The Blues Brothers were on a
mission from God. I’m on
a mission to the gods. Like
Moses going up Sinai, like a priest entering the inner sanctum, I will
be knock knock knockin’ on Heaven’s door.
Few people have the luxury of
getting away for a long vacation—let alone a pilgrimage of three
months’ duration. This
was as true 300 years ago as it is today.
So the Japanese developed a custom of appointing one
representative to take their needs to the kami (Shinto gods) and
Buddhas on their behalf—a sort of holy lobbyist.
I will do the same for you. The
intentions expressed usually take one of two forms:
You can ask for something: a new job, a true love, success
for your child, a recovery from illness for yourself or another.
Or a more altruistic wish, like an end to global conflict, or the
healing of the earth’s environment.
Others prefer to simply give thanks.
A grateful heart is a peaceful heart.
I will solemnly promise to
present all petitions and thanksgivings:
at least once a day on the
portions of the walk, including in front of the Daibutsu
(Great Buddha) of Nara, and in front of Kobo Daishi on Mt.
at every one of the 88 temples on Shikoku,
meaning an average of almost twice a day.
“But James,” you ask,
“what makes you think the kami and Buddhas will listen to
you?” Traditionally, the
undertaking of the journey itself is a kind of offering.
Walking is a discipline, and it puts the walking pilgrim in a
strong bargaining position. It
gets the gods’ attention.
undertaking the traditional pilgrims’ vows, known in Japanese as the
Juzenkai. As listed on David
Turkington’s site, these are:
Do not kill.
Do not steal.
Do not engage in inappropriate sex.
Do not tell lies.
Do not flatter others untruthfully.
Do not speak badly of others.
Do not be deceitful.
Do not be greedy.
Do not get angry.
Do not cause wrongful thinking by others.
Others have added the
“usual” ancient Buddhist precepts of vegetarianism—something I
already do—and abstinence from alcohol.
Will I keep all of the vows
But the effort is in itself meritorious.
I will certainly keep the “Big Three” of no meat, no alcohol,
and no sex. And of course
killing and stealing are out of the question.
The others—numbers 4-10 above—are tougher, because they are
more internal. They will
present my greatest challenge.
In any case, between the shugyo
(religious discipline) of walking, and the practice of the Precepts
above, I hope to earn the right to take your requests and thanks to the
your intentions and I will present them as faithfully as possible.