Shikoku Pilgrimage – Tairyūji, Temple of the Great Dragon (Temple 21), and a rest day
I regret not describing to you more fully how stunning the old temples we are visiting on this pilgrimage really are.
They are national treasures and real places of power.
Luckily, today, we had lots of time to explore and enjoy Tairyūji, the temple of the Great Dragon.
This morning we woke up to a sunny and bright day.
It seemed as if yesterday’s storm had never happened.
Even the parking lot of the cable car was completely dry by early morning.
We had breakfast at 7:00, returned to our room and meditated, dressed, and took the large cable car up to the mountaintop.
In this large gondola, a narrator rides with the passengers in every car.
They tell you when to hold on when the gondola shakes a bit, show you the hole in the floor through which you can see the scenery below, point out highlights of the view and explain what you are looking at.
We saw the very distant peak of temple 20 from which we had walked the day before,
a large bronze sculpture of Kukai, sitting in meditation position on a remote and impossible to reach cliff, and bronze sculptures of a pack of wolves that used to live in these mountains.
Nowadays, there are no wolves, but other animals like deer roam the mountains surrounding the temple.
In a nearby mountain there are also bears.
The temple of the dragon is the site where Kōbō Daishi performed the Gumonjihō, reciting the Mantra of the Morning Star, (Kokūzō) one million times.
He was only 15 at that time when he meditated on this summit of Mt. Tairyū.
He later returned here to built a temple on the same location by the order of Emperor Kammu.
It took the young Kōbō Daishi 50 days to recite the Mantra of Kokūzō on the peak of this mountain.
(Jules adds that Kokūzō is also the protective guardian deity for those born in the year of the ox, as he was.)
Yet, according to Kobo Daishi’s own writings, he was unsuccessful in reaching the enlightenment that he was desperately searching for.
(Surprise, surprise…. He was only 15 and chanting alone does not lead to enlightenment. One needs a base of knowledge and experience as well.)
But he did get a glimpse of the Truth because it motivated him to continue his search for the Buddha within, and he vowed to go to Cape Muroto to continue his training.
Later on in our pilgrimage, we will visit Cape Muroto as well.
Gumonjihō does result in the ability to remember everything seen and heard, and has been practiced since the 8th century to aid in memorizing sutras.
Kukai was able to utilize his power to quickly and accurately memorize the Buddhist sutras and mandalas transmitted to him during his journey to China.
On the esoteric level, its purpose is to deepen the samadhi state in order to experience full enlightenment.
The temple is located at an elevation of 610 meters (2,000 ft) and is considered a Nansho even though there is now a cable car which can take you to the top.
The temple has many beautiful buildings with a breathtaking collection of wood carvings.
The Hondo’s (main hall) upper level and beams are entirely carved with intricate dragons, lions, Angels and Buddhist images.
I love the mythical dragons.
I was born in the year of the water dragon and I often add them to many of my paintings.
They hold much poetic symbolism for me.
There are several painted screens inside the halls and on one of the ceilings, there is a beautiful painting of a dragon.
It is said that this is the only temple which was both founded by Kōbō Daishi and where he served as the head priest.
As an adult, Kōbō Daishi meditated and fasted here for 100 days, facing the temptations of delusions and dreams that masked themselves as a beautiful woman, (leading to lust and cravings), a terrible dragon, (leading to fear and superstitions) and other forms.
But he conquered those shadowy spirits and later was able to perform many miracles, both for himself and for others.
The area is honeycombed with meditation caves, among them the Dragon Cave.
After visiting the temple, we figured out which way we should go tomorrow, when we continue our pilgrimage to temple 22.
We had our first full lunch sitting down since we started this pilgrimage.
It was so nice to enjoy hot food and hot tea in a dry and spacious restaurant at the base of the cable car.
We slept for an hour in the afternoon, which felt like real luxury, and soaked in the hot springs baths for two hours.
Dinner was delicious, with Mountain Potato Croquets, fish eggs, a small local grilled fish, a salad, miso soup, rice, pickles and a slice of apple for dessert.
At night, as I reflected on yesterday’s hike, I was able to laugh at myself.
I am carrying a small inner dragon in the form of my ego with its many false ideas, past memories, wrong concepts, cravings and misjudgments of situations, people and intentions.
I will give you a rambling example of the voice of this small dragon in my mind, and how it sounds:
“Who walks in this pouring rain?
No one! That’s who!
Look around you, do your see ANY other pilgrims walking in this downpour?
Only you and Jules are crazy enough to walk in this rain.
You DO believe in hardship, don’t tell me you do not!
Walking towards enlightenment!
What a preposterous idea!
You’d make MUCH better strides forward sitting in your home in NZ in meditation.
Remember all the insights that you got there recently?
Talk about places of power, your own house in NZ is one of the MOST powerful places you ever visited!
Look, look there….. I think it is a car dealership.
I am not saying anything, just look inside through the windows.
You see the couple signing a contract to buy a new car inside?
They do not look rich.
These tiny, midget cars could not cost that much….
Ten thousand dollars tops!
Why are you walking away?
Why do you keep on walking in this pouring rain?
Only ten thousand dollars buys you a tiny cute car and you will be zooming through the Shikoku pilgrimage in two weeks.
I am not lazy and I do not mind walking, but why hike in this pouring rain?
Ok, you do not want to stop?
Think of all the beautiful hillside art museums that you will not get to see because you are on foot…
Think of all the gardens, the wonderful hotels, the historical sights that are not located on the pilgrim’s path….you will not be able to see any of them if you do not buy this little car….
You can buy FIVE cars.
You could charge it on your credit card.
It is not too much money.
Why don’t you EVER listen to me?
Great, now you are too far away to go back to the dealership….
Oh, look there, there is a bus stop.
Let me see…. They come on the hour…
Yes! There is a bus coming in ten minutes!!!!
Two dollars and you’ll be on top of the mountain in thirty minutes!
Why are you walking away?
It is only two dollars….
Ok, keep on going
At least buy me an ice cream if I have to drag myself around Shikoku with you….”
Anyway…. I do not wish to burden you with my nonsense any longer.
I will wish you a good night or a good day, (depending on what part of the earth you are located in now), and I will end with a small poem
Mind at Peace
When the mind is at peace,
The world too is at peace.
Nothing is real,
Nothing is absent.
Not holding on to reality,
Not getting stuck in the void,
You are neither holy nor wise,
Just an ordinary fellow
Who has completed his work….
By P’ang Yün (龐蘊 Hõ Un – The Enlightened Heart 34)
Day 9 (May 17th 2016)
Our location on the earth:
A Rest Day – Temple Visited:
T21 – Tairyūji (太竜寺) –Temple Of The Great Dragon – A Nansho