Sunday, October 16, 2005
We are home from our Buddhist Adventure and I have so much to tell you, I feel absolutely overwhelmed. We saw and did so much; one letter couldn't do it justice. Each sense was stimulated. The sights were magnificent, the sounds were serene, the smells were not of this earth, the tastes were different and the feel was calming and stimulating all at the same time. We went to Mt Koya, a Buddhist RetreatMt Koya is to Buddhist in Japan, the pinnacle of the religious pyramid. First I know you know this about the Japanese and religion. Japan has two major religions, Shintoism and Buddhism, with Christianity following a distant third. If you ask a Japanese person if they are Buddhist, they will tell you they are, but they can and often are also Shinto and even Christian (This must really drive Christian missionaries nuts, as they think they have a convert and find that really don't) They do not believe that you just must practice one religion exclusively and they don't even understand that concept. They marry in the Shinto church, they bury their dead in the Buddhist tradition and celebrate Christmas all at the same time, and it is all very logical to them.Anyway, Mt Koya is a beautiful mountaintop, where Esoteric Buddhism is practiced. (I hope you don't want an explanation of that, because while I learned a lot about the practice, I didn't learn anything about the different nuances of Buddhism, that study would probably take the rest of my life)Esoteric Buddhism was started by Kukai, (Kobo Daishe is what he is called now) 774-835. Kukai was from an aristocrat family but turned to Buddhism while in University. Basically, he went to China to study Buddhism and returned to bring his teachings to the Japanese. Upon arrival in Japan he was met by a young man with two dogs, a white dog and a black dog and the young man told him the dogs would guide him to the mountain, which they did, they took him to the base of Mt Koya and there he met an old woman. (I don't really know if I understood what the old woman had to do with the story, but it is significant in some way)Kukai turned out to be a great leader and he attracted a large following and now Mt Koya has many temples, cemeteries, monasteries, etc. His mausoleum is there, as he wanted to be buried along side a river deep in the mountains. Now his mausoleum is at the top of a huge cemetery where most of Japans great and near great families have their monuments. The older part of the cemetery consists of old Samurai families, the newer section has monuments from the wars, Nissan has a huge monument dedicated to employees who died of injuries on the job, and just rich families who can afford it. There are over a half million monuments at this cemetery, which gives you some idea of the Japanese economy. I understand that what they do is divide the ashes of the deceased and one part is buried on Mt Koyo and the other part is buried in a cemetery in the person’s hometown.