Fujisan's Kyareng

Monday, January 10, 2022

Kanon Temples in Japan

A short guide to those who want to visit Kanon sama, Avaloketishvara, temples in Japan.

Kanonsama picture in Gokokuji Temple in Tokyo

The lord Avaloketishvara, the Boddhisattava of compassion, is considered patron deity of Tibet. Tibetan Buddhist myth has it that the Tibetans are descendant of Boddhisattva monkey, an emanation of Avaloketishvara, and Goddess Tara. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is considered manifestation of Avaloketishvara, the Boddhisattva of compassion.

 Avaloketishvara is widely venerated by those practicing Mahayana form of Buddhism. It is known by Kanon sama or Kanon Bosatsu in Japanese. However, Kanon sama, the Lord Avaloketishvara, in Japan is depicted in female form, whereas Chenrezig, the Lord in Tibet, is revered in male form.

100 Kanonsama Temples in Japan

There are many Temples of Kanon sama in Japan, but 100 are designated for devotees' pilgrimage. 67 of them are in Kanto areas and 33 are in Kansai area. In Kanto area 34 of them are in Chichibu area of Saitama prefecture.

 Pilgrimage or hiking through these regions to visit the Temples will reveal how Buddhism was once popular and wide spread in these regions. Kubo Daishi, the founder of Japanese Shingon Buddhism, and the Lord Fudomyo, the patron deity of Tantraism, could also be found in these temples. 

Cairns, Tholo in Tibetan

Each Temple has different manifestation of the Lord Avaloketishvara and some peculiar characteristic. For example, Kanon-In, the 31st Temple, in Chichibu region has 296 steep steps to climb uphill to reach the Temple.  The 296 steps are said to represent the 276 words in Hangyashigyo, the Heart Sutra text, and 20 words of prayers following it. If you climb the steps reciting the Heart sutra, at the end of the recitation and the end prayer you reach before the Temple. The rocks beside the Temple have images of religious status said to be curved with Kubodaishi's nails.

 The 34th Temple, Suesenji

Tibetan Heart Sutra text is said to have one bampo. A bampo has three hundred sholokas. A sholoka has four tshig-rkang, lines of verses. Therefore, it should have 1200 lines. The one in the Sherig Parkhang's prayer book (nyer mkho'i zhal 'don kun phan nyi 'od ces bya ba bzhugs so, 2018 edition, p-214) has 100 lines ending with a strok, shed.

 Nagatoro Iwadatemi and the river, Chichibu in Saitama Ken

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Early Japanese visitors in Tibet

Some early Japanese visitors to Tibet


On the 121st anniversary of Rev Kawaguchi Ekai's reaching Tibet (the actual date: 4/07/1900), I reproduce below the notes I shared with the visiting Japanese university students in Dharamsala in 2004 at Tibet Museum. 

My respect and appreciation is with the Japanese who visited Tibet in those difficult times, lived with the Tibetans and later told our true story. If possible, I would like to pay respect to the families of these devoted, adventurous, and brave souls. 

The talk note is here below:  

Like many foreigners, Japanese also took interest in Tibet, and they ventured into the land in the late 19th and early 20th century. Tibet remained in self isolation with a view to preserve its own religious faith, culture, and language. Tibet remained oblivious to the world wars and the impending danger from the aggressive neighbor in the east, China.

 It is recorded that some ten Japanese visited Tibet with different objects and motives at the same and different when Tibet was an independent nation. Some has seen the last days of Tibetan independence. Their writings and memoirs have become proof of Tibetan independence. Here is the brief notes on those determined Japanese and the purpose of their visit, and what they did in Tibet.

 1900: Kawaguchi Ekai (1866-1945), a student of Sarat Chandra Das, visited Tibet disguised as a Chinese monk. He reached Lhasa in March 1901. He was inspired to study original translation of Buddha`s teaching. He studied in Sera monastery, one of the largest monasteries in Tibet. As he helped the local with his medical knowledge, he was also known as Sera Amchi. He is said to have informed Sarat Chandra Das about the Russian influence in Tibet that triggered Young Husband expedition of 1904. He returned in 1903. His book, "Three Years in Tibet", Chibeto Ryokoki, became very popular.

 1901: Narita Yasutera (1864-1915), a Buddhist priest and student of Nanjo Bunyo reached Lhasa in Dec 1901. He was earlier with Imperial army, later sent to the USA on a mission, then to Taiwan. It was not clearly known why he was sent to Tibet. His dairy "Shin-Zo Nishi" records his travel in Tibet. Black Dragon Society (Kokukyokai) also has his record in "Senkoku Shinshi Kiden"

Around that time a priest by the name of Nomi Kan, also a student of Nanjo Bunyo, tried entering Tibet. It is not clearly known of his fate. 

1905: Teramoto Enga (1872-1940), a Buddhist priest, stayed briefly in Tibet and later continued to Peking. But his influence over Japanese – Tibetan relationship was considered substantial. He sent information to the Japanese government, Hisgashi and Nishi Hongaji Timple. In 1903, Count Otani Kozui was the head of the Hongjanji Temple. He planned the visit of His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama to Japan.

1910: Yajima Yasujiro, a Russo-Japan war (1904-05) veteran. British took him for spy. He stayed in Tibet briefly then left. He visited again in 1913 disguised as a coolie and stayed in Tibet till 1919. He drew a map and was later given charge of one section of the Tibetan army, which he trained in Japanese method of warfare. His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama was said to have been fond of him. He married with a Tibetan woman, bore a child Ishishin. The boy later died in a war with China.

1912: Aoki Bunkyo (1886-1956), representative of Count Otani of Nishi Hoganji, stayed in Tibet till 1916. Although a priest, his activities were mostly secular. It is said the idea of pan-Buddhism, pan-Asianism, and a Buddhist renaissance was dear to the nationalist Japanese. Count Otani was in favor of this idea. Aoki translated Japanese infantry manual into Tibetan, unfortunately, a copy could not be found. He is said to be in a committee who designed Tibetan flag. He was sent to buy arms (guns) for Tibetan government.

1913: Tada Tokan (1890-1967), also a representative of Count Otani, but he confined himself to the study of Buddhism and was very critical of Aoki Bukyo's activities. He stayed in Tibet for ten to eleven years. Both Aoki and Tada were said to have been invited by the Dalai Lama as result of the Dalai Lama`s meeting with Count Otani at Peking in 1908. Count Otani was said to have fallen from power in 1914. Tada wrote "Dalai Lama Jusanse" and "Chibtto Taizaiki". H.H. the 13th Dalai Lama continued correspondence with him with a hope that the Japanese government would help Tibet is checking Chinese aggressions.

1939: Kimura Hisao (Dawa Sangpo), a spy disguised as Mongolian stayed in Tibet for more than a year. Around that time another spy, Nishikawa Kazumi also visited Tibet. But it is said that they were so lost in the way that they reached Tibet only after the war. Kimura's story is in "Japanese Agent in Tibet" and Nishikawa's story is in "The Rising Sun in the land of Snow", both by Scott Berry.

1939: Nomoto Jinzo, a Japanese spy, now 86 years old wrote "Chibetto Senko". He was in Tibet on information gathering mission. He entered Tibet in 1939.

Above information was compiled for a talk given to a visiting Japanese University Students at the request of the Department of Information (DIIR), May 2004 / To be updated


Related books and important years:

Three years in Tibet by Kawaguchi Ekai

Japanese agent in Tibet by Kimura Hisao and Scott Berry

Monks, Spies and a Soldier of Fortune: the Japanese in Tibet by Scott Berry

A stranger in Tibet: A Japanese zen monk by Scott Berry

Thirteenth Dalai Lama, Thupten Gyatso (1876-1933) by Tada Tokan

Young Husband expedition to Tibet 1904

World War I (1914 - 1918) World War II (1939-1945)


Thursday, October 7, 2021

Pain of an unrequited love!


Confession of love 


Chupa na bhi nahin ata, jata bhi nahin ata  

Don't know how to hide my love, nor do I know how to disclose it


གསང་དགོས་བསམ་ཡང་གསང་མ་ཤེས།  ལབ་དགོས་བསམ་ཡང་ལབ་མ་ཤེས།

་ཁྱེད་ལ་དགའ་པོ་བྱེད་ཀྱི་ཡོད།  ལབ་དགོས་བསམ་ཡང་ལབ་མ་ཤེས།

ལག་ཐིལ་སྒང་ཁྱེད་ཀྱི་མཚན།  བྲིས་བསུབ་མང་པོ་བྱེད་མྱོང་ཡོད།

ཁྱེད་གཅིག་ལ་དགའ་པོ་བྱེད་ཀྱི་ཡོད།  ཁྱེད་གཅིག་ལས་གསང་དགོས་དོན་ངས་མ་ཤེས།


ཁ་ཐོག་ལ་སྙིང་གཏམ་དེ་ཡོད་ཀྱང་།  ཇི་ལྟར་ཞུ་དགོས་ངས་མ་ཤེས།

་ཁྱེད་ལ་དགའ་པོ་བྱེད་ཀྱི་ཡོད།  ཁྱེད་ལ་ལབ་སྟངས་ངས་མ་ཤེས།

གསང་དགོས་བསམ་ཡང་གསང་མ་ཤེས།  ་་་་་

དགའ་པོ་བྱེད་སྟངས་ཁྱེད་རྣམས་ཀྱིས།  བུ་ང་ལ་ལམ་སྟོན་གནང་རོགས་ཞུ།

གྲོགས་གཅིག་གི་བརྩེ་བའི་རེ་བའི་ནང་།  ཚེ་གཅིག་འདི་རྫོགས་འགྲོ་རྒྱུའི་ཉེན་ཁ་ཆེ།

ཁྱེད་དང་ཐུག་རྒྱུའི་ཐབས་ཤིག་ཀྱང་།  བཟོ་ཡང་མི་ཐུབ་དེ་འདྲའི་ང་།

་ཁྱེད་ལ་དགའ་པོ་བྱེད་ཀྱི་ཡོད།  ལབ་དགོས་བསམ་ཡང་ལབ་མ་ཤེས།

ཐག་རིང་ཟུར་ནས་ཡིབ་བཞིན་དུ།  ཁྱེད་རང་སྲུང་ནས་བསྡད་མྱོང་ཡོད།

འདི་འདྲའི་ང་ཡི་སྙིང་གཏམ་དེ།  ཁྱེད་རང་ལ་ཞུ་རྒྱུར་བཞེད་དགོས་དོན་ཅི།


ང་ཡི་སེམས་ཀྱི་སྨྱོ་ཚུལ་ལ་བལྟོས།  གསལ་བཤད་ཞུ་སྟངས་ངས་མ་ཤེས།

་ཁྱེད་ལ་དགའ་པོ་བྱེད་ཀྱི་ཡོད།  ལབ་འདོད་ཆེ་ཡང་ལབ་མ་ནུས།

གསང་དགོས་བསམ་ཡང་གསང་མ་ཤེས།  ་་་་་

Video link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=beyJY99Rusk

Full audio link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9MB_25XncQ

Note: This is one of the popular Indian movie, Bazigar, love songs wherein the boy sings in the unrequitted love and the girl discarding the real love goes for a sham love. As requested by some friends, here is the Tibetan translation.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

The Heart Sutra

The Heart Sutra


The Heart Sutra, also known as the Heart of Wisdom, is one of the Perfection of Wisdom sutras and a very important Buddhist text explaining the essence of emptiness. Buddhists recite the sutra often as a way of practice and devotion. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said that it is good to recite the sutra as it helps one keep one's faith and reminds oneself of the practice. However, he emphasized the need to understand the meaning of the Heart sutra and practice meditation on emptiness. This will help us realize the meaning of emptiness and grasp the reality of all existences and the ultimate nature of our minds.

Generally, we get a gross idea of impermanence and dependent origination of all phenomena through this teaching of the Heart sutra. Impermanence and dependent origination are important aspects of Buddhist teachings. Some of us might have conceptual idea of what emptiness means; the subjective and objective existence of all phenomena; and the two truths, conventional and ultimate truths.

Impermanence means all composite things are subject to change and dissolution. This helps us in understanding the futility of our grasping to self and others as if everything exists permanently. This misunderstanding is ignorance which fuels afflictions such as attachment, aversion, hatred, etc., in us. 

Dependent origination means everything that we relate to exists dependently; nothing exists independently. We are all part of this universe; we do not exist independently. Our happiness is dependent on others. With this understanding, we look at all sentient beings compassionately as any mother would do to her child. The teachings say that we need to look at all the sentient beings as one's mother in one of the many samsaric journeys of ours. 

Proper understanding of the emptiness gives us more clarity about impermanence and dependent origination.  

In Heart Sutra, the meaning of emptiness is explained according to the two truths, conventional and ultimate truths. Emptiness does not mean that nothing exists; it says things exist subjectively but not objectively. Later, it explains the shunyata, the nature of emptiness, the ultimate reality. Finally, it introduces a mantra that explains the paths a practitioner needs to follow to reach enlightenment through the realization of emptiness, the ultimate nature of self or mind.

The text says:

Form is empty;

Emptiness is form;

Emptiness is not other than form;

Form is also not other than emptiness.

The form is empty means that although we see a form, it is devoid of independent existence. It is a combination of many factors, a label that we have for a particular form. Say a flower; it does not exist independent of its attributes. Let us meditate on a flower; the flower is not independent; its existence depends upon many other factors and attributes. It has no inherent independent existence on its own. So, the form is empty of objective and independent existence. It exists subjectively; form is conventional truth.

Emptiness is form: Due to the absence of independent existence a subjectively existence form is possible. This is what is referred to as the emptiness is form. What we are seeing is what we have labeled as a form; it does not exist independently. There is no objective existence of the form. Therefore, what we see as forms is emptiness seen in forms only. We say it is a flower, but the flower is empty of independent existence. What we see as flower, therefore, is a mere appearance to the subjective mind. What is empty of objective flower allows the subjective flower to exist. Therefore, emptiness is the ultimate nature of form.

The Buddhist concept of emptiness is not about the non-existence of any phenomena; it says things exist subjectively, not objectively. This denial of the objective existence of phenomena is emptiness.  

The text ends with a mantra. It indicates that this is a great and excellent mantra which could overcome the sufferings of Samsara.

Tayatha, ga-te, ga-te, para ga-te, para sam ga-te, Boddhi-svaha

It is roughly translated as: Go, go, go beyond, go further beyond, and establish Buddhahood!

This mantra encapsulates the five paths that a practitioner takes to achieve Buddhahood. The five paths are 1) the path of accumulation, 2) the path of joining (preparation), 3) the path of seeing, 4) the path of practice (meditation), and 5) the path of fulfillment (no more learning), Buddhahood. [ཚོགས་ལམ། སྦྱོར་ལམ། མཐོང་ལམ། སྒོམ་ལམ། མི་སློབ་ལམ།]

The first stage, the path of accumulation, is when one has realized the altruistic mind of Bodhicitta – the courageous mind wishing to become Buddha for the benefit of all sentient beings.

The second state, the path of joining or preparation, is when a practitioner has acquired high skill in the meditational technique of Vipassana and Samadhi. The practitioner has a high conceptual understanding of emptiness but has not perceived emptiness directly. 

The practitioner enters the third stage when he or she has directly perceived emptiness, therefore, the path of seeing. Those who have reached this state are honored as Arya beings[1]. The path of seeing has sixteen moments or stages, the last one being the 16th which is referred to as subsequent knowledge of the path.

The fourth stage, the path of meditation, is where the practitioner dwells deep in the direct realization of emptiness frequently tempered by the mind of Bodhicitta. Meditation and familiarity with the non-conceptual wisdom of emptiness complimented by the noble eightfold path is practiced at this stage. 

 The last stage, the path of no more learning, is when the practitioner has fully realized the emptiness for the ultimate deliverance from all obscurations. Arhat or dgra bcom pa is at the stage of "no more learning" in the case of Sravakas, Personal liberation seeker, paths and Nirvana is achieved[2].

 For a Mahayana practitioner at this Mahayanist stage of "no more learning", the ultimate nature of mind, the pure, clear light of Dharmadhatu in its consummated form is manifested and Buddhahood is achieved.

 Note: རང་གི་ཡིད་ལ་ངེས་ཕྱིར་ངས་འདི་བརྩམས།  འདི་འབྲེལ་ཁུངས་དག་ཏུ་ཤེས་འདོད་ན་གཤམ་འཁོད་དཔེ་དང་གསུང་ཆོས་ལ་གཟིགས་རོགས་ཞུ། I write this to familiarize myself with what I have learned. A serious student should refer to the link below for more information.


-    H.H. the Dalai Lama, Introduction to Buddhism & Tantric Meditation, Paljor Pubications, New Delhi

-    H.H. the Dalai Lama, Essence of Heart Sutra, Wisdom Publications, USA

-    Geshe Dorjee Damdul, Quintessence of Heart Sutra, Tibet House Delhi Teaching, 27/09/2020

-    Geshe Dorjee Damdul, Heart Sutra (3-day intensive course) April 2013, Tibet House Delhi

-    Geshe Dorjee Damdul, Tenet System, 09/10/2017, Tibet House New Delhi

-    Ani Thupten Chodron, Commentry on the Heart Sutra, Sravasti Abbey, USA

-    ダライ・ラマが語る般若心経、Kozo Otani and Kazuo Kikuchi 2006角川学芸出版


[1] They are actually the Sangha that is referred in Buddhist refuge, i.e. Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

[2] But for those on Mahayana path, this is the 8th Bhumi of the Mahayana path of meditation.