August 23, 2007,09:32 +0900(JST) A stay in temple lodging on Mt. Koya
Dear blog readers, did you have nice summer holidays? Even in mid summer, Japan can have largely varied weather conditions depending on where you are, because of the Archipelago’s shape, stretching long from north to south, and also depending on the day. Still, about this summer we can say nothing but that it’s been scorchingly hot. On August 16, the country set a new record high atmospheric temperature for the first time in 74 years, at 40.9 degrees Celsius, in Kumagaya City, Saitama Prefecture and Tajimi City, Gifu Prefecture. We can’t simply attribute this to abnormal climatic change, but we can say it’s been an extraordinarily hot summer.
As for my summer holidays, I went to stay on Mt. Koya with my family. Many should already know where Mt. Koya is, since it is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site: it is in the northeastern part of Wakayama Prefecture, some 1,000 meters above sea level. Mt. Koya is one of the sacred sites of Japanese Buddhism where the Great Priest Kobo (774-835) opened a monastic center. Kongobu-ji Temple and other sites are located there. My stay in this special place was a truly wonderful experience.
Walking slowly on a long, stone-paved approach to an inner temple, surrounded by rows of giant cedar trees and reflecting on the history engraved on old, moss-covered tomb stones on the temple premises, I almost lost the notion of time as I became totally relaxed and released from the busyness of everyday life.
We stayed in a temple lodging called Henjoko-in, which has a long and distinguished history. The temple itself was founded by the Great Priest Kobo, about 1,200 years ago, as the quasi-head temple of the Buddhist sect he started. Various cultural assets are still found there. During my stay, I took relaxing hot baths to peel away worldly grime and partook of delightful vegetarian meals and had a little bit of “prajna(wisdom) water” -- meaning sake (Japanese rice wine).
Detached from the world down below in this micro-cosmos of freshness and tranquility, for the first time in my life I took part in a daily practice consisting of Buddha image copying and sutra chanting in the morning. This experience enabled me to simply live each moment to its fullest and feel truly grateful for the gift of life.
For this great experience, I can never fully thank Mr. Y, who recommended this temple stay to me. Despite the intense summer heat that still lingers in the Kansai (western Japan) area, I was able to get back to work in great shape, physically and morally refreshed.