Kyoto, Japan

源光庵 ( 京都府京都市北区鷹峯北鷹峯町47)

This is an interior view of the Genkoan/源光庵 temple in Kyoto.

Although it is not in view, the ceiling has a particular stain. The material used to be the floor board of Fushimi-Momoyama castle. When the great war broke out between the Tokugawa clan/徳川家and Ishida Mitsunari/ 石田三成(the first aide of Hideyoshi) after the death of Hideyoshi, the warlord of Tokugawa side, Torii Mototada/鳥居元忠,others had lost the battle and committed seppuku on this very floor, so the stain is the blood stain.. Often in Japan these floors were used as the ceiling in the temples to calm the anger and sadness of the departed souls.

Another highlight of this room has to do with the two contrasting windows. One clearly shown in the background is the round one and is called the “Window of enlightenment/ 悟りの窓”, and the other one partially shown here is a square one called, the “Window of hesitation/迷いの窓”. The word “mayoi/ 迷い” is usually translated as “hesitation”, but it also has the meaning, “dither” and “indecisive agitation”.

There may be many reasons for attributing such meanings to these windows, but the round one can express the wholeness and also of the nature itself full of curves. Hesitation or indecision often happens due to our intellectual activities. We think too much. The pure straight lines do not exist in nature, and it is the byproduct of our abstract thinking, so attributing “indecision” to square shape fits well. At the same time, we may hesitate out of fear. One way to say “square” in Japanese is “shikaku/ 四角” and one of the (sort of ) homonyms is “死角”, and it means, “dead angle”, the space we cannot perceive. We may fear what we do not see nor understand.

In William’s composition, special emphasis is given to the curtain with the golden swirl shaped design tied with the red tassel placed in the foreground, and it is placed between the two windows. If one sees this golden swirls as the symbolic representation of fire, then it may also represent the aspiring soul of humans burning away its egoism and elevating itself towards enlightenment, for fire almost always travel upward. On the other hand, if we see this shape as the representation of water, as in the pre-historic Johmon designs, it may also represent our souls being washed and polished in the river of life, for even the angular shaped stones in the rapids may eventually be rounded by the time they reach the sea…