2007/01/14

Change of Heart

Following Shinran Shonin's footsteps, we went looking for another temple where he had spent some time nearly eight hundred years ago. This was not easy as his tracks have long be convered by paved roads, a rail line and new construction. The area is not densely populated, however and unspoiled mountains and rice field predominate the scene.

I had studied as many maps as I could, as the temple we were looking for is off the beaten track. I would not have even known where to begin had it not been for the fact that Rev. Thomas Okano, head of the Buddhist Study Center at the University of Hawaii, Honolulu, had written about visiting there last year with a group of "pilgrims" from Hawaii, California, and Belgium. Complicating our navigation was the construction of a new highway in the area and resulting detours and changes (read lack) of signage for the highway we needed to find.

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We finally assured ourselves we where headed in the right direction and as we neared, the bright BLUE tile roof of Daikaku-ji revealed itself, no, shouted its presence against the lush green backdrop of Itajiki-san.

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The bare branches of trees cast their shadows on the temple wall in the afternoon sun.

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A phoenix and dragon adorn the front gate.

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The wisteria crest design delicately cut to form a grill above one of the windows. This temple was rebuilt after the war, but the woodwork and craftsmanship is superb and well worthy of the temple's history.

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The garden is designed after the Zen temple Tenryu-ji in Kyoto with elements of the style of the Katsura Rikyu (Imperial detached palace) garden. These are both places which Pandabonium and K have visited, the latter requiring at least a month's prior permission from the Imerial Household Agency. (Perhaps I'll post about them in the future if I can digitize those photos.)

An interesting incident took place involving Itajiki-san (Mt. Itajiki) which is depicted in a scroll with 15 panels made by Shinran's grandson Kakunyo in 1295 that illustrates the life of Shinran.


Shinran declared himself to be neither priest nor layman, and said he had no disciples, only friends who walked the same path. Yet, as his following grew, it made some jealous. One such person was a yamabushi (mountain dwelling ascetic monk) called Bennen. Bennen had become so jealous that he want to kill Shinran. He lay in wait many times in a gorge of Itajiki-san which Shinran frequently traversed in his travels, but did not succeed in ambushing him. Frustrated, he decided to go to Shinran's hermitage and confront him.

The upper panel of the scroll depicts the story. Bennen came to Shinran's house, but the moment Bennen saw Shinran’s calm and composed face, his evil intent disappeared. Bennen wept tears of repentance, and became the Shinran’s disciple on the spot. Shinran gave Bennen a new name, Myoho-bo.

Engraved on a rock on Itajiki-san, there is a poem which Myoho-bo wrote in his later years regarding this experience. It reads:
The mountains remain the same,
As do the trees and streams...
All that has changed
Is my heart.


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It was time for us to return home. Our one day pilgrimage had offered beautiful vistas and encompassed Shintoism, ancient history, ceramic arts, and Buddhism; filling our hearts with joy and our minds with stories and memories to contemplate and discuss for a long while to come.

5 comments:

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

What a lovely day you had. We all need days like these to savour, to reflect upon and put us in good stead for the ordinary days. You seem to be very far from the maddening crowds of Tokyo so when you go up/down to the city do you have culture shock?
W.

The Moody Minstrel said...

I know I do!

Pandabonium said...

W - we've spent a few nights in Tokyo while sight seeing a few years ago. Other than that it takes something REALLY REALLY important or special (passport issue or special art exhibit) to get me there and I try to spend a half day and get out of there.

The noise, crowds, and bad air drive me nuts and why is everyone in such a darned hurry? I don't even like to think about it.


MM - I'm hip.

Martin J Frid said...

Great photos. You really capture the essence of things. Always a joy.

Pandabonium said...

Thanks, Martin. I want to go back to Kasama City. There is much to see and learn there. K found out that it is possible to stay at Daikaku-ji so perhaps we'll do that sometime.