The Philosophers’ Walk

It’s interesting that the pathway which links three of the world’s most important Zen temples – Ginkaku-ji, Nanzenji and Kyomizudera – is called The Philosophers’ Walk. This gives stress and emphasis to the fact that Zen is a philosophy and not a religion.

The Philosophers' Walk

At no point along The Philosophers’ Walk – either along the pathway or the riverside, or within the temples and gardens – do you come across an image or a figure of the Buddha – the human being whose thinking inspired Buddhist philosophy and ultimately Zen.

At no point in this district do you find people praying or worshipping or in any way expressing their ‘faith’. There are, however, people ‘sitting quietly doing nothing’ – otherwise known as meditating. Zen means meditation. Sitting zazen is sitting meditation. The Philosophers’ Walk is a place for zazen, and also a place for walking meditation.

On this particular walk the words awe and wonder hardly do justice to the experience of the place, and to all the particularities of the place – especially on a day when the warmth and sunshine have encouraged the first of the plum blossoms to open, and the sun causes the roof of the Silver Pavillion to shine like pure silver.


One of the thoughts that occured to me along the Philosopher’s Walk is that – whether we know it or not – we are all philosophers to one degree or another. It’s impossible to live without philosophy – even if it’s a philosophy based on all the things that are at the opposite end of the spectrum to enlightenment and spiritual intelligence – fear, hatred, selfishness, envy, greed, anger, jealousy, etc. Even the vilest people in the world use a philosophy to justify their activities and their actions, even if it’s something like ‘greed  is good’.


We discovered yesterday that on Mount Koya a massive temple bell is rung 18 times consecutively on 10 different occasions throughout the day – in order to remind us that there are (they say) 180 different destructive emotions and feelings. The bell is supposed to help rid the world of those destructive emotions – presumably by reminding us that they exist and that we need to be always on guard against their enactment or expression.


The philosophy of Buddhism is obviously an understanding that through awareness and self discipline, and ultimately enlightenment, we can contain destructive emotions within ourselves and in so doing we can rid the world of their effects, whilst at the same time filling the world with what Buddhists call lovingkindness, which equates to the ultimate expression of spiritual intelligence.

Our experience of Japan is certainly that it’s a country filled with lovingkindness – whether as a result of its Buddhist culture and history, the philosophy of the people, or their levels of emotional, social and spiritual intelligence, or indeed as a combination of all these things

About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at or see our website at
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8 Responses to The Philosophers’ Walk

  1. 3D Eye says:

    It’s thanks to people like you, Sharon, with your positive comments and encouragement, that we’ll carry on working for the rights of children to the best possible education, and we’ll carry on trying to influence parents, teachers and decision-makers to make all schools and all homes better places for children and young people. We know that many schools, and many homes, are already places full of wonder, joy and enrichment – but there are many that are not. We also think it’s important to make explicit to parents and teachers alike (and indeed to children) that we all have more than one intelligence, and that the intelligences that we’re calling personal, social and spiritual are at least as important, if not more so, than intellect alone. It’s sometimes not easy to convey what these other intelligences consist of, but if anyone cares to know our views – then that’s what we’re here for! It’s been a pleasure making this connection with you as a person who fully understands these issues, and indeed writes about them superbly on a personal blog.

    We spent quite a lot of time this weekend at an ‘Open Weekend’ organised by the Guardian newspaper, engaging with writers and academics, trying to debate issues such as ‘spiritual intelligence’. I have to say it’s not always easy to say in the short time that’s available why it’s important to consider all of the intelligences that operate within our incredible brains, let alone time for us make explicit the ways that schools and homes can ensure that all of the intelligences can be allowed and encouraged to develop. Nevertheless, we will carry on with this work, and we will continue to post on this blog in the hope that its readership will continue to increase!


  2. Beautiful. This really resonated deeply with me. I am learning all the time the art of sitting quietly doing nothing. It is one of man’s greatest mastery from which all that we do is then embued with a sense of depth, purpose, purity and clarity. I cannot overemphasise enough the good work you and your associates are doing in raising awareness that schools and the education of our children and mankind need to embrace the concept of spiritual intelligence if we are to live to our highest potential as a human being. Thank you and I wish you success as pioneers in your field. Sharon


    • 3D Eye says:

      Thank you so much, Sharon. As a blog writer yourself you obviously know how important it is to receive positive feedback, and comments as generous as yours help us to believe we might gradually encourage more parents and teachers to consider spiritual intelligence and what it means for all of us. We truly believe there’s a much-needed place for meditation in our homes and our schools – even for just a few minutes each day. Just sitting quietly, doing nothing special, focusing on our breathing, allowing our thoughts to come and go. There’s nothing mystical or supernatural about the spiritual, even if it is meta-physical. We also know that enabling children to learn about human values and human virtues is fundamental to becoming spiritually intelligent. Ours is a very practical and grounded philosophy! Thank you for your support.


      • I just have to say that what you’ve brought up here – meditation and the teaching of values and virtues are issues which I too personally consider to be essential for me in educating my child and I believe should be the core elements in every educational institution around the world (I believe these practices are an integral part in schools across India, Indonesia, China and some other Asian countries).
        Since becoming a parent, the issue of education has taken on an even more crucial importance in my life and as I am always so inspired when I see professionals like yourself in the field of education stating it out bold and loud that children must be taught the principles of values and virtues! And it is this spiritual intelligence that also makes up who we are as humans. I believe that schools should put character training and rectification of conduct as a basic foundation principle because then knowledge is praiseworthy when it is coupled with ethical conduct and a virtuous character.
        Thank you and please keep up the good work! Sharon


  3. Seth Cohen says:

    Love this post. I believe that Zen is a philosophy and not a religion – it’s a way of life.


    • 3D Eye says:

      Thank you Seth for your appreciation. Like everyone who discovers Zen we find it fascinating and inspiring, and we’d like as many people as possible around the world to know about Zen and its philosophy. Your comment means a lot to us.


  4. Chico says:

    Reblogged this on Red Rock Crossing.


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