Temple 02: Gokurakuji

You are now on your way! Temple 2, Gokurakuji warmly greets you on your first few steps into the pilgrimage. From Temple 1, Ryouzenji, it is only 1.2 kilometres away. You have hardly broken in your “hakui” (white clothing) and already your are ready to perform the rites and rituals of an Ohenro.

First of all, I want to encourage you to take it easy. This may be all new to you. You may be overly worried that you are “not doing the ohenro” correctly. What do I do? Where do I wash my hands? How do I use the candles and incense, and name slips, and how do I pray? There’s a lot of things to worry about!! What am I going to do? What have I gotten myself into?

Don’t beat yourself up too much if you “make a mistake”. You will be just fine. Watch others around you, follow suit, and stumble through. A few temples down the road and you’ll have it down pat. In the meantime, take a moment to drink in this simply beautiful temple and be in the moment. Everyone is in the same boat, and we are all just tripping over our own feet on the way. No one said that achieving zen would be easy!

Let’s talk about Gokurakuji.

The name Gokurakuji can be translated as, “The Pure Land Temple”, and it is simply stunning. Built originally in the 13th century (the Kamakura era) it was destroyed in war and rebuilt in the 16th century. There is a giant cedar here that is a thousand years old. It is said to have been planted by Kukai (also called Koubou Daishi — this is his posthumous name and often spoken with reverence).

One important theme of this temple is that it is said to be the place where women can come to pray for smooth childbirth. There is a legend of a woman who walked the pilgrimage in reverse order to meet Kukai on the path. When she met him Kukai helped deliver a healthy child at this temple.

Here are some photos I took. I am not much of a photographer, but since this place is so gorgeous all my shots make me look like a pro.

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The next temple is not so far away. But take some time to enjoy this one. The thing about the pilgrimage is that there is so much to see, and so much to see in each place… and yet, the next temple beckons you forward!