Aki Meguri Shikoku
October 24th, 2001 (Wednesday):
Temples 26, 27 and 28
Note: In the original Aki
Meguri pages, the Shikoku stage had no journal entries.
Rather, my thoughts and feelings were incorporated into the
"Logbook," so you won't find separate journal entries here, as
in the Old Tokaido and Yamato stages.
|Before I tell you about my day, I want
to reflect on a couple of encounters I had.
One of the interesting things about the
pilgrimage is--the pilgrims. Why are people doing this? Statler
admits to adjusting his schedule and hanging around a bit just to have a
chance to accost pilgrims and get their stories.
Today I heard two similar stories.
One man appeared to be 30+; the other told me he was 47. Both were
100% walking henros. (I saw the younger man way back at #11; the
one close to my age at Number 23. It's remarkable how often you
encounter the same people, even when your traveling modes are different.
See below for more on this.) Both said that they were on the
pilgrimage to figure out what to do with their lives: take a little
breathing space and plan the next step, perhaps (though they didn't say
so) with some supernatural help.
Now here's the clincher: the younger
fellow has been holding down part-time jobs; the middle-aged man is a
company president, owner of an importing company with offices in Los
Angeles and Tokyo!
Here are two men from completely
different "worlds," life-style-wise, united by a common quest,
and a common method of pursuing it. Fascinating.
On with the day. I was up, out, and
on a bus by 7:40, returning to Number 26 (which I couldn't see yesterday,
even though I was in the neighborhood.) In the bus on the way down
the cape, I saw my friend Aki from the first day, walking along the
seaside. I hoped I would catch her later.
Ed Readicker-Henderson makes a big
point of how gentle the walk up to Number 26 is. It's short, true:
only 1.2 kilometers from the bus stop. But gentle? I don't
think so. Look at this view to see how high one climbs
above sea level in that short distance. To the right of the large
green hill on the left, I could actually see the top of Number 25;
Number 24 rests on the farthest tongue of land.
|Temple #26: Kongochoji (The Temple of
Honzon: Yakushi Nyorai (Baisajya-guru)
Reaching the temple, one enters the
Niomon (Two Kings Gate--see the gallery) into a spacious yard. The
back of the Daishido is to your left, and the hondo is
I wonder at the placement of the
Daishido. It faces away from the compound, and seems to face off
the hill toward the sea. But the view is completely blocked by
trees. What was the history of this arrangement? Ed mentions
that the Daishido is the oldest building here, dating to 1486. The
hondo "only" goes back to 1899. Was there a
re-arrangement of the complex after a fire?
Anyway, the grounds held a couple of
surprises. One was this heavily-braced shoro or bell
tower, badly in need of repair.
The other was the younger of the two
pilgrims mentioned above; I've shown him leaving the temple, to protect
Ed says there is a "pagoda"
(or mound?) on the grounds dedicated to "8,000 whales," but I
couldn't find it. Just as I returned to the office to ask, a
busload of people arrived to have their books and scrolls signed, so I
bowed out and left them to their work. I always feel that the
"business" of the temple supercedes my sightseeing needs!
This temple is known as "West
Temple" in contrast to Number 24,
"East Temple." Tradition says the Daishi underwent
religious exercises here; there is even a rival claim to East Temple's,
saying he achieved satori here. This seems unlikely, since
this temple is well away from the sea.
Statler has a wonderful story about a
night he spent here, the night of the yearly festival when the honzon
is revealed. They say this statue is so realistic that, when it
was finished, it walked up to the altar to take its place!
Now, I pick on poor Ed a lot, but this
time he really got me going. Here's a quote:
"The temple's legend...concerns
the Daishi's banishing some monsters who lived on the site....I always
have trouble with stories like this. Buddhism teaches compassion
for all living beings, monsters or no."
Ummm, Ed? There are no
monsters. Remember that the Daishi did religious exercises
here? The "monsters" are his inner demons, which
are "banished" through discipline. I'm a religious guy,
but these stories are always so much more meaningful to me if I read
them from the psychological point of view.
After a brief rest, I headed back down to
the main road and caught the bus toward Kochi City, headed for Number
27. Would I catch up with Aki there?
Walking along the flats, just before
starting the climb, I met the man my age mentioned above. I began
speaking in Japanese, and he answered in excellent English. We
talked about our reasons for doing the pilgrimage; he had heard me
reading a list of people's names back at Number 23,
and wondered why, so I explained about my "mission."
Then I asked him if he had seen a girl matching Aki's description on his
way down the mountain; he had--she was about 10 minutes ahead, he said.
|Temple #27: Konomineji (The Temple of
Honzon: Juichimen Kannon (Avalokitesvara with eleven faces)
I'll spare you the moans about the
climb up to Number 27. Let me just say that this is the designated
nansho--difficult place--for Kochi prefecture, the former Tosa-no-kuni.
Reaching the top--or almost the
top--I was greeted by a sight described by Bishop Miyata, when he warns:
"Do not mistake the path"! Buddhism and Shinto are
literally side-by-side here--probably mingled before the Meiji
Restoration. Dozens of temples--maybe hundreds--were closed during
that time in this most anti-Buddhist of regions. Number 27 was
burned, and the honzon moved to Number 26 until 1912. The
temple was then restored; presumably this gate arrangement was
made at that time.
When I reached the compound--there was
Aki! YATA! We had a great time. She's very funny,
poking fun at my age, my weight, my speed (same as hers, despite my use
of public transportation)--hey, wait a minute, why was I so happy
to see her?
One more thing I have to mention: in
addition to the magnificent gate (seen in the Gallery), Number 27 boasts
an amazing life-sized statue of Fudo-Myoo. The colors are
intense; here's a close-up.
Aki and I walked down the hill
together. On the way, we saw this view, which looks all the
way back to the Cape where Number 24 is located. She marveled at
how far she had walked. Yes, I said, you are strong and healthy.
But I am smart (for talking the bus). "Smaato janai,"
she cried, poking my belly--"Not smart." I had forgotten
that in "Japanese English" the word "smart" means
At the bottom of the hill, Aki stopped
at her minshuku and I continued out to the bus stop, where I
caught the bus again toward Kochi City, this time headed for Number 28.
Leaving the bus, I walked the 2+
kilometers to Number 28, arriving at 4:50, just ten minutes before
closing. I headed straight for the stamp office--having learned my
lesson at Number 17--then said my prayers and appreciated the grounds.
|Temple #28: Dainichiji (The Temple of
the Great Sun)
Honzon: Dainichi Nyorai (Mahavairocana Buddha)
This temple has another interesting
tale--with a twist. The Daishi had carved a Yakushi Nyorai in a
living camphor tree that stood behind the hondo. He
allegedly did the work entirely with his fingernails--a rigorously
ascetic exercise. In 1868, the tree blew down. The Bishop
solemnly states that a building was then built to house this image (the honzon
here is Dainichi Nyorai, as the name suggests.)
Statler says otherwise. The
priest told him quite clearly that the Yakushi carved by the Daishi was
destroyed when the tree came down; another statue was moved out
of the temple into a little chapel of its own. "But,"
the priest says, "most people choose to believe that the image Kobo
Daishi carved with his fingernails still exists and is enshrined
Friends, it's a hidden image. So
it doesn't really matter if it's authentic, does it, since we can't see
it anyway? "Today I didn't see a statue carved by the
Daishi" or "Today I didn't see a statue not carved by
the Daishi"--in either case I didn't see it. It's like that
great quote about Homer. While there are many legends about him,
we know absolutely nothing about him for certain. So a professor
once said, "We don't know if Homer wrote the works attributed to
him, or if someone else wrote them and used his name."
As a matter if faith, these little
halls could be empty for all we know. Does the statue's provenance
really matter when we direct our intentions to the universe?
Here are a few images from Number 28.
These Jizos stand next to the Daishido; it looks like they're
waiting for dinner with those bibs.
I strolled back to the Okunoin,
the "back temple"; it turned out to be this small building,
photographed by flash since it was getting late. As a result of
this little detour, I missed the last bus from in front of the temple,
and had to walk another 2+ kilometers back out to the highway. No
biggie, though I was a bit tired after climbing two mountains
Finally--and I mean finally--a view of the
sunset from the top of the hill on which Number 28 sits.