The “Zen” of Zen Gardens: Fact or Fiction?

“The “Zen” of Zen Gardens: Fact or Fiction?” by Brian Victoria of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, United Kingdom, has been announced as a keynote to be presented at The 13th Asian Conference on Media, Communication & Film (MediAsia2022), which will be held alongside The 3rd Kyoto Conference on Arts, Media & Culture (KAMC2022), October 17–20, 2022.

The MediAsia/KAMC2022 Organising Committee is currently calling for papers to be presented at the event. Submit your abstracts by August 1, 2022, to participate.

To participate in MediAsia/KAMC2022 as an audience member, please register for the conference.

This plenary will also be available for IAFOR Members to view online. To find out more, please visit the IAFOR Membership page.


The “Zen” of Zen Gardens: Fact or Fiction?

For many who come to Kyoto, the opportunity to view one or more Zen gardens is a highlight of their visit. Simply described, Zen gardens are composed of miniature, stylized landscapes created through the careful arrangement of rocks, water, moss, pruned trees and bushes, and/or the use of gravel or sand raked to represent ripples in water. Zen gardens are intended to imitate the essence of nature, not its actual appearance and have been found at Zen Buddhist temples in Kyoto from the Muromachi period (1338–1573) onwards. Usually relatively small and surrounded by a temple wall or buildings, a Zen garden is meant to be seen while seated from a single viewpoint outside the garden such as the residence of the abbot of the temple or monastery. For this reason, Zen gardens are widely believed to serve as an aid to the practice of meditation, either expressing, or capable of teaching, the ultimate Buddhist truth of awakening/enlightenment. Focusing on Ryōanji, one of Kyoto’s most famous Zen gardens, this presentation asks the simple question – is this fact or fiction?

Speaker Biography

Brian Victoria
Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, United Kingdom

Brian Victoria, Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, United KingdomBrian Victoria is a native of Omaha, Nebraska and a 1961 graduate of Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, Nebraska. He holds a MA in Buddhist Studies from Sōtō Zen sect-affiliated Komazawa University in Tokyo, and a PhD from the Department of Religious Studies at Temple University.

In addition to a second, enlarged edition of Zen At War (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), Brian's major writings include Zen War Stories (RoutledgeCurzon, 2003); an autobiographical work in Japanese entitled Gaijin de ari, Zen bozu de ari (As a Foreigner, As a Zen Priest), published by San-ichi Shobo in 1971; Zen Master Dōgen, coauthored with Prof. Yokoi Yūhō of Aichi Gakuin University (Weatherhill, 1976); and a translation of The Zen Life by Sato Koji (Weatherhill, 1972). In addition, Brian has published numerous journal articles, focusing on the relationship of not only Buddhism but religion in general, to violence and warfare.

From 2005 to 2013 Brian was a Professor of Japanese Studies and director of the AEA “Japan and Its Buddhist Traditions Program” at Antioch University in Yellow Springs, Ohio, United States. From 2013 to 2015 he was a Visiting Research Fellow at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies in Kyoto, Japan. His latest book, Zen Terror: The Death of Democracy in Prewar Japan was published by Rowman & Littlefield in February 2020. Brian is currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies and a fully ordained Buddhist priest in the Sōtō Zen sect.

Posted by IAFOR