Temple 73: Shushakuji

Shushakuji is a temple that comes with it a beautiful legend. It is about Koubou Daishi as a seven year old boy. Even at that time (when he was named Mao instead of Kukai) he knew that he was destined for great things to come. He climbed the cliffs above the temple and declared that it was his desire to save all sentient beings and that if he were truly the one to do so the Buddha would save him. Then he leapt from the cliff.

Angels saved the boy by catching him in their robes and he lived to continue on with his promise. Destiny would not be thwarted.

At this temple you will find the story and the modern engraved stones that depict the legend. You will also see older versions as well. I attempted to photograph them below for you to check out.

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The statue of Kukai looks out over the water reservoir. Where will this water go? What crops will grow because of it? The legacy of a master civil servant lives on.

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A relatively new image of Koubou Daishi.
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A shaft of light… No idea how that got in there.

There are many folklore stories of people who are saved through miracle, or intervention by deities as they are destined for a great purpose or mission. This temple bears witness to an incredible comparative study that we can find in literature around the world. Beowulf, the Odyssey and Iliad, the Bible, and the Aeneid. The agents of the Divine cannot move off their pre-determined course. They are locked in to serve purposes beyond their own mortality. Fascinating.

“And he began, “What chance or destiny
has brought you here before your final day?
And who is he who leads your pilgrimage?”
“Up there in life beneath the quiet stars
I lost my way,” I answered, “in a valley,
before I’d reached the fullness of my age.
I turned my shoulders on it yesterday:
this soul appeared as I was falling back,
and by the road through Hell he leads me home.”
“Follow your star and you will never fail 
to find your glorious port,” he said to me”  
Dante Alighieri