|Temple #45: Iwayaji (The Temple of
the Rocky Cave)
Honzon: Fudo Myoo (Acala Vidya-Raja)
This temple's location is truly
spectacular. Note the stone in the background of this image
of the temple's precincts. In the picture of the hondo in
there's a ladder in the background. This leads up to a ledge,
another ladder, etc., and finally an open-faced cave. On a nearby
pinnacle, the Daishi is said to have done another of his
Statler does a great job of describing
this place. Here's a part of what he says:
"One cannot stand dwarfed before
this towering natural altar without knowing that it has been a sacred
place since man first found it. A god resides here. And holy
men have come to sojourn with him."
And holy women. Oddly, Statler
fails to record the founding legend, given by the Bishop. A sennin--a
woman sennin--named Hokke gave the site to the Daishi. This is
the first time I've ever heard of a female sennin. Often
translated "immortals," these are characters straight out of
Chinese mythology. Through ascetic practices--perhaps related to
the Taoist search for the elixir of life--these wandering recluses
attained great power and longevity.
So both Number 44 and Number 45 owe
their existence to both the Daishi and a woman. Given their
proximity--as well as their isolation from the nearest other temples of
the pilgrimage--I find this fascinating. Was there a community of
women of power here?
I deeply regret the speed with which I
had to visit this place. Although my feet are glad I didn't walk
the 10 kilometers or so between these temples, my eyes--and heart--wish
that I had.
Next time, next time...I used to think
that the stories I heard of people doing the pilgrim repeatedly (Don
Weiss, who wrote Echoes of Incense, did it twice back-to-back;
others have done it over 200 times) indicated some kind of...well...weirdness.
Now I'm starting to understand. Sometimes I think I'd like to do
it a little at a time, by car, dawdling here and there, sightseeing
other things--castles, spas, public parks--along the way. Sometimes I
think I'd like to do it all on foot, in one trip--this time without the
computer and books, just one change of clothes, my beads and prayer
book. Sometimes I think I'd like to do it alone; at others, with a
Japanese companion along to translate, as Statler had; and at others, I
imagine traveling with a lover, someone to reminisce with about the trip
as we grow old.
But however I do it, if I do it, I'm
definitely spending more time around these two temples.