Temple Protocol

There are five pieces to each temple stop on the Shikoku o-henro, corresponding to five different places on the temple grounds:

  1. The Temple Gate
  2. The Chōzūbachi, the purification basin which will typically be found just inside the gate
  3. The Hondō, the main hall of the temple, dedicated to a particular Buddha
  4. The Daishidō, a smaller hall dedicated to Kōbō Daishi Kūkai
  5. The Nōkyōshō, the temple office where you get your “attendance book” — very confusingly called a “nōkyōchō” — “signed” to prove you've been there with the temple's seals and some calligraphy, usually in bonji

Here is the general routine for visiting a temple while being a henrō on o-henrō:


Act I — At the Gate, Paying Respect to the Temple's Guardians

Gasshō (合掌) three times, saying,

恭しくみ仏を礼拝し奉る
うやうやしくみほとけをらいはいしたてまつる
uya-uya-shiku mi-hotoke o rai-hai-shi ta-te-matsuru

“I dedicate myself to revering the Buddha.”


Act II — The Chōzubachi (手水鉢) — Purifying Oneself

The chōzubachi (手水鉢) is a purifying basin; every Buddhist temple and Shintō shrine will have at least one. The procedure for purifying yourself is as follows:

  • Take one of the ladles from the chōzubachi in your right hand, scoop up some water from the basin, and pour it over your left hand
  • Transfer the ladle to your left hand, fill it with water from the basin, and pour it over your right hand
  • Transfer the ladle back to your right hand, refill it from the basin and pour some water into your left palm; take it into your mouth (don't swallow!) and then spit it out outside (not into!) the basin
  • Tip the ladle up so that the remaining water runs down the handle; this purifies the ladle for the next person


Act III — The Hondō (本堂) — Reverencing the Temple’s Patron Buddha

In the hondō, we pay respects and offer prayers to the gohonzon, the patron Buddha or bodhisattva of the temple. It's usual to begin by offering incense — one stick or three sticks is typical, do not use four! — and lighting a candle.

Kaikyōge (開経偈): Sutra-opening verse

無上甚染微妙法
百千萬劫難遭遇
我今見聞得受持
願解如来真実義

むじょうじんじんみみょうほう
ひゃくせんまんごうなんそうぐう
がこんけんもんとくじゅじ
がんげにょらいしんじつぎ

mu jō jin jin mi myō hō
hyaku sen man gō nan sō gū
ga kon ken mon toku ju ji
gan ge nyo rai shin jitsu gi

"The unsurpassed, profound, subtle and wondrous dharma is difficult to encounter, even in a hundred, thousand, million kalpas. Now we see and hear it, and are able to receive and maintain it. We vow to understand the Tathāgata’s true meaning."

Tathāgata, or nyorai (如来) in Japanese, was the term the Buddha used to refer to himself in the sutras. It means "The One Who is Beyond Coming and Going".

Hannya Shingyō (般若心経) — The Heart Sutra

摩訶般若波羅蜜多心経

観自在菩薩行深般若波羅蜜多時照見
五蘊皆空度一切苦厄舎利子色不異空
空不異色色即是空空即是色受想行識
亦復如是舎利子是諸法空相不生不滅
不垢不浄不増不減是故空中無色無受
想行識無眼耳鼻舌身意無色声香味触
法無眼界乃至無意識界無無明亦無無
明尽乃至無老死亦無老死尽無苦集滅
道無智亦無得以無所得故菩提薩捶依
般若波羅蜜多故心無罣礙無罣礙故無
有恐怖遠離一切顛倒夢想究竟涅槃三
世諸仏依般若波羅蜜多故得阿耨多羅
三貘三菩提故知般若波羅蜜多是大神
咒是大明咒是無上咒是無等等咒能除
一切苦真実不虚故説般若波羅蜜多咒
即説咒曰

掲帝掲帝波羅掲帝波羅僧掲帝菩提僧莎訶

般若心経

ma ka han nya ha ra mi ta shin gyō

kan ji zai bo sa gyō jin han nya ha ra mi ta ji
shō ken go on kai kū do is-sai ku yaku
sha ri shi shiki fu i kū kū fu i shiki
shiki soku ze kū kū soku ze shiki
jū sō gyō shiki yaku bu nyo ze
sha ri shi ze sho hō kū sō
fu shō fu metsu fu ku fu jō
fu zō fu gen ze ko kū chū mu shiki
mu jū sō gyō shiki mu gen ni bi zes-shin i
mu shiki shō kō mi soku hō
mu gen kai nai shi mu i shiki kai
mu mu myō yaku mu mu myō jin
nai shi mu rō shi yaku mu rō shi jin
mu ku shū metsu dō mu chi yaku mu toku
i mu sho tok-ko
bo dai sat-ta e han nya ha ra mi ta ko
shin mu ke ge mu ke ge ko mu u ku fu
on ri is-sai ten dō mu sō
ku gyō ne han san ze shō butsu
e han nya ha ra mi ta ko
toku a noku ta ra san myaku san bo dai
ko chi han nya ha ra mi ta
ze dai jin shu ze dai myō shu
ze mu jō shu ze mu tō dō shu
nō jo is-sai ku shin jitsu fu ko
ko setsu han nya ha ra mi ta shu
soku setsu shu watsu
gya te gya te ha ra gya te
ha ra sō gya te bo ji so wa ka

han nya shin gyō

Gohonzon Shingon (ご本尊真言): [7 times]

The page for each of the 23 temples in Tokushima-ken lists the temple's gohonzon (patron Buddha or bodhisatva) and the appropriate shingon (mantra). Recite the shingon seven times.

Kōmyō Shingon (光明真言): The Mantra of Light [3 times]

オンアボキャベーロシャノーマカボダラマニハンドマジンバラハラバリタヤウン

ON A BO KYA BEI RO SHA NŌ MA KA BO DA RA MA NI
HAN DO MA JIN BA RA HA RA BA RI TA YA UN

You can listen to it being chanted:

Leave an o-fuda in the box to the right of the altar.


Act IV — The Daishidō (大師堂) — Reverencing Kōbō Daishi

In the Daishidō, we pay our respects and offer prayers to Kōbō Daishi Kūkai. Again, it's usual to begin by offering incense and lighting a candle.

One may chant the kaikyōge and Hannya Shingyō at this point again, if one wishes to do so.

Gohōgō [21 times]

南無大師偏照金剛

なむだいしへんじょうこんごう

namu daishi henjō kongō

You can listen to it being chanted here:

Eko no Mon (回向の文): Dedication of Merit

願わくばこの功徳を普く一切に及ぼし我等と衆生と皆共に仏道を成せんことを

ながわくぼのくどくをもっていっさいにおよぼしわれらと
しゅじょうとみなともにぶつどうをじょうせんことを

nagawakubo no kudoku o motte issai ni oyoboshi warera to
shujō to minatomo ni butsudō o jōsen koto o

“May any merit I have accrued through the Buddha's Way benefit all sentient beings, past, present and future.”

Leave an o-fuda in the box to the right of the altar here as well. Some pilgrims will do shakyō, sutra-copying, of the Hannya Shingyō while on the henro in order to be able to leave a copy at each temple.


Act V — The Nōkyōshō (納経所) — Getting Your Creds

No prayers necessary here, just your nōkyōchō, 300¥, and sometimes a bit of a wait behind a load of "basu henrō" (i.e. "bus pilgrims", people who go on paid tours of the temples by bus, usually doing the entire pilgrimage route in under a week; they're in and out quick but there are usually dozens of them; the "walking pilgrims" tend to look down on the "bus pilgrims"...)

Get in line and wait for the monk to stamp your book with the temple's seals and write the bonji seed-syllable of the temple's patron Buddha in it. Then it's off to the next temple!