The Ohenro Sash: Wagesa

wagesa09The sash that sits on the collar of the white robe is called a “wagesa”. It is a symbol of the monastic robes used when prayers are conducted. It is usually purple, green, or orange, and to my knowledge there is no significance regarding the color you choose as a pilgrim. It is suggested that you remove the “wagesa”

The Ohenro Travel Bag: Zutabukuro

zutabukuro34There are a variety of these bags that Ohenro may wish to carry. The best are designed to keep the interior items flat and uncrushed as they have stiff pockets and boxy containers inside. What is carried inside are usually the following items:

Incense: Light incense sticks before chanting the Heart Sutra. Once lit some Ohenro will cup smoke towards themselves for purification. Typically, I am told, one lights three sticks of incense at each temple. This may have different meanings as in “past-present-future”, or “body-mouth-will”, or “ancestors-myself-descendents”. The meaning to the three sticks is determined by the Ohenro themselves, so that is something to think about as you travel.

Candles: Light your candle(s) before you chant the Heart Sutra. It is said that the light of the candles is to illuminate the path of the Buddha to the pilgrim. Some light candles in remembrance of others. In terms of candle lighting etiquette, it is completely taboo to light your candle from other candles. To do so is to bring their “sin” upon yourself. Also, after you light your own candle (with your own lighter or matches) its good manners to put it further inside the glass box so that others can add their candles without catching their sleeves on fire or getting accidentally burned.

Name Slips (osamefuda): These slips of paper are placed in the boxes at the temple. Write your name on them. You can do it in English. The gods can read your handwriting just fine. It is considered proof of your visit, and a reminder that your burden is prayed over by others and the priests who attend the grounds. They come in different colors. If you are on pilgrimage between 1 and 4 times your name slip is white. If you are on pilgrimage 5 to 7 it is green. The paper will be red for visits 9 through 24, and silver for visits 25 through 49. From 50 through to 99 the papers will be gold, and if you go over 100 your name slip will be a beautiful cloth brocade.

Seal Stamp Book: This beautiful book, which will be a treasure for you to keep forever, is called a “noukyouchou”. In it, at the office where you can have it done, the temple staff will write in gorgeous calligraphy the name of the temple you are visiting, and apply to paper the unique stamp of that holy site. Every page is different, and every seal is original. The “noukyouchou” has spiritual significance as it is considered the passport to paradise. These come in different styles, so choose one that you like. If you are traveling the temples in reverse order (more on that later), you can get the “nyoukyouchou” that is purposed for that route as well.

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Butsuzen Gongyoushidai: This is the scripture that is used in each temple. Within is the Heart Sutra, a few other mantras, and other holy writ. Ohenro will hold this in front of them, even if they have it memorized, as they chant. If you are not ready to join in full-volume chanting, you can follow along. Also, it is completely okay to have the Heart Sutra in English, or any language of your choosing. It might be a good idea to write out a romanized version of the Japanese so you can follow along with Japanese pilgrims as you hear them so often on the trail.

Note: I am sure that this is not a complete list of all the things an Ohenro may consider using or wearing as they travel. If I have missed something that needs mentioning, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment, or email me direct. Thanks for coming by!