Photograph: Modern and Zen – Umeda Station, Osaka

I love to catch a glimpse of Buddhist priests whenever they appear among the hustle and bustle of modern Japan. They seem like silent sentinels of a by-gone era, as Japanese Buddhist temples are losing their members at a startling rate. Universal Studios Japan is a huge hit on New Year’s Eve, a secular mythological date with Harry Potter instead of traditional rituals.

Zen monk in Umeda Station, Osaka, Japan photo by Sydney Solis.
Modern and Zen is available as a Black-and-White or Color Art Print at Estudio Sol on Society6 and also as a Black-and-white print on washi paper.

Japanese temples even unveiled a Robot Kannon Bodhisattva as well as painting anime on fusuma screens to appeal to younger generations. Outside Nara or Temma Station, or at temple entrances, I have seen them quietly acknowledged or ignored mostly in their positions with their begging bowls.

I once saw a priest on my way to Ikebana class one morning, blessing a closed bar. I just watched in deference and didn’t take a picture. It was like a blessing for myself just to enjoy the moment and witness him in action, like I enjoy at Shitennoji Temple or in my own zazen practice at an Osaka temple.

I came back home from Ikebana lessons via Umeda Station, that massive sea of humanity making its way across the massive complex and convoluted labyrinth of compact vertical living and indoor city that flows into Osaka Station City. On the escalator down I saw a Zen priest standing quietly. All of my spare change made a “clink” sound in his bowl when I dropped it in, and he gave me a blessing that I humbly accepted.

certain, uncertain

one day flowers, the next steel

no place to sit down

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