|Bangai Temple: Saba Daishi (The
Temple of Mackerel Daishi)
Honzon: Kobo Daishi
Before I denigrate this temple--which I
will--let's talk about the idea of bangai. It means
"extra number," and it is an unnumbered temple included in a
pilgrimage. Depending on who's counting, the number is different
for each pilgrimage. Ed Readicker-Henderson doesn't include any in
his book for the Shikoku 88; the Bishop lists seven; Oliver Statler has
52--one for every week in the year!
Why are there bangai? Because
ideas change, as you'll see below. Some important places--like the
Daishi's birthplace--were not included in the original count.
Local promoters create new sites. Places of minor importance
become major. But since the count of temples is fixed, you can't
just add temples, so you add bangai temples.
I had decided to follow the
Bishop on this, as I have in many other matters (such as my manner of
prayer). Now I'm wondering if I made the right choice.
First, I'll give you the legend.
Kobo Daishi was here (naturally) and asked a seller of dried mackerel
for a handout. The peddler refused. As he walked away, his
horse stumbled and fell, suddenly sick with colic. Realizing his
error, the peddler rushed back, begged forgiveness (like Emon Saburo)
and the Daishi healed his horse.
Topping himself, the Daishi then asked
for one of the dried-and-salted mackerels, and brought it back to life.
Now, Oliver Statler is my kind of guy.
He waxes rhapsodic over the smallest things. But in this case, he
was downright cynical.
After all the trouble I had getting to
this temple, I finally sat down and read what Statler had to say about
it, and I was really put off. He devotes three pages to
deconstructing the mystique of this place; I'm tempted to type it all
out for you. Instead, let me give you the key points:
- No "mackerel miracle" was
- What was done here was done
by Gyogi, not the Daishi; he cursed and healed a horse, and received
a mackerel, as in the legend; but he didn't bring the mackerel back
- The Daishi did do a
"mackerel miracle," but not here--on Mount Koya
- This temple was founded in 1945;
before that it was merely a chapel
- The founding priest--who told
Statler all this personally--basically made up the legend
Statler goes on to point out that this
is an ideal location, near the highway and a convenient stop on the long
stretch between Number 23 and Number 24.
hondo at Fishy Daishi
hall with the fish in questionout front
Now, I'm not naive; one of my favorite
studies as I've pursued various pilgrimages is the relationship between
government, religion, and business in promoting pilgrimage/travel.
But this is sheer quackery. This guy "blended" a couple
of legends in order to promote his business. If someone did that
500 years ago, the mere weight of age makes it seem OK somehow; but that
this happened 10 years before I was born makes it too--fishy.
Even the honzon is a fake.
A figure holds a fish in one hand, and beads in the other. This
figure is said to be the Daishi. It used to be Gyogi. And
the Daishido used to be called the Gyogido. I had a hard time
praying Namu Daishi Henjo Kongo knowing it was to the wrong guy!
Well, I struggled through the experience,
and headed back to the station in time to see my train leaving.
My train leaving??!! Yup.
Seems the train that left Mugi at 4:00 returns here at 4:32. Next
train: 6:01, too late to make my connection at Mugi and get to Hiwasa at
a decent hour.
Never fear: walking down to the highway
(the highway and the railway run near each other all along this wild
coast) I discovered that a bus was coming at 5:04. Magic.
I had time to stroll across the street
and take the shots of the beautiful bay on which this scurrilous temple
So I made it back to Hiwasa, near Number
23, which I visited a couple of days ago. Had I known
that Saba Daishi was going to be such a bust, I could have been in Kochi
prefecture by now. Live in learn.
Kochi prefecture: I'm officially
finished in Tokushima prefecture (the former Awa-no-kuni) which
is known in the parlance of the pilgrimage as "The Dojo (training
room) of Awakening Faith." It's the place where the rhythm of
the exercise first gets its hooks into you.
I must say, something is definitely
happening to me. I'm more sensitive, as I described regarding my sansai
udon lunch on Monday the 15th. There are lots of other
indications in my thoughts and feelings.
But the strangest effect has to do with
my dreams. I have long been a believer in the importance of
dreams. There need not be anything supernatural about this; I
think we all recognize that we are divided people, with a
"daylight" half and a "nighttime" half. Call
it "mind" and "spirit" or "conscious" and
"unconscious"; the terms don't matter.
Well, I believe (and this is pure Jung)
that the "nighttime" side communicates with the
"daylight" side via dreams. Dreams are a way for the
non-verbal, a-rational, deepest parts of ourselves to let the
"brain" know what they need. Are we afraid of something?
It will manifest in dreams. Carrying a secret torch for someone?
Dreams will tell it.
I have studied my dreams carefully, and
have become fairly comfortable with interpreting and applying their
messages to my life. Back in the States, I often had friends ask
me to help them with their dreams.
But now...now... My dreams are
totally incomprehensible to me. The people in them are speaking
strange languages. I can't figure out what the situation is in
which the conversations take place. There are objects in my dreams
I can't identify, and there are tasks to be performed that I can't even
discern the point of, let alone figure out how to do them.
I feel like my interior is being
completely demolished. Meta-interpretation: this is a good thing.
The wrecking crew is at work, tearing down the old and making way for
the new. Although I'm distinctly uncomfortable, I am also quite
excited about this.
So tomorrow, it's on to Kochi prefecture,
formerly Tosa-no-kuni, and the bane of olden pilgrims. It's
"The Dojo of Religious Discipline," where the hard work of
spiritual growth begins to take place.
On the advice of many, I will return to
Tokushima and take a train to Kochi City, whence I will continue the
campaign. From where I am now, near Number 23, to Cape Muroto, the
site of Number 24, is over 80 kilometers. That's four days' walking.
The train line stops not too far past Saba Daishi, and the buses are all
locals--no through buses, so lots of weird little connections.
Better to go back around and approach the Cape from the other direction.
And maybe, just maybe, be able to
publish the last two days' pages, which I haven't been able to do for
lack of uplink!