a goal to ultimately step into the folded energetic garments of the Divine into which we (and our identities) are all inevitably wrapped.

I love how the Japanese Zen garden demonstrates this concept of journeying. Specifically the Kokedera Saiho-ji moss temple gardens of Kyoto reveal an extraordinary discipline of simplicity and a devotion to releasing banal thought into the wild.  But this is a serene wilderness in which the mind dances in its own natural algorithmical juices and seeks natural satiation in outlandish, other-realmly travel.

The whole Saiho-ji garden is designed for journeying.  Here the spirit follows nature’s melody, while the mind wanders the deep sand furrows of harmony.  The contemplative observer is left in electrified awe.

The garden’s landscape is constructed with the concept of integration at its heart and it is rife with profound symbolism geared to move its participants into those states of reunion I spoke of earlier.

The water aspects of the Saiho-ji (both in the form of the Chisen Kaiyu circling pond, and the kare-sansui dry garden water effects) are reminders of the fluid potential of our human-ness, that we are designed to travel with the flow of nature.  Water can serve as one of the most effective of symbolic states of travel; it’s no wonder this impressive garden strives to invoke its undulant power.

Kokoro Japanese symbol
Kokoro Japanese symbol


Indeed, the lower reflective pools are in the shape of the kokoro glyph (shown left) – a Japanese writing symbol that represents the concepts of heart, mind and soul to varying degrees (and with varying coloration when combined with other writing elements).  The idea behind this glyph embodies unselfconscious spontaneity; a highly desired state of inspired action (or inaction as the case may be).


Moss rolls like moody oceanic tides – flooding the hilly landscapes of the Saiho-ji.  The symbolism of moss includes:

  • healing
  • intimacy
  • connection
  • integration
  • wealth
  • tranquility

 These moss-scapes are a literal breeding ground for fertile visions, and soulful connection.

Maples drape the landscape too, shimmering in fantastic shady procession above emerald mossy mounds.  Depending on the season, the maple will reign ruby fire into your delighted senses in the fall, or shine her gemmy green gaze upon you in the spring and summer.  Consequently, Japanese maples are symbolic of:

  • longevity
  • abundance
  • balance
  • grace
  • beauty
  • composure

Stones polka-dot the terrain as well, serving as mental docking stations on our otherworldly journeys into heady flights.  Looming rock mounds are symbolic of:

  • grounding
  • stabilization
  • aspiration
  • progress
  • perspective
  • unification
  • duration
  • stillness

These features within the Kokedera moss garden proffer themselves to our senses with a bold, calm assurance – challenging our minds to meld them into the scenery as effortlessly as our spiritual counterpart would have us do.

Saiho-ji Kokodera - tea house view
Saiho-ji Kokedera: Tea house view

The Saiho-ji Kokedera moss garden is all about the integration of inward and outward journeying.  By experiencing her phenomenal treasures, we will inevitably encounter our own inner troves of value. 

So powerful is the energetic concept underlying the Saiho-ji, that it is unnecessary to physically go there for the projection experience.  Simply stir within you the desire to reach beyond the banal, as the Saiho-ji suggests, and the moon dust of the kare-sansui will blow you away.

I hope you have enjoyed these ruminations on otherworldly journeying via the  Saiho-ji Kokedera gardens.  For more images and specific history on the moss temple & gardens, here are two sites that might interest you: Saiho-ji Temple information on Thinkquest and a beautiful photostream of Saiho-ji garden area on Mark Carlson’s site here.

To round off this post, please consider our other participants and their experience with Otherworld Journeying.  Allow their experiences and perspectives to catapault you into your own journey’s today!:


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