Quiet tea, talky tea

Butsuma--a space for the Buddha. Chanoma--a space where people drink tea, eat, chat.

Monday, August 29, 2011

'How-to' from a magazine

Ikkojin 一個人

Ikkojin is a monthly magazine about art, history and culture, with a slightly hipper, younger slant than the subjects might suggest. It is lavishly illustrated with great photos and dynamic layouts. The October 2011 issue features an introduction to Japanese temples. There is an article about the current exhibition at the Tokyo National Museum: 'Kukai and the art of esoteric Buddhism.' Another article surveys the head temples of 13 Buddhist sects. One sidebar is an outline of your basic temple visit--listing eight points, most of which I covered earlier in a much clumsier manner. You may find somewhat more detail if you look at older posts on this blog, but here is the magazine's outline (my translation, with additional comments by me in parentheses).

1. In front of the main gate (山門)put your hands together and bow (this is a way to mark off the start of your visit--'entering the zone' as it were. Of course, just going through the gate puts you into the zone physically; the gasho and bow are the psychological start).

2. At the ablution station (水屋)purify your hands and mouth.

3. Walk along the edge of the worshippers' path (参道)(I think walking along the edge is practical, to allow two-way traffic, and also to be more humble than to walk grandly in the middle of the path.)

4. Offer candles and/or incense. (I think the temples usually make a bit of profit on these, so it is a financial donation as well as being an offering from the heart.)

5. In front of the temple building, put some money in the box. (Usually one coin--I am usually feeling cheap, so I just put in ten yen. If I am feeling flush, I put in the first coin I take from my coin purse--it could be a 500-yen coin, worth more than five bucks these days. As I mentioned earlier, the amount is pretty much irrelevant, but probably it should be enough to make you feel good about it.)

6. Rattle the wani-guchi (鰐口)gong. (I didn't mention this earlier--it is a biscuit-shaped hollow gong with a slit opening halfway around the outer edge. The name means 'alligator mouth.' I didn't mention this earlier, because not all temples have them, and not many people use them--maybe the racket would disturb the calm temple atmosphere. I associate them more with shrines than temples, but that is just me.)

7. Place your hands together and offer a prayer. (At Pure Land temples, I have seen signs that say 'Don't make prayer requests.' We are protected by Buddha whether we request things or not.)

8. As you leave the precincts, turn toward the main hall and bow with hands together.

In the pictures, you can see a wani-guchi gong on the Hall of the Medicine Buddha--the red and white rope with the bead will sound the gong.

A water ablution station with a spout in the form of a double dragon. Water dragons support Buddhism even though, since they are not human, they cannot attain Buddhahood/enlightenment. However, a princely son of the dragon king was once netted by fishermen when he had assumed the form of a fish. Kuan Yin/Avalokitesvara persuaded the fishermen to return the fish to the sea, and the dragons have been grateful ever since.

The 'sando' worshippers' path at the temple Enyuji on a quiet day. The Hall of Sakyamuni could be six or seven hundred years old--at any rate, it is the oldest wooden building in the 23 central wards of Tokyo. There is a waniguchi hanging under the eave, above the donation box, but there is no rope for sounding it.

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