Ruth: Until today we had one incomplete page in our henro stamp book, the one reserved for Koyasan. This morning we took two trains, a cable car and a bus and arrived at the final resting place of Kobo Daishi: Koyasan. I say resting place, because to his followers he is not dead but has been in a state of deep meditation since the 9th century.
Koyasan is a large monastic community established by Kobo Daishi. It is located in the mountains near Wakayama at over 800 meters. There are at least 55 monasteries that offer accommodation here, but we chose to just visit for the day.
Yesterday Gord asked me what I planned to say to the Saint when we reached his mausoleum. I was surprised and unprepared for the question and responded with just, “Thank you”. Gord was completely disappointed with this response and had apparently prepared a much better speech for himself.
If I thought that Kobo Daishi was actually listening to me I might have quite a bit to say. I would certainly let him know how I have appreciated the opportunity to follow in his footsteps around such a beautiful island. I would say that I am grateful to all the wonderful people we met on Shikoku who helped me to feel better about humanity. I would also tell him that practicing a slow and simple life mindfully for 55 days has shown me that my whirlwind multi-tasking habits push me further away from what I actually seek.
Gordon: Our visit to Koyasan was spent almost entirely in the graveyard. It stretches through an ancient cedar forest for almost two kilometres, and has more than 200,000 funerary markers. I am a big fan of cemeteries, and the one at Koyasan is the most fascinating and beautiful that I have visited.
The highlight of the cemetery is, of course, the tomb of Kobo Daishi, located at the far end. In my own reporting conversation with him, I also expressed my gratitude for the opportunity to visit his old haunts on Shikoku. I also told him that I benefited from reading and thinking about the Heart sutra 111 times. I did have to be honest with him, however, and admit that much of Shingon Buddhism did not resonate with me. There is too much weird animism, including the cult of Kobo Daishi. In many ways it merges with Shinto, which is an animist religion. The esoteric nature of the Shingon sect also seems like a spiritual pyramid scheme to me. The pilgrimage did not change my agnostic view of the world, but it did, hopefully, leave me more mindful in my day to day life.