Edo Photos エドフォト

Pinhole and Natural Life Photography


Zen and the Pinhole Pace

Giant crows float above the bell tower calling the evening spirits. Cloud formations spread out matching the wing like roof of the pagoda. Last minute tourists with their disposable cameras circle the sacredly photogenic site. The sun sets like "a bucket falling into a well." The magnetism is too much to resist. I too set up and make a few exposures as the evening wind begins to stir.

© Edward Levinson

In the tradition of the Buddhist "middle way", I waver between the two worlds of peaceful solitude and the excitement of humanity. At times, I feel the need to get away and visit a temple deep in the forest of Mount Hie near Kyoto. The atmosphere is so quiet I try to walk without being heard, a meditation in itself. From behind the closed shoji door of the small main prayer hall the wailing slow motion chant of one lone monk reaches out to the universe. The cadence of his prayer slows down my heartbeat. I feel the pain of the world as he intones the goddess of mercy and compassion.

© Edward Levinson

Wooden temples mirror the beauty of the forests from which they come. The life energy of the trees mixes with the feelings and prayers of those who live or visit there creating a spiritual vibrancy.
Sitting in a temple I often feel as if I'm on a ship at sea. The building seems to spread its arms wide toward the horizon as waves of green and blue catch the seasonal sunlight or misty rains. It is this openness and closeness to nature that excites my spirit. Having nature close by brings balance to the often chaotic daily life.

As I search for the sacred, the desire to actually see the "invisible" teacher attracts me to a myriad of stone and wooden statues. The many different faces and emotions of the forest sages and water guardians invite me to visit them and contemplate life. Sometimes they offer advice or console me. They offer friendship in lonely times and places. I feel safe knowing they are always there, protecting the forest and mountains, the water, the traveler, and the rice in the fields. These sensei remind who I am and what I can be.

© Edward Levinson

Perhaps the blurred images of the pinhole camera I use express the Japanese's blurred vision of their spiritual selves. With the pinhole camera's long exposures the results are often left to chance or fate, mirroring the Japanese attitude of resignation and submission to one's destiny. When I have the right attunement, not only do I get interesting images, but destiny allows me my sacred moments.

At another ancient mountain temple about an hour outside of Kyoto, I spend five magical hours where it seems I am invisible. No one interferes as I wander into the different moods of my Buddha self. The wide arching roof and spacious garden open the heart. The clean lines on the railings center me, the long straight hallways focus my thoughts. Here I find the two directions my life wants to take. I am attentive to the here and now as I walk the floors polished by the flow of the humanity. When the moment is right, my spirit is lifted by an unseen energy that sweeps through the open doors and gardens. I linger for a while in a timeless state until the gong of the temple bell striking the heart calls me back to the middle way.

© Edward Levinson
This article has been viewed 6,113 times as of June 15, 2002. Photos and Text Copyright Edward Levinson