In five weeks, I am going to embark on a pilgrimage with a group of my temple members. We travel to Shikoku to follow the path of Kobo Daishi, and countless thousands of pilgrims, visiting 88 temples around a somewhat circular path of around 900 miles.
The pilgrimage could not come at a better time for me personally. I find myself at a crossroads and at my age, verging on 42 in a couple of months, I feel that I am at a significant moment. Theoretically, and according to all of the medical journals I am somewhat at the halfway point of my life if I am so blessed with that many years. Thoughts of the future, and many of the past swirl like a storm in my mind. Regrets at this point? Many. Blessings? Many.
More importantly I also find myself more and more curious about my religion and my role in it. As a Shingon practitioner, I could of course make many claims about my connection with the Buddha and the many incarnations of the Buddha, and begin a life of personal blessings, "readings", and consultations. Is that really practicing Shingon Buddhism? Moreover, what qualifies me to give out consultation to anyone? Sometimes I wonder how I get up in the morning, and how it is a minor miracle in itself that the weight of other peoples' problems and desires do not crush any kind of feelings of happiness I want to express. Coupled with a realization that I am all to human and the road to enlightenment is truly a long one, I don't feel that I am anymore capable of telling someone how to save their crumbling marriage, or collapsing business than the average joe off the street. Personally I feel that relating my own mistakes and wrong decisions serve as a better road map for people to follow, or perhaps in a sense avoid.
I am director of a temple that also employs a priest from Japan. There are many of the older generation at the temple who do not like the idea of Hawaii born and trained ministers. The priest from Japan serves their needs. Frankly I tolerate it as a necessary anachronism. Without the necessary language skills, and drive, it is difficult for a priest that was trained, and raised in the very cloistered environment of Japanese temple life to adopt and adapt to a western style of worship and faith. So when all else fails, play the psychic card. Therein lies the problem. I am wondering if that is all our religion is about. I intend to find out, and along the way hopefully find myself. 88 Temples in 16 days. We aren't walking it, I think that for the first time, it may be for the best to be bussed around. Will I find Kobo Daishi? Let's find out together.