Kobo Daishi and the Shikoku Pilgrimage

Kobo Daishi and the Shikoku Pilgrimage

Postby Su DongPo » Thu Nov 25, 2010 5:22 am

The Japanese scholar/monk Kukai (774–835), also known as Kobo Daishi, founded Shingon after his journey to Tang-Dynasty Chang-an. The Japanese island of Shikoku is famous for its 88 Temple Pilgrimage of Shingon temples found all around the island's prefectures. Pilgrims walk a total of about 1200 kilometers, or upwards of 1400 kilometers if temples off the Honro Shikoku Hachijūhachikasho Meguri (pilgrimage trail) are included. It is not necessary to walk, but many do so for religious reasons for for the challenge and satisfaction. Some bike, some take buses -- any way is acceptable.

A friend in Kyoto has completed the pilgrimage twice in two years (2007-2008). It took him 42-45 days each time.

It's not necessary to complete the entire walk at one go, and most people do not. (There are a lot of "it is not necessary" involved in becoming a Henro). One fashions one's journey according to time, ability, and fortune.

I am going to do walk part of the Shikoku Pilgrimage this February. It will be cold! I am ordering long-underwear online :smile:

More here --

Pilgrimage to the 88 Sacred Places of Shikoku
http://www.shikokuhenrotrail.com/shikok ... shima.html

The Shikoku Pilgrimage Route
http://www.davidmoreton.com/Shikoku-Pil ... -Route.php
Last edited by Su DongPo on Fri Nov 26, 2010 2:11 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Kobo Daishi and the Shikoku Pilgrimage

Postby Tatsuo » Thu Nov 25, 2010 7:47 am

Wow that's great. My best wishes for your pilgrimage. What is your personal intention to do the pilgrimage?
Do you think it is easy getting around without knowing Japanese? But maybe it is enough to learn the Hear Sutra in Japanese ;)

Btw. do you know the movie Arukihenro?
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Re: Kobo Daishi and the Shikoku Pilgrimage

Postby Su DongPo » Thu Nov 25, 2010 2:00 pm

Tatsuo wrote:Wow that's great. My best wishes for your pilgrimage. What is your personal intention to do the pilgrimage?
Do you think it is easy getting around without knowing Japanese? But maybe it is enough to learn the Hear Sutra in Japanese ;)

Btw. do you know the movie Arukihenro?


This is a good question and one every pilgrim asks and is asked. I have many reasons -- I have always been intrigued by Shikoku; I think it will be a healthy challenge both mentally and physically; I am curious about Buddhism in Japan. As I mentioned, I have a friend in Kyoto who has done the pilgrimage. He's inspired me with in conversations, and also with a couple of articles he has written.

But I think the biggest draw is what I have heard of the experience of the pilgrimage itself from those like my friend, who have completed it and consider it to be a life-changing experience. We do not know (or at least I do not) how much of the pilgrimage is traditionally tied to Kobo Daishi's example (he certainly visited some of the sites and is said to be buried in a modest tomb near one of them), and how much has been embellished by legend, but it is certain that for several hundred years now, pilgrims have gone by the thousands to complete their journeys. A local culture has grown up around the Henro (pilgrim/pilgrimage), and I would like to experience this aspect of local Buddhism in Japan at least once in my lifetime.

It is not necessary to speak Japanese to take part in the pilgrimage, although most pilgrims are Japanese and most foreigners who go on Henro have some connection to Japan & Japanese culture. I lived in Japan in my 20s (I will be 52 next month). Most of my Japanese has gone bye-bye, probably forever, but I do read Kanji (Chinese characters) and my basic survival Japanese is still okay. I cannot hold long conversations, but I can ask directions, shop, etc. I plan to travel alone in any case and I anticipate most days will pass without much speech.

I haven't seen the movie you linked, but as you may have already discovered there is quite a lot of material in English on the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Thanks for posting it. I will have a look.
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Re: Kobo Daishi and the Shikoku Pilgrimage

Postby Tatsuo » Thu Nov 25, 2010 2:25 pm

I want to do the pilgrimage once in my lifetime, too. Even though I don't have a strong connection with Shingon or Kobo Daishi (for now), but I think it can be a life changing experience. But maybe I will do the Kannon Saikoku pilgrimage instead.
If you've lived in Japan, I guess going on a pilgrimage won't be too challenging (for your language skills). If you want to see Kobo Daishis grave or rather the "place of eternal meditation", I would consider also visiting Kōyasan, in Wakayama Prefecture, just across the sea on the east of Shikoku. I think it is a part of the traditional pilgrimage anyway, so you might have planned to go there anyway. But I am not sure, if one goes there before or after the first/last temple or on both occasions.
Thanks for sharing your plans with us :bow:
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Re: Kobo Daishi and the Shikoku Pilgrimage

Postby Su DongPo » Fri Nov 26, 2010 12:39 am

I plan to visit Mt. Koya, on my way to Shikoku, after I arrive at Kansai.

I've known of the pilgrimage for a longer time than I have known of Shingon. It's not necessary to follow Shingon to hike the trails, of course, and I doubt that many of the Japanese henro are Shingon followers (although I do not know), or how many would even identify themselves as Buddhist.
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Re: Kobo Daishi and the Shikoku Pilgrimage

Postby Tatsuo » Fri Nov 26, 2010 12:50 am

Yeah I agree - you don't have to be a Shingon Buddhist to do the pilgrimage. But on the other hand, as the pilgrimage is strongly connected to Kobo Daishi, most pilgrims would feel some connection with him (although I don't know about that). And I have my doubts, too, that most pilgrims would identify themselves as Buddhists, but as it is more normal in Japan to do Buddhist practices and there is no need to declare oneself Buddhist, even if you practice Buddhism - and therefore are practically a Buddhist. Otherwise I wouldn't see the point, why they would do such a pilgrimage.
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Re: Kobo Daishi and the Shikoku Pilgrimage

Postby Su DongPo » Fri Nov 26, 2010 1:46 am

Maybe my own case is illustrative of the non-Buddhist, or non-Shingon, pilgrim's relationship to Shingon and Kukai: since the moment I began seriously considering the henro my interest in Shingon has increased, my knowledge of Shingon and Kobo daishi has gone from nil to something less than nil (but only a few grams, total :smile: ). I am learning to recite the Heart Sutra in Japanese and Chinese, so it is not "merely" a written text in Chinese characters any longer.

This may be as close as I ever get to esoteric Buddhism (tantra), and I feel perfectly fine with that. My friend in Kyoto has studied Japanese poetry and Zen for decades. He is not a Shingon devotee, but he his not not a Shingon follower, having walked nearly 3,000 kilometers with Kobo Daishi and his fellow henro.

This is the way Buddhism ought to be, in my view. There's plenty of room for everyone in this tent: Open hearts, open palms, not closed fists and narrow sectarianism. The Dharma exists beyond our paltry abilities of comprehension and we are fools when we behave as if we have found the One True Dharma (and all others be damned).

But we are not hopeless. We can learn a little. We can follow the lead of others. If I walk Kobo Daishi's path for a short time, I believe it will be time well spent.

:smile: :buddha1: :smile:
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Re: Kobo Daishi and the Shikoku Pilgrimage

Postby plwk » Fri Nov 26, 2010 12:04 pm

You can always try PM with Rev Eijo from Koyasan, a member here and I am sure that he has much words of wisdom for your endeavour.
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Re: Kobo Daishi and the Shikoku Pilgrimage

Postby Su DongPo » Fri Nov 26, 2010 2:09 pm

Tatsuo wrote:But maybe I will do the Kannon Saikoku pilgrimage instead.


You might like to visit this site for inspiration for the Kannon pilgramage(s):
http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/k ... grim.shtml

While I was in Kyoto two weeks ago, I had time to visit Sanjusan-gendo, with is 1001 Kannon statues. I was busy all week, but I enjoyed this little visit.
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Re: Kobo Daishi and the Shikoku Pilgrimage

Postby Tatsuo » Fri Nov 26, 2010 6:09 pm

I think, that there doesn't have to be only the two opposites "open" vs "sectarian" Buddhism. It does help when one concentrates on one form of Buddhism. Buddhism is so complex and has so many different approaches, that one can't possibly practice all of them. Otherwise you might end up being confused and frustrated. But when Buddhists end up saying, that their path is more valid and you shouldn't practice other forms of Buddhism, because that will result in Avici Hell - to me that is not the intention of true Buddhism. And you are right, that on the Shikoku pilgrimage sectarian differences (sectarian in a negative, competitive way) are not that important. There are even some temples of the 88 main temples, that are not Shingon temples and belong to Rinzaishu, Sotoshu, Tendaishu or Jishu. Of course walking the pilgrimage is meritorious, regardless to which school of Buddhism one belongs or even if one considers oneself being a Buddhist at all. Though I, personally, would not do a pilgrimage, that doesn't have anything to do with my background (like I would not do the Hajj to Mecca).

And thank you for the link, Su DongPo. It looks like I've already visited 3 of the 33 temples of the Saikoku pilgrimage ;) And Sanjūsangendō was indeed breathtaking, when I went there. :)
I think the advantage of the Shikoku pilgrimage is, that in Shikoku the pilgrimage infrastructure is much better than on the Saikoku pilgrimage, but I don't know that for sure.
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Re: Kobo Daishi and the Shikoku Pilgrimage

Postby Su DongPo » Sat Nov 27, 2010 12:59 am

Tatsuo wrote:I think, that there doesn't have to be only the two opposites "open" vs "sectarian" Buddhism. It does help when one concentrates on one form of Buddhism. Buddhism is so complex and has so many different approaches, that one can't possibly practice all of them. Otherwise you might end up being confused and frustrated. But when Buddhists end up saying, that their path is more valid and you shouldn't practice other forms of Buddhism, because that will result in Avici Hell - to me that is not the intention of true Buddhism. And you are right, that on the Shikoku pilgrimage sectarian differences (sectarian in a negative, competitive way) are not that important.


That is precisely my thinking.

There are even some temples of the 88 main temples, that are not Shingon temples and belong to Rinzaishu, Sotoshu, Tendaishu or Jishu.


I did not know this! Thanks for pointing this out.


Of course walking the pilgrimage is meritorious, regardless to which school of Buddhism one belongs or even if one considers oneself being a Buddhist at all. Though I, personally, would not do a pilgrimage, that doesn't have anything to do with my background (like I would not do the Hajj to Mecca).


Actually I think the Shikoku pilgrimage differs in one fundamental way, which would preclude me from taking part in the Haj. One needn't be a Buddhist to participate in the Henro, and in fact many are not and are warmly welcomed regardless of belief/lack of belief. (I am getting this second hand from my friend, but I believe him.) Presumably one must be a Muslim to visit Mecca -- I believe some parts of the Hajj, or even all of it, are forbidden to none believers.

And thank you for the link, Su DongPo. It looks like I've already visited 3 of the 33 temples of the Saikoku pilgrimage ;) And Sanjūsangendō was indeed breathtaking, when I went there. :)
I think the advantage of the Shikoku pilgrimage is, that in Shikoku the pilgrimage infrastructure is much better than on the Saikoku pilgrimage, but I don't know that for sure.


You're quite welcome! I think I have been to one temple, at least, as well. I don't think Sanjusangendo is on the Saikoku pilgrimage; I mentioned it because of your interest in Kannon.

Take good care --
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Re: Kobo Daishi and the Shikoku Pilgrimage

Postby Su DongPo » Sat Nov 27, 2010 1:04 am

plwk wrote:You can always try PM with Rev Eijo from Koyasan, a member here and I am sure that he has much words of wisdom for your endeavour.


Thanks! I did not know Rev Eijo was at Koyasan, although I think I knew (or read) that he is a Shingon priest. I think I will hold off on contacting him unless I have a special question about Shingon and Mt. Koya. If I meet him there, however, I will consider it auspicious indeed.
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Re: Kobo Daishi and the Shikoku Pilgrimage

Postby Su DongPo » Sun Dec 12, 2010 12:47 pm

I was in Taipei last week and had time for a side-trip to the Mazu Temple in the Wanhua District (the historic center) while there.

Mazu is the folk goddess in Taiwan, southern China, and is prominent among the diaspora Chinese communities of much of Southeast Asia. She ranks with Guanyin (and ahead of Buddha) as a figure of popular veneration on the island. Like Kukai, she is a historic figure. Her birth name was 林默娘 (Lin Mo-niang). Here's what Wikipedia has to say about her:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mazu_(goddess)

This temple (I learned during my visit) was founded in 1754. I had assumed that Kukai (Kobo Daishi) had gotten mixed up in folk religion sometime in the 1000 years of Buddhist back-and-forth between Japan and China, but according to temple records, he was introduced by the Japanese here in 1899. (Japanese colonial rule in Taiwan began in 1895 and ended in 1945.)

Here are some photos I took during my brief tour last weekend:

Street view of the temple on Cheng-de Road

Image

Kobo Daishi's Altar

Image

Image

And Statues

Image

Image
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Re: Kobo Daishi and the Shikoku Pilgrimage

Postby plwk » Sun Dec 12, 2010 1:06 pm

I was there last year in that temple...I was like what is Kobo Daishi doing in a Mazu temple? lol
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Re: Kobo Daishi and the Shikoku Pilgrimage

Postby Su DongPo » Sun Dec 12, 2010 1:10 pm

plwk wrote:I was there last year in that temple...I was like what is Kobo Daishi doing in a Mazu temple? lol


Funny, isn't it? I never paid attention before but I wonder how many other Mazu temples also have Kobo Daishi altars? I haven't seen any others, but then again I haven't been looking until recently.
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Re: Kobo Daishi and the Shikoku Pilgrimage

Postby Dodatsu » Mon Dec 13, 2010 3:24 pm

Su DongPo wrote:
plwk wrote:I was there last year in that temple...I was like what is Kobo Daishi doing in a Mazu temple? lol


Funny, isn't it? I never paid attention before but I wonder how many other Mazu temples also have Kobo Daishi altars? I haven't seen any others, but then again I haven't been looking until recently.


If i remember correctly, for a period during the Japanese colonial period the Mazu temple at Ximending was a Shingon-shu temple, or even the Shingon-shu betsuin in Taiwan. Ximending had a lot of Japanese living around the area, and even the Nishi and Higashi Honganjis had their temples nearby. That probably explains why there are statues of Kobo Daishi and other Shingon deities in the temple.
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Re: Kobo Daishi and the Shikoku Pilgrimage

Postby eijo » Wed Jan 05, 2011 2:37 am

Su DongPo wrote:
plwk wrote:You can always try PM with Rev Eijo from Koyasan, a member here and I am sure that he has much words of wisdom for your endeavour.


Thanks! I did not know Rev Eijo was at Koyasan, although I think I knew (or read) that he is a Shingon priest. I think I will hold off on contacting him unless I have a special question about Shingon and Mt. Koya. If I meet him there, however, I will consider it auspicious indeed.


Hi, I don't know if it could somehow be auspicious as you say, but if you're coming please do let me know.
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Re: Kobo Daishi and the Shikoku Pilgrimage

Postby Su DongPo » Wed Jan 05, 2011 4:00 pm

eijo wrote:
Su DongPo wrote:
plwk wrote:You can always try PM with Rev Eijo from Koyasan, a member here and I am sure that he has much words of wisdom for your endeavour.


Thanks! I did not know Rev Eijo was at Koyasan, although I think I knew (or read) that he is a Shingon priest. I think I will hold off on contacting him unless I have a special question about Shingon and Mt. Koya. If I meet him there, however, I will consider it auspicious indeed.


Hi, I don't know if it could somehow be auspicious as you say, but if you're coming please do let me know.


Thank you, Rev. Eijo, and nice to meet you, in this odd electronic fashion. I probably will not be in the Mt. Koya February, and my knowledge of Shingon is still quite sketchy, so I really do not expect to ply you with questions. I am reading about Kobo Daishi and am enjoying what I learn. I plan to return to Japan for a second visit to Shikoku in August/September of this year. I will have more time to visit Mt. Koya then, so perhaps I will some say hello if you are not too busy. I will PM you when the time approaches.

Best wishes for the New Year,
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Re: Kobo Daishi and the Shikoku Pilgrimage

Postby eijo » Thu Jan 06, 2011 2:27 am

Su DongPo wrote:I probably will not be in the Mt. Koya February ... I plan to return to Japan for a second visit to Shikoku in August/September of this year.


It's probably a good idea to avoid the winter here, we just had 40cms of snow on New Years Day and its snowing again today.
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Re: Kobo Daishi and the Shikoku Pilgrimage

Postby Su DongPo » Thu Jan 06, 2011 5:28 am

eijo wrote:
Su DongPo wrote:I probably will not be in the Mt. Koya February ... I plan to return to Japan for a second visit to Shikoku in August/September of this year.


It's probably a good idea to avoid the winter here, we just had 40cms of snow on New Years Day and its snowing again today.


Ah, yes, Japan in winter. I lived without heat in Tokyo during two winters in the 1980s. I still consider the morning I got up to brush my teeth to before catching a 6:20 train work, only to find the pipes had frozen over night, one of the low moments of my time in Japan. I will be in Shikoku in February, but will not have time to visit Mt. Koya this trip.

Keep your kotatsu plugged in! I look forward to meeting you one day.

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