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A Buddhist Temple
Known as Tengu Mountain, the temple is located at the eastern end of the Tanigawa Gorge, approximately 16 km north of the city of Shibukawa. The mountain is highly regarded as a sacred place (rei'iki) in the Kanto area.
In the springtime, the new green foliage is most pleasing and in the summer, one can hear the song of the sacred bird (reicho), called "bupposo" or a broad billed roller (Eurystomus orientalis).
In autumn, the whole mountain is vibrant with fall foliage after which comes the snow, covering the area in a white blanket.
The temple was first established in the year 848 by order of Imperial Prince Kadowara Ippon, the son of Emperor Kanmu, as a protecting shrine for "Kozuke no Kuni" (present day Gunma Prefecture). It was established under the guidance of the eminent Buddhist priest, Ennin Jikaku Daishi of Mt. Hie (Enryakuji Temple near Kyoto). The temple was designated an official tutelary temple to ensure national prosperity and tranquility.
When the Buddhist priest Saicho (Dengyo Daishi) returned from his travels in China, he brought with him the doctrines of the Tiantai Sect of Buddhism which became the Tendai Sect in Japan. The Tendai Sect adopted the principle of the threefold truth of Mahayana Buddhism: all things are void and without essential reality, all things have a provisional reality, and all things are both absolutely unreal and provisionally real at once. This threefold truth was elaborated in a collection of sutras formulated by Kasho, a disciple of Gautama Buddha, at Mt. Keisoku in India. Since the mountain range near Shibukawa resembles the famous Mt. Keisoku where Kasho attained Nirvana, it was decided to name it after him, thereby becoming "Kasho Zan." On this mountain one thousand monks gathered for the first time to chant the sutras and the temple there became known as Kashozan Ryugei'in Mirokugokoku. This event became the founding start for a group of 49 temples which flourished culturally and politically in the Kanto area.
In the year 1456, while on a proselytizing journey, the monk, Tenson Zenji visited Jiun Ritsushi whom he greatly respected. Jiun Ritsushi was impressed by Tenson's Zen philosophy and Zazen practices and was converted to the Soto Sect of Buddhism after a 600 year tradition of following the Tendai Sect.
Later, the eminent Buddhist priest Chuho, a prodigy of Tenson, constructed temple buildings, engaged in teaching Buddhist principles, and carried out other activities seemingly beyond normal human capabilities. After the passage of time, Chuho Zenji reportedly told his successor, "My transformation is complete. I am the embodiment of Kasho Buddha. I will stay forever on this mountain as a spirit, taking upon myself the burdens of others that they may be at peace."As he said these words, his spirit ascended leaving behind the mask of Tengu.
The spirit of Chuho proved to be most efficacious, bestowing blessings on those who interceded with him. He became known as the Kashozan Chinju Chuho Boddhisatva and was revered by many followers.
Hiding Horse Cedar
During the Edo Period, the first Tokugawa Shogun raised the temple to an exalted rank among temples and bestowed upon it a significant amount of property. There are several holy locations on the grounds granted to the temple by the Shogun, including one Natural Treasure, known as the "Uma Kakure Sugi." (The Hiding Horse Cedar.) The tree is some 1,000 years old and measures 10 meters in circumference. This is the site where followers had to get off their horses when they first arrived at the temple grounds. Within the hollow trunk of this cedar tree are three religious statues. The hollow of the tree is so large that even a horse could hide in it.
In addition, in recent years, one can often hear the song of the sacred bird, the "bupposo," when in quiet Zen meditation. This has been reported by those Zen followers attending training sessions as well as by those who are staying at the temple for a retreat.
Chinju Chuho Daibosatsu
The revered Buddhist monk, Chinju Chuho was converted to the Soto Sect of Buddhism from the Tendai Sect by the monk Tenson. He was outstanding for his efforts to construct temple buildings, his dedication to preaching, and for the assistance he lent to many other priests of his time. He managed to construct grottoes in steep precipitous locations on the face of mountains to be used for meditation and training of monks.
When Chuho died, it is said that he left behind a mask of Tengu. The location of his passing is Anzanho, a place on the temple grounds. A child prodigy, he is revered as Chuho Sonja, however, sometimes more popularly he is known as Tengu. As time passed, he was increasingly recognized as Tengu, and has showered many blessings on his followers. Some of his believers come from places as far away as Saitama, Tochigi, Niigata, Tokyo and even the Kansai area. These believers come for lectures or in groups to pay homage to Chuho.
In addition, there are many sacred cedar trees of great age, caves and grottoes, and the "Oshodai," or priest's ledge. All of these natural wonders are of great interest.
In 1995 a Special Celebration commemorating the Chuhodo was held during which time the Oratory was opened for all to see for a period of 8 days. It is some 37.8 meters in length, built in the recesses of the mountain. In honor of Chinju Chuho, local believers have contributed two great masks of Tengu which are located near the main entrance to the Oratory on the left side. One of these masks was brought to the temple in 1939 by members of the former Chamber of Commerce. The mask itself was first papered with the printed prayers and good wishes of some 50,000 persons who prayed for the safety and success of the young men going off to war. These prayers were glued to the mask which was then lacquered in red. The mask is 6.5 meters in length and the nose is some 2.8 meters long.
The other mask was contributed in 1971 by the Great Tengu Religious Asso. to pray for protection from traffic accidents, and for the prosperity of the Numata Chamber of Commerce and Industry. This mask is 5.5 meters in length and the nose is 2.7 meters long. This younger mask is often displayed during the Numata Festival, to pray for local prosperity, for safety at home, and for protection against traffic accidents.
It is said that this location was used by the revered monk, Tenson when he converted the temple to the Soto Sect. The spot was used for Zen meditation. The ledge is some 60 meters high. There are other rocks, ledges and caves of interest on the temple grounds.
Youth Training Center
In this day and age when we tend to take everything for granted, it is good to grasp one's own future and reevaluate oneself through the practices of Zazen. The Youth Training Center was constructed in 1975 in honor of the Special Religious Services held that year. The facility is used by various companies, schools and circles for training seminars.
prepared by the
Kiryu International Exchange Association
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