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Genko-an Temple: The Window of Confusion & Window of Enlightenment

Night Illumination for 1300-Year-Old World Heritage Sites
©Jiji Press Photo

Located in northwest Kyoto, the Genko-an Temple was built in 1346 and is well known for the one circular and one rectangular window that distinguish its exterior. Against a snowy backdrop in the winter and surrounded by lush greenery in the early summer, it presents changing faces from season to season but it is probably the striking autumnal tints that draw most visitors.
     The four corners of the rectangular Window of Confusion are said to represent the suffering mortals are destined to go through in life: birth, old age, disease, and death. Visitors can sit and quietly contemplate their lives as they gaze through the window at the garden outside. The circular Window of Enlightenment with its lack of corners is said to express the Zen concept of the universe and an enlightened life beyond the pain of mortality. It is said to teach the shape of nature in the raw, the shape of pure thought and of being free from prejudice, and the state of enlightenment.
     By standing before the Window of Confusion and asking the right questions and answering them oneself, and then by moving to the Window of Enlightenment and taking another hard look at oneself, a person is offered the chance to change into the person of pure thought that they really are meant to be.