Looking at all the amazing things around the temple grounds
The two-day shukubo program was coming to an end, but before the closing ceremony, the monks took us around the temple grounds to show us all the great buildings, etc.
The tour started from the Niomon Gate, or the front gate/entrance. It was built in 1863, and had two “Kongo Rikishi” guardians of the Buddha.
We then stepped into the Mani-Den, or main hall, again. Here, we gave our brand new goshuincho to the monks — so that we can obtain Seichoji’s original goshuin seal. While waiting, we were given a quick tour inside.
Toward the ceiling was a gorgeous image of a “karajishi,” or ancient mythical Chinese lion, and peony flowers. Legends say that the lion, the strongest and most fearful animal in the world, was afraid of tiny bugs (most likely parasites), getting under his skin and eating him from the inside. These bugs were killed by the peony, however, so karajishis would spend time around these flowers and eating them.
What not to be missed is a tall cedar tree standing in front of the Niomon Gate. At 47 meters tall and with a circumference of 15 meters, it was gigantic…and was very difficult to fit into a photo!
It’s said that the tree, known as the “Thousand Year Cedar of Kiyosumi” and registered as a nationally designated natural monument, is roughly 800 years old. That means, it started growing around the time Nichiren Shonin was staying and training at this temple.
And lastly, Kannondo. This was my most favorite building on the temple grounds, with its warm woody exterior and round windows.
Summing up my two-day Shukubo experience
I’m glad I got to participate in this shukubo program. Although it was only for one day, I was able to take in so much. I was especially happy that I finally got to learn the basics of Buddhism, its teachings, manners and practices.
Before coming to Seichoji Temple, I had this image that the temple stay program is physically demanding, and I was a bit concerned whether my stamina will hold out. Both the dojo training center and lodging facility, however, were surprisingly comfortable; sitting in seiza-style for a majority of the program and doing an hour of yoga did lead to some muscle aches and pains, but that was pretty much it.
Just a word of advice though. Seichoji Temple is located in the mountains, which means it’s most likely going to be colder than what you’d expect/imagine from weather forecast for the city of Kamogawa. For example, while walking to Asahi-Ga-Mori, I was wearing a sweater and a down jacket, but no gloves as I was taking pictures…my fingers quite quickly went numb. Also, the dojo didn’t have any heater, and I ended up wearing two sweaters.
What was most memorable about the program, though, was the conversation I had with the monks over the two days. Most of them were around my age — in their 20s and 30s — but very calm, yet witty and charming. So, when I heard that all of them have gone through “Dai-aragyo,” the Nichiren Buddhism ascetic training, I was simply amazed. This training lasts for 100 days, and consists of performing several rounds of “takigyo” (a ritual conducted under the waterfall) every day, all the while surviving on two very light meals (only rice porridge) and several hours of sleep every night. The rest of the time is spent reciting sutras. When I heard that this takes place in the midst of winter, I had nothing but respect for the young monks.
But, honestly, the sunrise from Asahi-Ga-Mori was one of the best I’ve seen in my entire life, and will definitely stay in my mind and heart for a very long time.
|Address||322-1 Kiyosumi, Kamogawa, Chiba Prefecture|