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Found a scroll with a dozen of seals and signatures

Idontmind

Kouhai
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Good day to all,

I just found a scroll in a japanese thrift shop with different seals and signatures, this is the first time I've seen one with more than 10 seals. Is this something unique or is it just a normal find ? Thank you :)
 

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Majestic

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Looks like a scroll with seals of each station of a buddhist pilgrimage?
Maybe the 88 stations of the famous Shikoku pilgrimage circuit?
 

Idontmind

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Looks like a scroll with seals of each station of a buddhist pilgrimage?
Maybe the 88 stations of the famous Shikoku pilgrimage circuit?
Wow its seems a great story if that is the case about the scroll :) thank you for the reply
 

nice gaijin

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Former ohenro (pilgrim) here. Each temple you pay respects to on a pilgrimage will have a little office that you can visit, and 300-500 yen they will stamp your book or scroll, and do this calligraphy. I have a book for myself, as it was easier to carry with me on my bicycle. It was a great experience and I'd like to go back someday and repeat the journey, maybe on foot.

This scroll does look like an 88-temple kakejiku, but there are a few things to suggest that it's not. First is the density; it looks to have 111 seals on it, not counting the three without calligraphy above the painting. Even if you visit the 20 bekkaku in Shikoku, that only brings you up to 108. Secondly and more telling, is that the shikoku temples stamp three different inkan with their seal, and these seem to be different (edit: I might've been misreading them, see later response). Here's a Shikoku kakejiku for reference. Often you'll see this image of Kobo Daishi on a simple throne.

20141030201618.jpg


and another, with a similar motif to yours, but even fewer seals (perhaps some make multiple scrolls for their pilgrimage?). I'm not great at recognizing the deities, this could be a white tara or another emanation of avalokitesvara.
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If I were better at reading calligraphy, or had a better look at the seals, or wasn't about to rush out the door, I could probably tell you right away what we're looking at. I did see one stamp say #15, and the name is definitely not the same as the Shikoku #15 temple. But Shikoku's is not the only pilgrimage in Japan, and this does appear to be some form of 納経軸 (nōkyōjiku, stamp scroll). These things represent a considerable amount of investment in money, time, energy and devotion.
 
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Idontmind

Kouhai
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Former ohenro (pilgrim) here. Each temple you pay respects to on a pilgrimage will have a little office that you can visit, and 300-500 yen they will stamp your book or scroll, and do this calligraphy. I have a book for myself, as it was easier to carry with me on my bicycle. It was a great experience and I'd like to go back someday and repeat the journey, maybe on foot.

This scroll does look like an 88-temple kakejiku, but there are a few things to suggest that it's not. First is the density; it looks to have 111 seals on it, not counting the three without calligraphy above the painting. Even if you visit the 20 bekkaku in Shikoku, that only brings you up to 108. Secondly and more telling, is that the shikoku temples stamp three different inkan with their seal, and these only have one apiece. Here's a Shikoku kakejiku for reference. Often you'll see this image of Kobo Daishi on a simple throne.

View attachment 46633

and another, with a similar motif to yours, but even fewer seals (perhaps some make multiple scrolls for their pilgrimage?). I'm not great at recognizing the deities, this could be a white tara or another emanation of avalokitesvara. Yours might be a form of Shakyamuni Buddha.
View attachment 46634

If I were better at reading calligraphy, or had a better look at the seals, or wasn't about to rush out the door, I could probably tell you right away what we're looking at. I did see one stamp say #15, and the name is definitely not the same as the Shikoku #15 temple. But Shikoku's is not the only pilgrimage in Japan, and this does appear to be some form of 納経軸 (nōkyōjiku, stamp scroll). These things represent a considerable amount of investment in money, time, energy and devotion.
Thank you for a great insight :) that must be a great experience while travelling and visiting every pilgrimage, I truly respect the devotion and patience they show. Also love the culture and art :) Thank you again
 

nice gaijin

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It was an amazing experience. Beforehand I thought it would be a cool thing to do once in a lifetime, and then I met people who have visited all 88 temples multiple (even over 100) times in their lifetime. It's a really special thing, very formative for me at least. The scrolls and books are also special in a way, but are not particularly rare or valuable, except maybe if they're particularly old or exceptional in some way.

I squinted a bit more at the images, and I realized that I was misreading each stamp as separate because of how they were spaced, but that just like for the Shikoku 88, each 納経 (nōkyō) probably consists of 3 御朱印 (goshuin, red seal), meaning your scroll has more like 37 separate instances marked on it. I think I see 西国/西國 on several of those stamps, so this could be a 納経軸 for the 西国三十三ヶ所, the Saigoku 33 Kannon Route. That actually makes sense, as Kannon is a female emanation of Avalokitesvara, which is likely what is depicted on your scroll. Heck, the second scroll I posted looks like it may also be from the 33 pilgrimage. Not sure what the extra seals are from, but perhaps there are some special stops for 満願 (mangan, completion of the vow/pilgrimage), like going to Koyasan for the Shikoku 88.

 

nice gaijin

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Cough, cough, what I have always wanted to know: is it permissible to embark on a pilgrimage and ride a bicycle?
Absolutely! Personally, I originally intended to walk it but had some obligations that gave me a time restriction (I don't recommend that, it was very stressful in the beginning!), so I opted to do it on bike. This method had its own ups and downs, both figuratively and literally, but made provisioning and planning much easier in retrospect.

One of the key lessons I learned on my pilgrimage is not to judge yourself or others based on the means through which they "walk" the path. While it was traditionally walked, I met several cycling ohenro (two of whom became good friends), people walking it backwards, people on motorcycles, people in cars, and people on tour buses. Some were trying to do the whole circuit in one shot, others were doing it in pieces, others were doing it for the Nth time, and some were doing the pilgrimage as part of a larger journey through all of Japan (日本一周, another life goal).

Obviously, not every path that is walked is accessible by vehicle, and not everyone is physically capable of the same kind of journey, so every pilgrimage is different, and there's nothing wrong with that whatsoever. When I later encountered the 37 practices of the Bodhisattva (written in Tibet around 400-500 years after Kobo Daishi first walked around Shikoku), #32 stood out to me:

If, influenced by disturbing emotions, one points out another bodhisattva’s faults, oneself is diminished. Therefore, not speaking about the faults of those who have entered the Great Vehicle is the bodhisattvas’ practice.

This particular practice is referring to those who have taken refuge in the tradition of the mahayana (great vehicle), but in an expansive sense, all sentient beings are working out their particular karma on the same path that leads to enlightenment; some are just closer than others, relatively.

When I was in Shikoku, it was easy to get down on myself for taking an "easier route" by riding, compared to the walking ohenro I met, but this is just as wrong to do as to judge the elderly pilgrims visiting the temples by car or bus. When I visited Tibet for an arranged pilgrimage of sorts, I encountered pilgrims who were doing incredibly long and arduous pilgrimages on foot or even crawling, some doing full body prostrations with every step. We passed several of these from the luxury of our land cruisers, occasionally stopping to donate some money to support them. Some of these journeys take years to complete. It's all a matter of karma; we choose the pilgrimage we feel suits us, and then we all are at the mercy of circumstance to provide us with our experience. The only thing in our control is how we choose to react to it all.

If you're walking, your walking staff is symbolic of Kobo Daishi, as a reminder that he is treading the path with you. On a deeper level, you realize that as you progress on the path, you are not journeying alone, but that everyone you encounter is a part of that pilgrimage. On a deeper level still, you are not separate from any sentient being. And while you are having this karmic experience unique to you, any concept of separation from others is itself an illusion.

Long story short, ride on!
 
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