A king went to a Zen Master to learn gardening. The Master instructed him for three years.
The king had a large and beautiful garden, in which many gardeners were employed, and whatever the Master said the king did. At the end of the three years, the garden was finished and the king invited the Master to visit it.
The king was very apprehensive, because that Master was severe, inflexible: would he have appreciated it? Would he have said, “Yes, you understood my teaching”? It was a sort of exam… every care was taken to ensure that the garden was completed, that nothing was left unfinished. And only then did the king bring the Master to come.
But immediately the Master was saddened. He looked around, went from one side of the garden to the other, and his face became more and more serious. The king was frightened: he had never seen the Master so serious: “Why was he so gloomy? Did I make such a serious mistake?”. The Master shook his head all the time and said no to himself; finally, the king could not help asking: “What is wrong, Master? Why don't you say anything? How come you frown so, and shake your head in denial? This garden is the fruit of your teachings”.
And the Master said, “This garden is too finished, it is so complete that it is a dead thing. Where are the dry leaves? I don't see a single dry leaf!" All the dry leaves had been removed, there was not a single yellow leaf on the trees, not a fallen leaf on the paths.
The king said: "I have instructed my gardeners to remove every imperfection, so that the garden would be perfect!".
“That is why it is so devoid of life,” replied the Master, “because it is absolutely artificial, it is the work of man: the things of God are never accomplished, they are always incomplete.”
Outside the garden all the dry leaves were piled up. The Master ran out, fetched a bucket of dry leaves and scattered them in the wind. The wind took them, began to play with them, the leaves rolled on the path. The Master was thrilled. He said: “Look now how alive this garden is!”. With the dry leaves a sound had entered the garden, the song, the music of the leaves blown by the wind. Now, the garden had a whisper; before, it was dead and silent as a graveyard.


For the Japanese, the garden is a space dedicated to balance, peace and harmony. Nothing, inside a Japanese garden, is left to chance and everything appears in order, without the general appearance seeming too rigid. The password is "minimal"; so away with all that is in excess, away with the frills and away with all useful objects. We only need to make room for greenery and plants, to be inserted wisely and with a low impact on the environment.
The Zen Gardens philosophy was born in the Far East and has spread over time practically all over the world. It is the basis of a very particular way of living the garden: in a space of this type, in fact, nothing is randomly in its place, and everything has a particular meaning that goes beyond the need to decorate.

The essential element of this philosophy is in fact symbolism: every object and every natural resource means something specific. Zen philosophy is very fascinating to many enthusiasts, and it is however necessary to approach it even only superficially to understand part of the meaning of the elements that make up the garden.
The appearance of the garden follows the succession of the seasons, it is a continuous evolution, just as the universe is constantly changing. Despite being designed to follow a well-established cyclical rhythm, it is a place of extreme calm and peace. There is no single Japanese garden style to define it, they are all very different from each other, and each has its own specific meaning, but the one linked to the art of traditional gardening is the Karesansui. Also referred to as a dry garden, it essentially consists of two elements: Stones and white sand.
The Karesansui is a very minimalist and essential garden but there are different ones, which have evolved starting from Zen Buddhism. The garden in Zen philosophy creates a real landscape, where each element is the expression of a concept. You don't need too large a space, but the important thing is to know the fundamental principles of Zen culture so that the garden is truly unique. The sand here is not the classic one we know but the white granite capable of illuminating even the nearby areas. The rake is a rather important tool that is used to create lines, the line must be drawn without ever stopping the rake itself, creating harmonious paths. These traced lines are certainly not meaningless but represent paths that often revolve around the boulders that symbolize the passage from the sea to reach another point of view. Contemplation is helped by these elements which, as we have seen, are full of meaning.
In a Zen garden, water is a natural element, represented in the form of waterfalls or fountains. In the case of waterfalls, particular attention is also paid to the way the water flows, there are many different ways so that the sound produced by the water which then crashes against the stones is always different. It is not a noise but a sound that certainly helps to relax. Drinking fountains or ponds represent elements that can bring economic luck but be careful because too many sources of water could cause too many tears to be shed. Negative energy must be removed from the house with trees or wooden fences.
The minimalist and rigorous appearance of the Zen garden leads to essentiality and the search for the simplest of all in us. Caring for a Zen garden is quite simple, making lines with a rake is the only thing possible in front of a dry garden. Religion and the garden find an intense association, and although their appearance may make them look like modern gardens, in reality their origins are very ancient.
To approach the Zen philosophy, it is necessary to share its principles and start a path that is able to approach in a profound way the whole reality of this world in a convinced way. Here the garden becomes a place for reflection and meditation, which is why it must be in perfect harmony with the changing seasons and must be able to convey serenity. Eastern culture teaches that only by living as you are can you have the joy to savor the experience of everyday life. Concepts that in order to be internalized one must be predisposed to wanting to approach Zen philosophy in order to know a reality other than the more rational one to which Western thought is most accustomed.

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