On Fire

I just returned to my room from a fire ceremony.  I think that’s what you would call it.  No one at the monastery in Koyasan where I am staying mentioned it; I heard about it from an Aussie couple who had the room next to mine.

When I went to the monastery website to see if I could find anything, I discovered that it is only in Japanese.  Here is what Google translate tells me about the fire thingy:

Eikan Hou was the eighteenth fellow of Shinto secular practice continuing from the Muromachi era, and the ruler of the country of Satsuma. It is answered.

In addition, the Shingon sect highest secret law “Yaki eight thousand sheets Goma” is trained more than a hundred times, and the enormous legal power is widely known inside and outside the country.

In December 1965, she was admitted to Shinshu Kotobuki, the slogan, and was promoted to the rank of Amida. The following year, he trained the secret law “One Million Pieces Goma Line” which could not be done by anyone in the history of the esoteric religion for 100 days. 

The line of the extraordinary death of roasting 10,000 milk trees and 3 thousand sheets of gargogi on a daily basis was made impossible.

Now, the Ebisu method holder has been praised in many fields as a great-fall outpost.

Perfectly clear, right?

This monastery is obviously doing well financially. They’ve constructed two new shrines on their grounds.  It must have cost a fortune for the highly-skilled woodworkers alone.

I assumed they weren’t finished yet, but my Aussie friends informed me that the fire ceremony took place inside.

Rain was slicing down in sheets as I worked my way around the veranda.  The buildings smelled like newly-hewn cedar, which they were.   I approached a sleek sliding door with a touch-controlled entry, and a man about my age sitting cross-legged on the floor inside waved me in.  I couldn’t very well say no.  Whoosh….inside, the new tatami mats smelled like hay.  Probably because that’s what they’re made of.

A friendly woman, perhaps the man’s wife, smiled and waved me over to a low chair near the front of the enormous prayer hall.  The hall looked like every other inner shrine I have seen in the last three weeks, except that everything was shiny and new.

Also, there was a 10-foot-high scary Buddha of fire.  This being an inner shrine, I assumed photos were not allowed.  Here’s an image of a similar Buddha I found online.

The new Buddha’s eyes were made of some shiny material that made them look like real eyes. It was 10 to one o’clock and although I was ready to fall over from exhaustion (and a very large bowl of noodles I’d had for lunch), I thought, “I can do this. I can stay awake for half an hour.”

I was the only person in the hall besides the kindly couple.  The chair was maybe one foot high and had a back that rose six inches.  At first, I was so grateful that they didn’t expect me to sit on the floor. I sat up straight, closed my eyes, and listened to the rain.  A rain meditation!  That’s what I was doing.  A profound question arose in my mind: Would I have time to stop at Uniqlo in Tokyo tomorrow to pick up a couple pairs of pants before I headed to my Air BnB?  There were more deep ponderings: Did I have the correct bus fare to get out of Koyasan?  How did they clean these tatami mats—did they vacuum them?  Would I have time for a nap before dinner?

I felt my mind go numb and my head droop toward my chest.  I jerked it up just in time to see a tall, beefy monk settle down on the altar and proceed to build a roaring bonfire. I mean it—a four-foot-high raging fire that threw sparks everywhere as the monk cast pine needles and incense into it while he chanted.

He had my attention. I didn’t notice almost two hours pass until I had to heave my creaky bones off the chair.  That was meditation.

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