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The path

Updated: Oct 28, 2023

In my second tour in Shikoku o-henro pilgrimage, I wanted to re-start from the first temple, the starting point in Tokushima. Ryōzen-ji (霊山寺) had a great welcoming atmosphere for many starters and re-starters. The woman in the main hall provided me with valuable information about how to cover the area until Temple 11. She also gave me Calorie Mate cookies just in case I got out of food. Many people on the way greeted me and told me, "ganbatte o-henro-san." It felt good to be supported warmly.

Just before Temple 11 Fujii-dera (藤井寺), there is a small station built by Masuda-san, who is also building a lodge for pilgrims, which he will open in October. He was full of hope and expectation that he would be welcoming many guests from different parts of the world.

Between Temple 16 and 17, when I stopped by a house to take pictures of a friendly white Golden Retriever, the owner gave me a bottle of really cold Pocari Sweat.

I am not sure I am the first Turkish person doing o-henro.

Masuda-san said I was the first person who was covering the route from a Muslim country. I told him that my guess was many people were missing the point: Yes, the religious practice forbids bowing to idols and praying to gods, but if you simply pay your respects to Buddha or Kukai as enlightened teachers during this journey, is it any different from visiting our grandparents' graves or feeling grateful for Rumi and other spiritual teachers? I think we should feel more secure about what is truly in our hearts.

In Tokushima, I got inspired to read about how we can stay true to ourselves.

Uncertainties, risks, and expectations of others creep in, and we find ourselves doing or saying things we may not in reality like. In 2011 when I went to a Friday prayer in Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque, I heard a speech about how to be aware of the white lies. He said something I always remember: "Those who forget (about what is truly in their) heart forget who they are."

So, I went back to the resources from the Plum Village and read in this in my last couple of days in Tokushima:

“Path” is a word often used as a metaphor for the spiritual journey.

In the Nagara Sutta (Samyutta Nikaya 12.65) the Buddha described the path as an ancient overgrown forest trail leading to a long-forgotten, ancient city. A person needs to look very carefully to find its traces. This is a helpful metaphor, since we have a tendency to approach our meditation practice as a technique or a checklist, rather than as a path—an unfolding, spiral journey. One of the many surprising things about it is that it will bring you back to your point of departure again and again, and yet each time, something will have changed. The moment we think we’ve completed our work on a particular area, we realize that there’s a whole new level of understanding that begins to open up to us. With a shift in perspective, everything changes.

Phap Hai, 2021, "The Eight Realizations of Great Beings: Essential Buddhist Wisdom for Waking Up to Who You Are." Parallax Press.

Ultimately, I sensed total quietness and peace at Temple 9 Hōrin-ji (法輪寺).

“All beings have Buddha within.”

A gentle evening breeze.

Pigeons were telling each other that the day was coming to an end.

I felt THE silence. The ultimate silence and cleansing.

From all expectations and fears.

All those that kept creeping in.

Manipulations, indoctrinations, imposed identities, titles, labels.



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