The four countries are all over the road, the way of pilgrimage from monk to common people

Although Japan’s ancient road culture is long, it has not been left out in the cold in the new era. For thousands of years, new pilgrims have continuously embarked on the pilgrimage road, continuing the beliefs of the predecessors. Just take the first step and you will follow the ancient mark and move on. Perhaps this is the reason why the Four Kingdoms Road is still remembered by people today after more than 1,200 years.

In the minds of Japanese people, Bianji is as representative as Ise-san (Ise Shrine) and Kumano-san (Sanzan Kumano), and it is a journey of spiritual practice that takes a pilgrimage once in a lifetime. Bento was registered as a Japanese heritage in 2015, and was selected as one of the 100 best historical roads in Japan in 2019. It is currently moving towards being registered as a world heritage.

Explore the 88 temples of Master Konghai
Since ancient times, Shikoku has been a “side land” and “side road” far from the capital, and a place to cross the sea to the pure land of the other side. Since the Nara period, monks and practitioners have been hiking along the coast, that is, the frontier practice. The descriptions of practitioners in the Shikoku frontier can be seen in the “Collections of the Past and the Past” and “The Secrets of Liang Chen” compiled in the Heian era. The origin of the beliefs in the Four Kingdoms is believed to be a blend of mountain beliefs, ocean beliefs, Guanyin beliefs, and pure land beliefs. The term “Bianlu” and “bianlu” is also credible.

Wearing white clothes, wearing a sage hat, holding a vajra staff, and wearing a round robe, Bianlusang walks through the dense forest of the ancient temple, like a timeless rebirth of an ancient painting.

Bianlu is a representative travel-type pilgrimage road in Japan, connecting 88 temples in the four prefectures of Shikoku, and each temple is regarded as the spiritual field of the founder of Shingon Tantra, Kokai, the 88 Buddhist temple. The whole journey is about 1,400 kilometers, and it takes at least 40 days to walk. Fortunately, the scenery along the way is changeable, with steep mountain roads, long stone steps, demure countryside and beautiful bays. Bianlusang (pilgrim), dressed in white, wearing a sage hat, holding a vajra staff, and wearing a round robe, walks through the dense forest of the ancient temple, like a timeless rebirth of an ancient drawing.

Such a long journey is also the cultivation of the human mind, and it has to go through 4 dojos before and after. The 1-23 Banzhsho in Tokushima Prefecture (Awa Country) is the Fashin Dojo, from which the ambition of penance was established. The 24-39 Banzha in Kochi Prefecture (Tosa Country) is a practice site to realize the journey of hard struggle with oneself. The 40-65 Panzasho in Ehime Prefecture (Iyokuni) is the dojo of Bodhi, so the confusion has been solved one by one. The 66-88 Panzasho in Kagawa Prefecture (Sanuki Kingdom) is the dojo of Nirvana, and the wish is formed to enlightenment. After all the patrols are completed, go to Koyasan Okunoin Temple to pay homage, which is the most complete.

After the Heian Era, esoteric ideology emerged in various parts of Japan, and the faith of Kobo Masters also reached its peak, gradually integrating with the beliefs of the four kingdoms. Kokai Master Kukai was born in the country of Sanuki in 774 AD, which is now Zentsuji City, Kagawa Prefecture. The young name is a real fish, and has been brilliant since childhood. When he was a teenager, he read the scriptures, went to Nagaokakyo to study at the age of 15, and entered university at the age of 18. When I was in college, I got acquainted with the ascetics of Mount Yoshino and Katsuragi, which was greatly influenced. Regardless of the opposition of the people around him, he resolutely dropped out of school and pursued the law, went to Shichushan, Otaki-dake, and Muroto Cape in Shikoku to practice hard. He wrote the “Sanjiao Zhigui” and other classics and changed his name to Kukai. At the age of 31, as an envoy to the Tang Dynasty, he was appreciated by Huiguo, a monk from Qinglong Temple in Chang’an, and learned the secret methods of Esoteric Buddhism. After returning to Japan, Shingon Buddhism was founded. Koyasan and Toji became the two strongholds of Shingon Buddhism, which brought new styles to the Japanese Buddhist world and contributed to the popularization of education and the development of social undertakings. In 835, it was settled in Koyasan. To celebrate his achievements, Emperor Daigo bestowed the title of Kobo Master in 921.

As the master’s beliefs became more and more profound, including the eminent monks of various sects, including Westward, Dao Fan, Zhenji, Faran, Kongye, and Yibian, the number of practitioners who followed the master’s footprint gradually increased. The monks rushed to the four countries for ascetic journeys from various places, and the places of worship also overlapped with the current places of worship. Many people think that the prototype of the Four Kingdoms is the beginning, and this is also the origin of the theory that Master Kofa created the Four Kingdoms. Many legends of the master still circulate in Shikoku. Among them is the story of Saburo Uemon, who is known as the originator of Shikoku. Uemon Saburo was originally a unique villain in the world. Later, he was enchanted by a begging monk in the form of a master, and left his hometown time and time again to start his pilgrimage to Shikoku. When he set foot on the road for the 21st time, he fell down at the foot of the 12th Fanshaoshan Temple due to too much fatigue, and finally saw the beggar monk incarnation of the master again while he was still alive. The master accepted his apology, buried him in the local area, and fulfilled his wish to be born in the house of Kono, the lord of Iyo, in the next life. The cane that the master stood in front of Saburo’s tomb later grew into a huge cedar, which is also the origin of Shanzhangan, the sacred field of Fanwai.

“Popularization” everywhere
From the Kamakura period to the Muromachi period, most of the people who visited the road were monks and practitioners. In the Edo period, the form of worship at 88 Zasho became fixed and became popular. In the middle of the Edo period, the pilgrimage of the general public reached its peak. This also heralds the improvement of the social status of ordinary people, who can freely leave the area where they live. In 1687, the monk Zhennian published the first guidebook “Shikoku Side Road Guide”, which included detailed information including the number of the temple and the situation of the temple, and made a substantial contribution to the popularization of the road. The Father of Everywhere”. In 1783, Hosoda Zhouying published “The Four Kingdoms Partial Ceremony Drawings”, which complemented the content of the guide, and provided more comprehensive guidelines for the travellers, and also increased the number of ordinary travellers.

At that time, there even appeared “professionals everywhere”, that is, people who traveled everywhere as their profession, a large part of them were patients and poor refugees. Because of the free “reception” culture all over the road, these people who cannot survive in their hometowns have no choice but to embark on the road of patrolling. Relying on the reception of the villagers along the way, he may have to walk on the road over and over again throughout his life without stopping, and the white clothes on his body also show the determination to die. In fact, some people have never returned to their hometowns. There are still many tombs in the Four Kingdoms that are not destined for Buddha. However, this also gave birth to some “bad all-roads”, “pseudo-all-roads,” and “begging all-roads” under the guise of theft and begging under the guise of Wanlu, which once led to the tightening of regulations on Wanlu by various vassals.

At the beginning of the Meiji era, Wanlu ushered in a downturn. This is inseparable from the separation order from the gods and the Buddha at that time, and the abolition of the Buddha’s destruction and interpretation movement launched by this as an opportunity. Among the Buddhist temples, there are not a few temples in which the gods and Buddhas are in harmony. They have been greatly affected by the abandonment of the temples and the reduction of the territory, and the number of patrollers has also been drastically reduced. After the mid-Meiji period, prosperity was restored again, and various forms of pilgrims such as praying for recovery from illness and seeing it as adult passing ceremonies began to emerge. In the Showa era, with the development of automobiles and railways, a new form of “cars all over the road” was born. As a result, different from the traditional beliefs and practice of “walking all over the road”, the more popular recreational “traveling all over the road” has triggered another popular road fever. Indispensable among the tourism elements is the public’s pursuit of spiritual stability under the background of material expansion.

The first Lingshan Temple on the road. Legend has it that it was created in the 8th century, and the deity is a statue of Sakyamuni.

Go to the 21st Tailong Temple on the road. Legend has it that in the youth Kumi was hindered by the evil dragon while practicing here, and the magic sword of the Void Tibetan Bodhisattva flew over and repelled the evil dragon.

The statue of Master Kofa will always appear at the right time, like a miracle.

Enshrine the stone Buddhas along the road.

Entering the 21st century, Japan’s economic downturn and social unrest has soared. As a result, people who seek self-healing and explore their own hearts have become the mainstream. The rest places, roads, and environment along the way have been prepared and improved to a certain extent, the number of people on foot has rebounded, and the number of pilgrims from overseas has also increased significantly compared with before.

However, unlike the pilgrimage routes such as St. James in Spain, the order of the pilgrimage is flexible and does not require one-time completion. Therefore, there are people who “shun”, “reverse”, and “ransack” according to their own conditions, and splitting into multiple parades is a common choice for busy urbanites. Not only can you walk, but you can also drive and take a bus for the entire journey, which can greatly shorten the time to only 8-11 days. Monks or civilians, by car or on foot, as long as their minds remain the same, they can become all-round sang. Even if one person goes on the road, it is not lonely. Master Kofa is always accompanied by him, which is the path of “two people walking together”.

In fact, the Shikoku sacred field is not limited to the Shingon Buddhism of Master Kofa. The current 88 Buddhist sects also include other sects such as Tiantai Sect, Caodong Sect, Rinzai Sect, Toki Sect, and many of them are full of the color of God and Buddha. In general, the road has surpassed the shackles of religion, sect, nationality and other forms in the long years. It is a road for the common people that everyone can take the road. The spontaneous “reception” of villagers along the way provided pilgrims with free food, accommodation and other assistance, which further supported the spread of the culture into the poor and popularized.

Everywhere in my heart
As a modern person living deep in the city, with the convenience of transportation, he cherishes the opportunity to walk more and more. No matter where he goes, he wants to measure with his steps as much as possible. Especially looking forward to those mountain trails, every step can sense the ups and downs of the road and capture the strong pulse of nature. People no longer levitate, but a real sense of being down to earth. When the long walk is over, it is like completing a journey of self-healing.

The pilgrims everywhere have never really disappeared, and the local people’s respect and pride in the culture of the whole road has never faded. Basically, you can see all the posters and manuals in the major stations of the four countries, and all the major bookstores also have a variety of books on the road. You can easily search for the information of the homestays and accommodations that serve the road along the way. It’s not uncommon for companies or institutions to learn, and some local schools will incorporate journeys into education.

When I took a short weekend to hike from the first Banlingshan Temple to the 12th Banyaoshan Temple, I met various patrollers, such as self-driving old couples, groups on buses, kindergarten students who visited and learned, and people alone. rider.

People are very friendly to foreign walkers, enthusiastically provide receptions, share experiences and suggestions, actively and enthusiastically guide the way, even if they pass by, they don’t forget to say “Come on.” In such an atmosphere, even if you walk alone in the mountains, there will be no loneliness and anxiety. The ancient road is rugged and the forests are quiet. A statue of Jizo is enshrined on the mountain roads along the way, as if praying for the pilgrims. The handwritten notes written by the patrollers are tied to the branches, and they use their own insights to inspire latecomers. As a result, every rugged step at the foot is given meaning, and the Tao is “Life is everywhere.” And the statue of Master Kofa will always appear at the right time, like a miracle. As the road underfoot got longer and longer, the doubts that had haunted my heart for a long time gradually got answers.

In 2020, due to the impact of the new crown pneumonia epidemic, the Buddhist prayer halls of various Buddhist monasteries were closed one after another from mid-April. Three temples were closed directly, and they were not restored until June 1. Such a situation is the first in the history of the whole road, and it will definitely put many patrollers’ plans on hold. But fortunately, there are not so many time limits on the whole road. When the time is right, you can continue the pilgrimage.

This road has undergone many changes in more than 1,200 years, and its connotation has not changed much. Groups of patrollers, driven by beliefs in different eras, have embarked on this path, and have enriched its profound heritage with their own footprints little by little. This way of faith of the common people, as long as the heart is on the way, you can keep walking.