Day 30 – The Road To Enlightenment – Walking The Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage – Anao-ji Temple #21, and Encountering Divine Help, Kyoto Japan
People tend to believe that Divine help, or angelic assistance, only happens in the most dire of circumstances, when life and death are concerned.
But this is not true.
Divine help is available to all of us ALL THE TIME.
We just need to ask for it, and be aware when it is offered to us.
Even in the world of appearances that we dream we live in, help is available all the time.
Although the Universe (God) will not interfere with your freedom of dream choice, and will not intervene if you choose to do things on your own terms and without help.
We started the morning with a hot drink and some light pastry at Starbucks.
Then we walked west out of the old part of Kyoto, through Sanjo Dori, just south of the Kyoto Nijo castle.
Starbucks was full, although they had removed much of their furniture, to put a bigger distance between guests.
The big cafe looked almost empty, with so much space or distance between seats.
A sign said that from tomorrow, they will be doing only takeaway.
Sanjo Dori is a long covered street, and it was just opening for business as we passed through it early in the morning.
All the shops on the street cater to the locals (not to the tourists), and it felt like business as usual, but there was a hidden heaviness in the air.
I told Jules that in Hebrew, the word “Covid” (כובד) means “Heaviness.”
It sure feels heavy around the world nowadays with covid-19….
The word “Corona” literally means “Aura,” or “Halo,” a “circle of light around a luminous object.”
Anao-ji temple is a small temple, situated in the fields next to the foothills of the western mountain ranges of Kyoto.
It belongs to the Tendai sect of Buddhism.
It was founded by a nobleman called Otomo no Komaro, in the year 705, making it one of the oldest temples in the region.
The main image is a thousand armed healing Kannon, but it was stolen in 1968.
It is still missing.
The garden, the main hall and the Taho Tower, are framed against a scenic backdrop of mountains, and it is said that sunsets are especially beautiful viewed from the temple gardens.
There is an interesting legend associated with the origin of this temple, that was written in the Konjyaku Monogatari (今昔物語), a collection of short stories compiled in the 13th century.
The story tells us that once upon a time, there was a man called Uji no Miyanari, who asked a wood carver to make a statue of the Buddha Kannon Bosatsu.
As payment for the beautiful Kannon, he gave the carver his horse.
However, Miyanari immediately regretted giving up his precious horse, and in a moment of mindlessness, shot and killed the carver with an arrow, and took his precious horse home.
For some time, he resumed his life as if nothing had happened, but eventually started to feel guilty for the carver’s family.
He decided to see how the family was grieving and managing.
When he got there, he found not only the carver alive with his family, but also his own horse in their stables.
Miyanari went home in a cold sweat, his face deathly pale.
When he got home, he found the Kannon statue standing in front of him with an arrow in its head, and its face stained with bloody tears.
The statue then explained how it had turned itself into the woodcarver, thereby not only protecting the woodcarver, but also preventing Miyanari from becoming a killer.
Miyanari built Anao-ji Temple, and enshrined the statue of Kannon Bosatsu alongside a Yakushi Nyorai statue, hoping that all who come can receive healing miracles.
In the year 962, the priest of the temple was shot by a local samurai.
When the warrior entered the temple to steal the rich gold altar pieces, he found the statue of Kannon pierced with an arrow and bleeding from her breast.
The samurai repented and went on to fund many of the temple’s works.
His grave is still standing in the temple grounds.
A lady who seemed to live there came over to talk to us, as we were getting our calligraphy stamps.
She asked where we were from, and expressed her sympathy as to how bad the coronavirus was hurting the USA right now.
She told us that she had visited the USA, and had been to Los Angeles and San Francisco.
A group of pilgrims, all holding their Saigoku pilgrimage stamp books or scrolls, gathered around the office.
It was reassuring to see other people doing the pilgrimage in these times.
It might mean that more of the Saigoku temples will stay open, although it does not guarantee anything….
Each temple has its own administration, and some stay open and charge full admission, but only allow garden visits.
They do not do red seal stamps.
After offering our prayers for the healing of the planet and the return to light of all sentient beings, we started to walk back to Kyoto.
There are two ways to walk from the temple back to Kyoto.
The first way is to walk in the flat areas through a valley between the mountains, through rice fields and rural neighborhoods.
The other way is to go through the mountains, on a long and winding road, that meanders above a river and a gorge.
I was feeling a bit disheartened by the looks and gawking that we were recently getting from people.
People do not expect to see foreigners in Japan now, when foreigners are not allowed into the country or are required to be under quarantine.
Our very presence is looked at with a mixture of awe and fear.
Besides, a recent implication from a friend suggested that perhaps we were asymptomatic virus carriers who are going around, mindlessly infecting and endangering others.
It really hurt to hear this.
It reduced our divinity and our journey and efforts, to make us into physical bags of germs and viruses, selfishly endangering others.
With near tears and a heaviness in my heart, I chose to walk through the mountains, where we will not see one single soul.
I needed to process the pain and anger I was feeling, and see if there was any truth to the accusations.
Before we entered the mountains, we had lunch in a small cafe run by two kind ladies.
They were not scared of us and offered us a table overlooking the river.
They made us a simple but delicious lunch.
The road started at a big park, where we saw people playing, running, and exercising.
Then we passed through a torii gate that was the entrance to the sacred forest.
After about an hour of walking by the Oi River, we saw some signs by the road.
The signs said that the road is closed, and that the hiking course was washed out by mudslides.
It warned us that the road is no longer maintained, and that we might encounter fallen trees and rocks falling from the cliffs.
All this was written only in Japanese.
But the road was not blocked with a barricade, so we decided that if we were to walk on the road, instead of on the hiking path, we would be OK.
We climbed the first mountain pass, which was pretty steep, and we did have to walk over small rocks, sand and fallen trees, but it was definitely passable.
It felt good to sweat out the pain and anger, and to feel physically tired.
On the other side of the wide river, I saw a road crew working on the scenic train line.
The Hozukyo gorge is a tourist attraction offering people who ride the scenic train vast and beautiful views of the mountains.
The mountains were beautiful, and the river was wide and fast flowing.
Our road was very narrow and had many twists and turns.
We arrived at a flat section of the road, where we saw that they had planted many new trees, to replace the ones that were washed out by flooding and mudslides.
From a distance, I could see a road crew with heavy machinery, working on the road ahead of us.
This alarmed me.
We had already gone so far, and had already climbed up and down our first mountain pass, and going back would be such a hassle.
As we got closer, it seemed obvious we would not be able to pass.
The road crew had set up their huge bulldozer in the middle of the road, using stabilizer legs.
The bulldozer took up every inch of the road, between the landslide mountain and the cliffs of the river below.
There was absolutely NO SPACE for us to go to the right or left of the massive bulldozer.
I felt despair as we slowly approached them.
My mind was playing with ideas of what we could do.
I was thinking:
“They will reprimand us for coming up a closed road… well, I could say that the signs were not in English and that I cannot read Kanji, which is absolutely true, so I would not be telling a lie…..
What a bummer,…..we already walked for over two hours to get here, and if we have to go back another two hours, we might not be able to complete the walk….
I guess we could take a train back, and there would be the mountain pass that we would have to do again…. Jules might be mad at me, for it is I who usually push us into adventures that sometimes end up with us in trouble….”
Then I remembered to ask for Divine help.
As we walked towards the crew, I tuned inwards and said a sincere and soft prayer.
I asked my Spiritual Guides for help.
“Please help me now…. I really need your help….”
We had already reached the bulldozer that blocked the road completely, and now we could see that even if the crew wanted us to, there was no way for us to cross.
As if emerging from a cloud, two young men approached the construction zone from the other side of the blocked road.
They were Japanese and dressed in boy scout uniforms, but they were not boys but young men.
I was thinking that perhaps they were boy scout guides or teachers.
They had arrived at the bulldozer blocking the road just a few seconds before we did.
Without speaking a word, they approached the work crew.
To our amazement, the crew let them climb over the bulldozer’s stabilizing legs, which they did quickly and efficiently, clearing the path for us to do the same.
Without saying one word, we followed suit, and climbed over the tall legs.
I had to sit on them and pull my legs up, and Jules followed behind me swiftly.
While we were climbing on the heavy equipment, we thanked the road crew, and they apologized to us for blocking our way.
We could hardly believe it.
They apologized to us for blocking the way, while we were the ones who came up a closed road.
The two uniformed young men had disappeared without a word.
Only after we had climbed up and down another very steep mountain pass and reached the end of the road, which was closed by a gate and barricades, did we realize they might have been divinely sent.
First of all, our road had no other entrances.
Since they came from the other side, they must have climbed over the barricades closing the road, and since they were Japanese, they could read the signs obviously warning people not to enter.
There was also the fact that uniformed boy scouts, especially Japanese, who are orderly and disciplined, would NEVER in a million years climb over barricades forbidding them to enter.
Then there was the fact that we had met at the exact intersection of time and space, where we needed help.
They could have come ten minutes before us, or five minutes after us….
The fact that we had met at the roadblock at exactly the same time, prompted us to call them “The closed road Boy Scout angels.”
Our minds were reeling with thoughts.
Where else in the world would a road crew allow hikers to climb on their heavy equipment….
Surely not in the USA, or NZ, where we would encounter nothing but verbal reprimands for walking up a closed road.
Maybe in East Asia where the cultures are gentler….
Then I realized that the worst is always in my mind.
I am so used to living under controlling governments and dealing with aggressive behavior, that I still tend to imagine the worst outcome.
So many times the Universe has sent me messages to confirm that my journey through time and space is NOT random, but I am still shaky….
The long walk took us down to the preserved Torimoto street, in the very scenic Arashiyama neighborhood of Kyoto.
Normally this area is full of tourists, but today not only were the tourists missing, but almost everything was closed.
My phone flashed a news alert, that the Japanese government had extended the state of emergency to all prefectures nationwide.
This is going to be interesting….
Now, we are pretty much stuck in Japan, without the ability to fly anywhere.
All countries in Asia have closed their borders, as has much of Europe, and there are no flights going on to many ports, as all countries have closed their borders.
We will have to stick to our plan, and see what will unfold….
It was not easy to get dinner in central Kyoto.
Most places have closed down, or at least in our fear based frame of mind, we did not spot many open places.
We headed towards the district of Gion, where we knew some places we loved to eat at.
We entered the first place we saw that was open.
We had a Tofu dinner set, which was absolutely delicious.
It included boiled tofu in a wooden bucket with a dipping sauce, Goma tofu made from sesame seeds, roasted mochi on skewers with different kinds of miso paste on each one, cooked Yuba, which is tofu skin, and a cooked tofu patty with herbs in a light soy broth.
The set was completed with pickles, rice and a miso soup.
We couldn’t believe how good everything tasted after our long walk in the mountains, crossing very steep mountain passes and encountering angelic help….
May divine love help us all…..
With love and light,
Tali and Jules
Steps walked – 40,504
30 km. walked
Active walking time – 7 hours
Total walking time today – 9 hours.
Total walking distance on the Saigoku to date – 597 km
Anao-ji, Temple #21 菩提山 穴太寺 in Kyoto