Shikoku Pilgrimage

Iwayaji Temple Japan- My Favorite Place in the World

I’m not the type of person to have favorites. Whether they are movies, places, people, authors or anything else. My tastes and my boredom levels change too quickly to push any one place above another. But when I was asked by the Lonely Planet Blogsherpa Carnival to write about my favorite place in the world, I knew immediately where it was, the back side of Iwayaji Temple on Shikoku Japan. A Little Background Iwayaji Temple is the 45th temple on the Pilgrimage to the 88 Buddhist Temples of Shikoku, located in Ehime Prefecture. The pilgrimage, covering 1,200-1,400 kilometers depending on who you believe, is Japan’s most famous and visited pilgrimage. Still going strong after more than 1,000 years, legend attributes the pilgrimage to the founder of Shingon Buddhism, Kobo Daishi who was born and gained enlightenment on the Island of Shikoku. Not satisfied with just enlightenment, he also created the Read full article…

Sexual Secrets of a Japanese Buddhist Temple

Japan is full of secrets hidden in plain view. To the casual observer Japan is a conservative and reserved society. Even those “breaking” with conformity tend to gather together and dress alike. But as most Japan insiders know, scratch the surface just a little and shocking secrets can come to light. I discovered one such secret while visiting a rural Japanese Buddhist temple on the island of Shikoku. While walking the Shikoku Pilgrimage, a 900 mile route which hits 88 Buddhist temples, I stopped for a rest at a simple mountain village temple in Ehime Prefecture. Sitting between Temples 65 and 66, Jofuku-ji Tsubaki-do, is an unassuming and polite temple. Precise cedar beams mirror the thoughtful manicured garden as every detail of the clean temple grounds  was carefully planned out.  Japanese temples are wonderful places that incorporate the the more mundane concerns of folk religion right alongside the loftier goals Read full article…

The Hermit in Seclusion

Deep rumbling chants rolled out of the cedar temple, pushed by the rhythmic precision of the perfectly timed drums, as the Buddhist monk led the daily dawn service. The morning air was crisp and carried the scent of pine and earth from the remote Japanese mountaintop. Prayer beads wrapped around my left hand, 108 plastic balls reminding me of my earthly sins, I knelt Japanese style in a dimly lit temple wondering if feeling would ever return to my feet. Gold ringlets hung from the ceiling, radiating above a thousand armed statue of the Bodhisattva of Compassion sitting directly in front of me. One hour later, my prayers were answered. The monk concluded the ceremony and encouraged us to relax our legs before he spoke about the Buddha’s teachings. Sighs of restrained relief and pain filled the dim temple as seven Japanese pilgrims sitting on either side of me shifted Read full article…

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