Day 3 – The Tokyo 33 Temple Kannon Pilgrimage

Day 3 – The Tokyo 33 Temple Kannon Pilgrimage

This morning we woke up to a very cold and rainy day.
The sky was dark grey, which seemed to set the mood for the day.
I had an ambitious plan to visit ten temples today, since they are all located in a straight line between Minato in the north and Shinagawa in the south.

But walking outdoors proved to be cold and unpleasant, especially when the cold rain turned into snow.

At Temple #20, the lady was surprised to see visitors on such a rainy day.
She invited us to pray inside the Hondo hall, while she stamped our book and scroll.
After praying for the healing of the planet, we put on our shoes and wet day packs and got ready to go.
The lady gifted us a 2020 calendar with beautiful drawings of some of the temples along our route.

From there, we walked to Temple #28.
Again, the lady invited us into the Hondo to pray while she stamped our book.
We clasped our hands in front of the Kannon Goddess and prayed for the healing of all beings from this recent virus madness and of the planet.

The small temple is overshadowed by the big Tokyo Tower.
The temple once was a very large temple that owned the land on which the Tokyo tower now stands.

The wind had gotten stronger when we left, and we started to look around for a cafe in which to warm up.

Temple #21, Zojoji, is a very big temple with huge grounds and lovely old trees.
The temple dates back to the 14th century, and houses the mausoleum of the the Tokugawa family, including the remains of six shōguns.

This garden is filled with stone Jizo statues, representing unborn children lost to miscarriages, abortions, or stillbirths. Some of the statues are decorated with clothes, and families bring toys, in order to help them through the grieving process. Almost all of the Jizo sculptures had brightly colored whirligigs, which spun madly with each gust of wind.

It was nice to be and pray in a big temple, full of staff and monks where we felt welcomed, instead of the small temples that felt like we were intruding on the women who were cleaning and cooking.

At Saikai-ji, Temple #26, we were greeted coldly by a nervous woman who was not happy to see wet foreigners at her door.
But she took our book and scroll and went to the back.
To the right the Hondo Buddha Hall was open, well lit and with rows of chairs.
We took off our shoes and walked in to chant the Buddha’s Heart Sutra.

When we finished, the old monk came over to us looking angry.
He told us we should never enter a Hondo without asking for permission.
This was a first.
We have never been yelled at before for offering prayers for humanity at a Buddhist temple, even a small one that is family owned.

We apologized again and again, and his wife apologized for us in turn.
We walked out into the cold, rainy day feeling much less loving kindness than when we entered.

As if to warm us up, at the next temple, Temple #25, the friendly old lady refused to accept money for the stamps, saying it is her pleasure.

Temple #25 is called Gyogan-ji, and there is an interesting story attached to it..

The main image in Gyoran-ji is a hidden 18 cm Kannon whose origins go back to the ninth century in China.
There lived a beautiful young woman who was a fish seller. The young woman declared that she would only marry her suitor if he became Buddhist, and was able to memorize and recite the entire Lotus Heart Sutra.

The young man did as she asked, but on the morning of their wedding day, she passed away, leaving all in terrible grief.

A passing monk declared that she was in fact none other than Kannon, the Bodhisattva of Compassion.
When the mourners examined her remains, they found that her bones had turned to gold.

Centuries later her remains were brought to Japan and eventually placed here in Gyoran-ji, along with the main image of the Bodhisattva Kannon.

From there, we went to a Starbucks cafe and warmed up and had some tea.

We were still processing our feelings from Saikai-ji temple, where the monk had reproached us.
We talked about it and decided that we were indeed wrong.
We should have asked for permission to enter to pray, even though the lights were on, the door open and there were seats to welcome people.
Maybe the monk kept those seats only for people who pay to have pujas, and so he was not happy to allow other people in.
Maybe it was coronavirus fears, who knows.
We were wrong and we needed to get over it.

Doo-ji, Temple #27, is a very modern building.
The monk and his wife refused to stamp our book and scroll because of the Coronavirus.

We were so surprised.
The wife spoke excellent English and she said they were not doing any “Go-Shuin” stamping for two weeks, or until the Coronavirus scare passes.

We showed her the scroll with all the stamps that we have collected in the past few days, and said that all the temples are operating normally, but she was adamant.
Eventually she agreed to sell us two pieces of paper with a seal and stamp on each, to glue into our scroll and book.

It was a reminder to me that Buddhist temples do not always operate on the teaching of the Buddha.
Like some of the Christian Churches that do not fully understand the enlightened teachings of Jesus, some Buddhist temples are all about performing rituals and doing pujas.

This was getting to be a bit too much for me.
The cold weather, walking in the wet snowy rain, the monk who yelled at us, the woman who refused to stamp because of the coronavirus, and the thought that maybe more temples along our way would be as crazy, all made me decide that after visiting the next temple, we should stop for the day.

Luckily, the next temple, Temple #29, was a big temple with many staff at the Go-Shuin office, all of whom were eager to stamp our book and scroll.
It took us awhile to figure out where was the buzzer, because they had closed all the windows to keep out the cold.

From there, we called it quits and went to eat an early dinner at a sushi restaurant.
After drinking six cups of green tea and eating good nigiri sushi, we went to run some errands and buy a few things that we needed for our upcoming long pilgrimage.

We tried to go into two different Starbucks cafes on our way home, but could not find one seat in any of them.
So we headed back to our hotel to shower and to sleep.

A part of me was feeling disheartened.
What is the use of all these rituals….
Why am I doing this….
I do not need to chant and pray for the well being of others, nor to ‘help others.’
Those who are ready to hear, will find ways to discover the truth anyway….
Rituals just make us rigid…

I knew I had to let go of my self pity and sleep it off.
Tomorrow is a new day.
The sun will be shining and new experiences will meet my way.

Sending you light and many blessings,

Daily stats:
Steps walked- 23,138
17.5 km. walked
Active walking time – 4.5 hours
Total walking time today – 7 hours

Temples visited:

Temple #20

Temple #21
Zojoji Temple

Temple #25

Temple #26
Saikaiji Temple

Temple #27

Temple #28

Temple #29
Kōyasan Tōkyō Betsuin Temple

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