Pilgrimage in Japan, A

Pilgrimage in Japan, A

The 33 Temples of Kannon

A Buddhist journey to the thirty-three temples of Kannon, an ancient pilgrimage route in Western Japan traveled for over a thousand years.


Kannon, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, is the one who “hears the cries of the world” and vows to “assist anyone in distress.” As the author embarks on the pilgrimage route that extends from the Japan Sea to the Pacific Ocean, through the ancient city of Kyoto and the modern city of Osaka, and to the many mountain tops in between, she allows the special characteristics and sacred presence of each place to bring forth relevant Buddhist teaching; letting go of attachment, contemplating impermanence, engaging in right livelihood, being of service, and other teachings found in classic Buddhism. The dharma, or doctrines of Universal Truth, intertwines with rich descriptions of mountain hikes, remote temples, modern Shugendo practices, sacred icons and the author’s spiritual insights.


Covering three trips in four years, Joan D. Stamm details her pilgrimage to thirty-three temples in Japan, in honor of Kannon, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Rather than a powerful deity that exists “out there,” Kannon represents one’s true or most fundamental self. Pilgrimage is therefore a journey back to one’s true self. Because compassion touches every aspect of one’s self and life, as well as the whole world, nothing is excluded from this book. From aching feet, anxieties of dying, and “temple burnout,” to social and environmental issues, to prayers, rituals, ceremonies, and festivals, to intimacies with Buddhist teachings; nature, mythology, themes of right action, diet, impermanence . . . all this and more are included. The journey is personal, practical, and with every step along the way, authentic: "We had, at every moment, the opportunity to live our lives with Big Buddha Mind... or not." As rich as the book is, the author admits she had discovered only one layer of possible significance and meaning at each temple: “Time never allowed us to absorb all that each temple contained, or the depth of meaning in each statue, pond, tree, pagoda, rock… .” The back of the book includes directions to temples, along with references and a bibliography. If you are considering pilgrimage, this book could be a powerful guide toward aligning intent, practical preparation, and the reminder to surrender to the unknown at all turns. ~ Jerry Katz, www.nonduality.org

This book demonstrates how "sacred intent" turns ordinary travel into the adventure of a pilgrimage. As the author and her sister visit each of 33 temples on a traditional pilgrimage route in Japan, we are drawn in by her vivid descriptions as if we had undertaken the journey ourselves. We are left enriched and curiously satisfied. It is rare to find a book about traditional pilgrimages in Japan. This book will serve as a valuable, practical guide to those with the courage and determination to undertake even a portion of this very special and sacred journey. ~ Jan Chozen Bays Roshi, author and Co-founder of Great Vow Zen Monastery

Joan D. Stamm
Joan D. Stamm Joan D. Stamm is the author of the award-winning book, Heaven and Earth are Flowers: Reflections on Ikebana and Buddhism, published by Wisdo...
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