The Procedure in the Temple

Pilgrims in temple

The following procedure is followed by many pilgrims in this or a similar form. However, everyone is free to adopt only parts of it for themselves or not to follow this procedure at all. Especially at the beginning of a pilgrimage, the temple routine is still unfamiliar and requires a period of acclimatisation.

At the temple gate (niōmon or sanmon)

Standing on the left in front of the temple gate, bring your palms together in front of your chest and bow once (gasshō) toward the main hall. You enter the temple complex by crossing the threshold at the temple gate. Thereby passing from the secular to the spiritual world. Most temple gates are guarded on the left and right by two niō, muscular and often fearsome guardian figures who protect the temple from evil. Such temple gates are called niōmon. Temple gates without the two guardians are called sanmon.

At the water well (temizuya)

The water well is located in the entrance area of the temple compound. Use one of the ladles provided to draw water. Pour some water over your right palm first, then take the ladle in your right hand and pour some water on your left palm. Rinse your mouth with the water from your left hand. It is sufficient if you only touch your lips with the water. Both symbolise the outer and inner purification.
Finally, hold the wooden handle of the ladle down and let the water remaining in the ladle run down over the handle. This leaves the ladle clean and ready for use by the next temple visitor.
Usually a place to put the pilgrim’s staff down for the duration of the temple visit can be found near the water well. The backpack is placed in the rest area of the temple during the temple visit.

At the bell tower (shōrō)

At the bell tower you ring the bell once to announce your visit to the temple. This is done by the massive beam, or tree trunk, which is set in motion by a rope. When you leave the temple, the bell is not rung again. This would bring bad luck.
At some temples located within towns and villages, ringing the bell is not possible or only possible at certain times.

At the main hall (hondō)

Proceed to the main hall. Light a candle and three incense sticks, one each for the past, present, and future.
There is a small bell attached to a rope at the main hall. Ring the bell once to signal your arrival to the temple deity. Place your name card / visit card (osamefuda) in the box provided to the right or left of the temple door. Put a small amount of money in the wooden donation box in front of the main hall.
Then place your hands together in gasshō, recite the Heart Sutra, and chant the appropriate mantras, for the Buddhist deity worshipped at that particular temple.

At the Daishi-hall (daishidō)

GGo to Daishi Hall and repeat the procedure as you did at the main hall. The only difference is the texts you recite. Here you address Kobo-Daishi, who is honored at the Daishi Hall.

At the temple office (nōkyōsho)

Finally, you go to the temple office to get the stamp for your stamp book (nōkyōchō) and a paper picture depicting the deity worshipped in the main hall.
The temple offices are open continuously from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm. Only at Temple 62 is closed during the lunch break between 12:00 and 13:00.
If you arrive at the temple just before 17.00, get the stamp for your book first and then visit the two halls.
Stamping your stamp book is also mandatory, of course.

At the temple gate (niōmon oder sanmon)

After passing the temple gate on your way out, turn around again and bow towards the main hall.

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