Suzuki said : “Before Zen, men are men and mountains are mountains.”

Like many beautiful things, it all started with a dream. When she was 10 years old, Aurovilian Monna Maier read an haiku about the Kokedora (Moss Temple) in Kyoto, Japan. Since then, she always thought that if there was a place in the world where unicorns, fairies and elves would exist, this is where it would be. In 2016, she went to the place of this childhood dream and though she did not see any unicorns, her moments there were as close to a fairy tale as could be.

This tango teacher and podiatrist, who studied neither art nor photography, is exhibiting 26 photographs that expose the Zen feeling of this place. “People have a misconception of what a Zen garden is,” says Monna, “Zen gardens are wild and not manicured. The western world sees Zen as being a domination of nature when it is actually a devotion to nature. Mother Earth is supposed to be enriched by humans and not controlled.”

Zen is about the harmony of all things and this is manifested in the temple’s moss garden, one of the most impressive in the world. The access is difficult and requires booking an appointment two weeks in advance and giving one hour of time to one of the following temple activities: chanting, meditation or sutra writing. Like the Zen monks who used to meditate before they put brush to paper, an attempt is made to guide the visitor into an experience of mental peace and self-discipline.

The excellence of the photographs exhibited is a reflection of what the Kokedora monks work so hard at achieving – beauty at its highest level. Through the eye, the mind is allowed to traverse a world where reality and illusion intermingle. The photos are like diving into the green world of moss, with subtle nuances in the delicate contrast of colour and misty light. The images include a reflection of blue sky over water bodies, long trunks of trees with exquisite shades of red and bluish-grey colours given by the different fungi, a close-up of pink mushrooms on a bed of pale green moss and the juxtaposition of ferns and greens.

Monna succeeded in her intent to reproduce and to share the fairytale moments of her landscapes. One of her next projects will be to photograph the Kamogawa river (the river of ducks).

Bathing in the gracefulness of this exhibition will reinforce the thought that the highest expression of the divine is really through beauty.

Chana Corinne Devor for AVArtService


Kokedera – Moss Temple, Kyoto
a Monna Maier’s Photo Exhibition

Ongoing until April 5th
Opening Timings (Except Sunday) 9:00 -12:30 / 13:30 – 18:00

Pitanga Cultural Centre, Samasti, Auroville,
(0413) 2622403/2622994