Keigado / East Temple, West Temple (by Nancy)

There are many categories of incense. There is the synthetic vs. the natural, the floral, woody, spicy, herbal, fruity, and the resinous. There are sticks for daily use and rare woods to be savored only on special occasions. Then there is temple incense, a variety that tends to be longer and thicker with an extended burning time, specifically designed to be used for prayer and meditation. East Temple and West Temple fall into this category, measuring in at 12” long with a burning time of 90 minutes. Sticks like these are conducive to meditation not only because of their physiological effects, but because they provide a non-linear way to measure time. This permits us to detach ourselves from the material world of schedules and mechanical clocks and slip into a suspended peace measured only by the graceful wafting of the incense smoke.

East Temple and West Temple are both sandalwood blends. Sandalwood is grown primarily in Asia. Mysore (a.k.a. “Sandalwood City”) is the focus of sandalwood production in India. Here you will find thousands of people transforming sandalwood into incense, perfumes, lotions, soaps, candles, medicine, and devotional statues. This plant is so valued in India that the Sultan of Mysore declared it a royal tree in 1792. Even today all sandalwood in India and Nepal is property of the government and no individual may own a single tree, even if it is on private land. Sandalwood is an evergreen with the aromatic oils residing in the hardwood and root system, and it takes at least 40 years for the plant to mature. Since all parts of the wood are valuable, the tree is not cut down when harvest time comes, but rather is pulled up from the roots during the rainy season when the ground is soft. Current market value of the essential oil is $1,500 per kilogram! Sandalwood incense is considered to be the most calming type of incense and is used extensively in ceremonies by people in many religions from all over the world.

The aroma of sandalwood is very enjoyable. It is rich, balsamic, and sweet, with a woody undertone. East Temple incense mixes this wood with spices, making for an invigorating blend. This stick is named after the cardinal direction of the rising sun and is intended to be used in the morning as you prepare for the day and get your energy going. It definitely stimulates the mind so I would recommend it for contemplative meditation or study, or just to rev you up as you go about your morning rituals. The predominant note is more like sandalwood essential oil or the resin, and not so much the wood. I also detect in there hints of leather and campfire, and the blend is so masterful that I am having a hard time identifying the included spices individually. Very smooth, like a fine aged wine. West Temple, named for the direction of the setting sun, is for evening use when our energies are naturally declining and we are preparing for sleep. It is definitely the more subtle of the two and is almost smokeless due to its high wood-low oil content. This stick is truer to the wood, sweet and sublime, pure and utterly relaxing. It has a sort of slow, permeating quality about it that will gradually fill even a large space with its subtle effect, gently shifting the energy to peace and relaxation.

These two incenses are certainly enjoyable on their own, but are even better experienced as a pair, burned one in the morning and one in the evening as intended. They definitely have completely different scents, with noticeably different affects on energy levels and the mind. Two interesting takes on a classic wood and a very good deal given the length and duration of each stick. These are some of my all time favorites and I highly recommend them to anyone who loves the aroma of sandalwood and is interested in trying some very pure examples from a skilled and revered incense company.



  1. Nancy said,

    June 2, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    OK. I have now officially smelled palo santo wood chips on an electric heater. East Temple DEFINITELY contains this wood as a major ingredient! If you like palo santo, try East Temple.

    • glennjf said,

      July 8, 2010 at 5:58 am


      I came across a reference to palo santo today and I was trying to recall where I’d first read about it. Without seeking I somehow found myself here (again) and so it is I’ve realised it was this review that was the place! Now I have reconnected I’m adding both East Temple and West Temple to my list of incenses I’d like to sample sometime.

  2. Nancy said,

    December 22, 2008 at 7:22 am

    Thanks Ross,
    Poking around on the internet for the little tidbits is interesting for me too. I burn the sticks I’m researching while I do the write-up and it definitely deepens my appreciation of the art too.

  3. clairsight said,

    December 22, 2008 at 12:25 am

    Hello Nancy
    I am so glad you put in the back round research you do for your write ups. It makes them very fun and I get a lot more out of them, not to mention it makes burning the incense itself a bit more real and personal. Thanks.

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