Best Garden

Zen buddhism emphasizes the contem-plation of koans—ostensibly simple but actually baffling riddles—as an aid to me-ditation. And among the most ineffable of koans is the Ryoanji temple rock garden in Kyoto. How does this seemingly random scattering of stones on sand become a work of transcendent beauty? The acme of a Japanese garden style known as karesansui (dry landscape), Ryoanji is deceptively barren. Fifteen oddly shaped rocks of varying sizes lie on a 30-m-by-10-m bed of raked white sand. But there is endless richness in this seeming emptiness. Poets, monks and professors have offered myriad interpretations of the garden's symbolism since...

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