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The Eighty-eight Holy places of the World for Pilgrimages

Kengo Takahasi ( Hiroshima-city, Supporting member of Mikkyo 21 Forum )

Esoteric Buddhism(密教) was introduced to Japan through foreign Buddhist priests came from China at the beginning of the 9th century. But it was not still complete. Systematic Esoteric Buddhism was brought to Japan first by a great Buddhist priest called Kuhkai(空海) who went to Tyoh-an(長安、capital city of Toh(唐)、China) to study Esoteric Buddhism and Sanskrit language about 1200 years ago. After coming back home, he founded the Shingon-sect Buddhism(真言宗) to prevail his original thoughts based on Esoteric Buddhism. After ages he was called Kohboh-daishi(弘法大師) as a great teacher and propagator of Esoteric Buddhism. And he has been revered by Japanese people since then. His teachings have been inherited through the ages, and it has been surely believed that he is still alive in Japanese spiritual senses. I would like to give an example which shows Kohboh-daishi's popularity among Japanese people.Japan has four relatively big islands. Shikoku(四国) is one of them.  Kuhkai was born here. He set up the pilgrimage route joined by the Eighty-eight Holy Places in his motherland. Then Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples were built at each Places, and so the Shinto deities or the Buddhist statues were enshrined. This peaceful coexistence of two divinities is a distinctive character of Kuhkai's teachings. After that, these Places became to be called the Eighty-eight Holy Places of Shikoku(四国八十八ヶ所霊場), and many people started going on pilgrimages by walking about 1400 km repeating the prayer to Kohboh-daishi(「Namu-Daishi- Henjoh-Kongoh(南無大師遍照金剛)」). There are a lot of steep hill roads on route, even though Pilgrimages to the Shikoku Holy Places still continue today when the civilization has advanced highly. In this way, Esoteric Buddhism Japanized by Kuhkai's teachings has been inherited potentially in the hearts or lives of Japanese people. By the way, the character of pilgrimages in Japan is that anyone can take part in them with regardless to the denomination he or she belongs to. So some Christians are seen visiting the Shikoku Holy Places. Of course pilgrim's motives are diverse. But what is the most important is their faithful acts to pray together at the one Holy Place apart from the differences of dogma or believes. There are no prejudice and hatred against any pagans there. In this meaning, Eighty-eight Holy Places of Shikoku is the world heritage full of spirits of Esoteric Buddhism that can send massages of tolerance and peace for coexistence of the mankind.

Hiroshima became the first victim of nuclear bombing over the world, as you know. When people stand and pray in front of the monument erected on the memory of the victims of atomic bomb, do they quarrel? do they deny praying for peace? They will pray for peaceful world without war or terorrism. It is just the same with Auschwitz. It will contribute to world peace that people with different nationality or religion pray together at the one Holy Place.

Prayer will bring about the annihilation of mankind if not performed right. The history of mankind has often invoked satans by prayers. So people have played a part in piling up evil deeds. The history of religious wars shows it. Heathens do not pray for each other because of egocentric intolerance. In other words, as usual political system or ideology, they have taken it as the standard principle of their nations. They have utilized it also for egocentrism of mankind for long time. There is often egocentric intolerance at the root of today's religious confrontations, ethnic conflicts, and the antagonism between nations. If it is not stopped, a retaliation brings about other retaliation and a hatred calls forth other hatred. Even if a man died, his hatred remains as evil consciousness. It also forms the field of hatred. Evil consciousnesses become the hotbeds of bad cause soon and give rise to evil deeds. They inflict bad influences to people and are transmitted to posterity. And so, they will make the transmigration of souls continue until mankind ruins. Therefore, what is the most important in praying is to purify evil consciousnesses of our own souls. Each of us should pray for everyone's happiness. Each one will have stock of purified consciousnesses. Just for this purpose, I think it is necessary to set up Holy Places all over the world to pray together for the welfare of mankind.

< My Suggestions for the Establishment of the Eighty-eight Holy Places of the World for Pilgrims to Visit >


  1. Almost pilgrimage routes in the world is not circular.But Shikoku's route is circular even though starting point is separated from goal. It seems to Mandala. Visiting the Eighty-eight Holy Places one after another, a pilgrim travels round Shikoku and returns to the starting point. Here, we can see the good character that the pilgrimages in Shikoku purify the evil deeds in circulating movement. Each Holy Places are equal setting like a round table. A pilgrim can start from any place. He can end his journey at any place, if he wants to. I hope the World's Holy Places to be established are belong to the Shikoku type.

  2. One of the material factors in selecting the Holy Places of the world is that they should be the place which people can visit with no trouble. Hiroshima and Auschwitz are just examples to make my thought clear. I hope the places uninfluenced by international politics, ideologies, ethnic conflicts, and specific religion rather than these two places. It might be an idea to choose places which were significant in some sense before the birth of Kuhkai(around the year 800).

  3. Though the Holy Places ideally should be scattered over the world, it is not necessary that they must be eighty-eight in number. What is more important is to make the Holy Places such places as people all over the world wish to visit and can do so. First, Priests of various religions should visit those Holy Places to set good examples. And their prayers should be offered for all lives of the cosmos including the earth. It will remind people how they should be.In order to realize it, it is desirable to select the Holy Places full of natural beauty and quiet atmosphere of ancient times. I am sure from this point of view also that Japnese Esoteric Buddhists(Japnese religionists joined with Kohboh-daishi) are the fittest to take the initiative in this project.

  4. It took hundreds of years that the Eighty-eight Holy Places of Shikoku became complete. The new routes of the Holy Places of the World for pilgrimages will take a long time to be completed, too. It is important, however, that feeling hopeful to the future, we begin to create Holy Places over the world that all the nations can share. I think we must step forward bravely in order to fill the earth with good thoughts and wishes for peace so that it will become the purified conscious places to live in.

  5. Last but not least, I have a request to make. Please make the starting point of the pilgrimage around the world Mt.Kohya(高野山) in honor of Kohboh-daishi. That is because the mother of this concept rests there in the mountain.

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