Tochoji belongs to the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism. It is a small temple amongst tall modern building, just a 3 minute walk from Gion Station. A good stopover while visiting Hakata, Fukuoka because of it’s convenient location.
The tour can be completed within 30 min.
The main attraction of Tochoji is the big wooden Buddha statue on the 2nd storey.
There is no admission fee to Tochoji but if you visit the big Buddha upstairs, then you are recommended to make a small donation in exchange for a small white candle and some incense as offerings.
Since Buddha represents the highest quality of existence, anyone from any religion or no religion can light a candle and incense. When we make an offering in front of a Buddha statue, we are actually making an offering to the innate Buddha nature within us. Everyone can become Buddha (the epitome of spiritual evolution)
When we light a candle, it symbolise that we cherish wisdom more than ignorance. When we light incense it reminds us that kindness and good deeds spread and benefit others. (just like the perfumed smoke)
Once you are inside the holy sanctuary of the Giant Buddha statue, look out for the small entrance beside the statue right side. There’s a sigh marking the entrance. (do not enter from the wrong side!)
When you enter this entrance, you will see an exhibits of hells. It depicts people being tortured, thrown into cauldrons of boiling oil, etc. Walking further, you will enter a “tunnel” that is pitch dark! When I extended my hand, I couldn’t even see them. Walking further on, you will see a faint light that slowly brighten up as you go towards it. Then you see depiction of Buddha’s pureland (paradise)
This part of the tour experience is very meaningful to me and I hope to share my personal insights with you.
Approaching and entering the entrance symoblise acceptance of the Buddha’s teachings. (because it’s just beneath the statue of Buddha) Suddenly we gain the wisdom to notice the sufferings that is happening around us and within us. The sufferings are there all along but we just lack the sensitivity and wisdom to recognise them.
The teachings of Buddha showed us these sufferings and how to get rid of these sufferings. Starting with observance of precepts to meditation to reflection of emptiness etc.
When we first started practicing Buddhism we might be filled with doubts because whilst the society taught us to cling on to things and be aggressive, Buddha taught us to let go and be compassionate.
We wondered if the Buddhist path is correct, we wondered if it is “right for us” During that time, we seem to be walking in confusion (darkness) as we try our best to follow a Buddhist way of living. We might be tempted to turn back to our old habits.
If we have faith in the Buddha’s teachings, then navigating this confused state is very sure footed. We might walk cautiously and slowly, but we progress swiftly.
But if we start to have doubt, then our progress is hindered by ourselves. We imagine there’s a wall blocking us when there’s none and imagine a step or a hole when there isn’t one.
However, if we take the middle approach and walk with mindfulness, we will slowly start to see the light and ultimately achieve our goal of finding happiness.
(please note: there are twists and turns in that tunnel, so please do not just rush recklessly or you might bump into something) Please do not use a flashlight because it will defeat the experience.
Above are just my own experience and thoughts.
We can also simply look upon the experience in the tunnel as follows:
- facing and recognising our sufferings and difficulties in life directly
- then relying on our faith in Buddha and faith in ourselves, we bravely move forward in life to navigate the confusion and Darkness in our life
- emerge victorious and happy.
The Chinese culture will term such an experience or “ritual” as changing of luck for the better (改运）But what is important is that one must be brave and continue to move forward in life during one’s darkest moment. If we give up or freeze in fear, then we will forever be stuck in that darkness or back track to suffering again.
Hope you enjoy this write up and if you have a chance to visit Tochoji, remember to experience that tunnel.
P.S, besides this temple, is a small shop that sells very delicious green tea ice cream and traditional Japanese snacks. The flavor of green tea is very rich.