I approached the final stop on the 熊野三山 Kumano Sanzan, 熊野那智大社 Nachi Taisha Shinto Shrine with a feeling of elation and inner transformation that Nature bestowed upon me from the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage.
Seiganto-ji 青岸渡寺 is called the Temple of Crossing the Blue Shore. After our three-day pilgrimage, purification and perseverance ascending the Kumano Kodo path through woods and up steep steps, it certainly did feel as if I finally arrived at the Nachi pavilion to cross a blue shore.
Confusing at first, I realized that Nachi Taisha is a blend of several sites. There is the Miagarahikosya Shrine shrine next to Nachi Taisha’s heiden, offertory hall, that is dedicated to Yatagarasu, the sacred three-legged crow. In between towers a sacred, 850-year-old camphor tree. There is the Nachi Sanjūdō Three-Storied Pagoda, and the Buddhist Temple Seiganto-ji 青岸渡寺.
The Tendai Buddhist temple was founded by Ragyō Shōnin and is a jingū-ji 神宮寺, shrine temple, a place of Shinto and Buddhist worship before the Meiji era separated the two religions. Here Buddhas and Kami syncretism is Shinbutsu-shūgō 神仏習合. The Inunakiyama Tohorinji Temple犬鳴山轉法輪寺, that was our first stop, also is a jingū-ji. So here at the beginning, I arrive at our end.
The wooden Hondō (Nyoirindō) exuded ancient energy of the faithful who came to worship nature, Buddha and Kannon. Emperor Kazan 花山天皇 in 988 on his first Kumano pilgrimage declared Seiganto-ji Temple One of the Saigoku Kannon pilgrimage because he was was moved by its image of Kannon.
Indeed, the imagery that abounds this mysterious and sacred place puts me in accord with nature and my surroundings, the true purpose of myth.
Emperor Kazan wrote his sacred hymns, goeika poems throughout the pilgrimage that are still used today. Years later it became customary for other pilgrimaging emperors to also compose their own poems for each of the sacred sites.
Legend says that Emperor Kazan completed 1000 days of severe spiritual training under the waterfall, after which he had a vision of Kannon in the form of the kami Kumano Gongen. The kami instructed the emperor to find the priest Butsugan of Hasedera (Temple 8 of the pilgrimage), who helped the emperor to remap out the current pilgrimage route.
Naturally, I realized that I picked up this poem writing intuitively, composing my own poetry and haiku along the way. The spirit of the Kumano Kodo is alive and well, as all who connect to nature and gaze at the waterfall as so many ancients of commoners and emperors and monks alike, have experienced. I hope you one day do too!
Nature is divine. I have Faith in Nature! All things are nature things. All things are Buddha things. On this election day 2020 here in the USA as I write this, these are comforting thoughts. Now to meditate and write some more poetry while awaiting our fate!